Virtual Private Network (VPN) services can add a welcome extra layer of privacy to sensitive data. Enterprises have used for a long time now to enable extra security and privacy for their employees, particularly when working from remotely and in other environments where a secure internet connection cannot always be guaranteed. Now private individuals are discovering these benefits as well and many service providers are offering VPN solutions for households.
Simply put, logging onto a VPN changes your IP address and makes it look like you are in a different country from the one you are currently located in. For example, if you live in Germany you can fool any websites you’re visiting into thinking you are based in, say, Bulgaria. How is that possible, you ask? Well, all you have to do is connect to the internet via a VPN service and select to be rerouted through a server based in Bulgaria (if available, of course).
Using a VPN has many advantages. It enables you to hide your IP address, encrypt your internet browsing activity and protect your online identity.
Apart from the obvious privacy advantages of complete online anonymity, using a VPN makes it possible for you to not have your geolocations tracked by services.
ExpressVPN’s streamlined interface lets you connect quickly and start browsing privately right away. The ExpressVPN iOS app can connect you to 3,000+ servers scattered around 160 locations across 94 countries around the world. With a network powered by its own TrustedServer technology, you can rest assured that any logs of your online activities will always be automatically deleted. In fact, ExpressVPN’s mettle was been tested once before in 2017 when the company experienced a server seizure by authorities. Sure enough, they found nothing about ExpressVPN’s users thanks to the company’s solid zero-log policy.
Perfect for first-time VPN users, Surfshark app’s intuitive interface can barely contain its powerful range of advanced features, such as Surfshark's multihop connection. Multihop automatically reroutes you through multiple countries, making your connection extremely hard to trace. Very welcome are also Surfshark’s other handy features, such as anti-malware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking. There is also a feature that lets you whitelist certain websites to automatically bypass the VPN. The cherry on top is the promise of “unlimited device support”, which allows you to run the connection of every device you own through Surfshark's VPN.
Private Internet Access VPN has been around since 2010 and offers encryption-powered anonymity for surprisingly low prices, especially when you consider that it is operating an impressively vast network of 32,000+ servers in 101 locations across 78 countries. It should be noted, however, that around half of those servers are based in the United States. We enjoyed the superbly designed iPhone app, delivering excellent user experience. Still, Private Internet Access VPN isn’t perfect and their budget price comes at the cost of a slower connection relative to the above-mentioned VPN providers.
There are both free and paid VPNs services out there. You’ve probably heard the saying “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”. Unfortunately, this rings true for a lot of free VPN services out there. We generally do not recommend sharing any private data with a free VPN provider.
However, if you absolutely must use a free VPN (and you’re not happy with ProtonVPN’s free option for some reason), we have selected three free services, each one with a strict no-logging policy:
Owned by McAfee, TunnelBear is a VPN app for iPhone that lets you use up to 500mb of traffic data per month for free. That’s not much, but you can always upgrade to the paid version of the service. TunnelBear is actually one of the best VPN apps out there. After a quick and simple sign-up process (no credit card required), you can connect to any server across 20+ countries, including the United States, Germany, Australia, India and more. Easy to navigate and ad-free, it isn’t hard to see why we’re such fans.
The free version of ProtonVPN for iPhone won our hearts straight away with its zero data restriction policy. Quite unusual for a free VPN service, ProtonVPN will let you use up as much data as you want per month, every month. Amazing. What’s the catch? Well, the free version uses only 3 server locations – US, Japan and the Netherlands – which causes noticeable connection slowdowns during peak times. This means you could still privately browse websites (zero-logs policy) but you most likely won’t be able to properly enjoy streaming through this free VPN service (until you upgrade to the paid ProtonVPN Plus).
Hotspot Shield is really simple to use. So simple, in fact, you don’t even get the option of choosing a server to connect to. It’s automatic. Something else that could be a drawback to most users is the fact that Hotspot Shield’s servers are all US-based. This could be a turn-off for more advanced VPN users, but it’s perfectly fine for people who just want to download one app, tap one button and start browsing the internet anonymously. The daily transfer data limit is 500mb, which means around 15gb per month – more than enough for casual VPN users. Another thing we didn’t like was the annoying ads that pop up when using the app. To get rid of the ads and the transfer data limits, you can always get the Hotspot Shield paid plan. With all that said, we think Hotspot Shield is more than fine for any casual VPN user.
The short answer is ‘not really’. But there are some exceptions. Let us explain:
Running a VPN service isn’t just about creating an app, uploading it to the App Store and letting it do its thing. In fact, the VPN service provider has to constantly maintain a large global network of secure servers, which as you can imagine costs a lot. To mitigate that, most of the free VPNs out there will try to sell your personal data or your browsing history to the highest bidder.
The more trustworthy and reputable VPNs, on the other hand, have set a number of feature limitations to their free service version. Therefore, the users get to decide whether a service offers enough value to upgrade to the premium version just to get rid of these restrictions. Still, that’s better than giving your data away for free. In addition to our selection of free VPN apps listed above, we wholeheartedly recommend downloading ProtonVPN’s free app, as it has no transfer data limit. It only limits you to using one device per session and makes you choose between just three server locations.