The most common reasons to use a VPN are to protect and secure your personal data, in addition to hiding your browsing activity on the internet. Using a VPN helps to eliminate spam, hackers, and advertisers from watching your virtual activity and turning you into a target based on your browsing.
Enter Betternet VPN
In business since 2015, the biggest calling card for Betternet is the price. It’s free! Well, there’s a free version. There’s also a premium version with additional features that you can pay for. We’ll cover that as well.
The free option may also explain why Betternet is so popular with millions of downloads per day, according to Google Play statistics. At last count, there were over 38 million Betternet downloads to date.
When comparing Betternet to the other no-cost option VPN services, this one offers some advantages over the competition. For example, features like Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing, solid connectivity, and basic protection are covered. After reading this Betternet VPN review, judge for yourself whether this provider will address all your needs.
Betternet VPN Pros and Cons
Ease of Use
Betternet is easy to download and install because it’s set up in an app format. However, when downloading on an Android or iOS device, it’s challenging to figure out how to skip the 7-day trial, which eventually turns into a recurring monthly subscription, and get straight to the free download.
It basically downloads as more of a Google Chrome extension, so it is pretty fast and easy to get up and running with a click of a few buttons.
Due to the limited number of servers, longer connectivity issues and bandwidth limitations, Betternet isn’t the most reliable VPN on the market.
Between slow connection and download times and inconsistent streaming, reliability isn’t Betternet’s strong suit.
Betternet is very popular on Google Play and a favorite Android download.
There are serious concerns about the level of privacy offered with Betternet. It should be noted that with the free app version, Betternet allows third-party access. What this means is that once you download the app, you are subjected to advertisements. Betternet can offer its VPN service for free because its makes money through third-party, affiliate advertising.
Should you click on a video or sign up with one of its advertisers, Betternet receives a commission. While Betternet states that it engages in third-party advertising to cover operating costs, there’s no question that exposure to adverts and clicking through on any links puts your privacy at risk.
The website does not have a company information page, which generally tells you a lot about the core values and mission statement of the business. It comes across as obscure which makes you wonder how secure you really are as you engage in peer-to-peer communication or exchanges.
Since Betternet comes right out and says that it does not possess the information, even under legal action it’s impossible to turn over data you don’t have.
Betternet is actually more like a proxy or tunnel versus a full-blown VPN. While your browsing activity is hidden and protected, your other internet searches, views, and overall activity are not completely secure. This is especially true when downloading Betternet extensions to a mobile device.
The Chrome extension, for example, has been hacked and mobile devices were infected with malware. This may be due to the lack of encryption with mobile downloads. In any event, it appears that Betternet’s mobile apps and extensions are riskier than downloading to Windows.
Something to watch out for while using a VPN is if your ISP’s IP address is visible or not. If it is, that means you are not protected or secure. When testing Betternet on your device for potential leaks, pay close attention to the messages that come up on your screen. Another way to research the potential of VPNs infecting your devices with viruses or malware is to check their Antivirus Rankings.
The lower the score, the lower the risks. With an AV Ranking of 13, Betternet is on the high end of the scale, which means the potential is greater for malware or viruses showing up on your devices.
Five Eyes countries work together to gather data and intelligence. If this is an issue for you, you may want to eliminate this Canadian-based contender.
It’s interesting to note that in most cases, if a company offers a free product or service, you know that the goal is to lure potential customers in with a free offer, thereby getting a paid product option in front of them. While Betternet uses this business model to promote its paid service, you have to wonder why it also allows adverts on the free version as an additional revenue source.
Anytime you are exposed to third-party advertising and you click on these ads or videos, you as the user suddenly become the product. Your information becomes very valuable and suddenly, the ads become more customized and geared towards your interests. That is a huge red flag regarding security in addition to the distraction of advertising in the first place.
Betternet does not offer a Kill-Switch or provide any sort of leak protection in the event of a dropped connection. The dropped connection exposes your IP address which is exactly what you don’t want a VPN to do.
There have also been confirmed IP and DNS leaks while using Betternet. If you choose to uninstall Betternet from your system, check for any leftover, residual files remaining on your device, particularly on a Windows platform.
Betternet’s free service doesn’t provide fast latency (time to connect you to a server) or a broad bandwidth (how much traffic the server can handle).
While Betternet gives an OK performance, both the latency and broadband size automatically result in slower connection speeds and less stable performance.
Not only does Betternet have an extremely limited number of servers, but you also can’t even select a server with the free version. The software chooses the most efficient server nearest your location and that is what you use. It has servers available in ten different countries, however, if traveling to a country other than the UK or the US, you may not even be able to access a server.
The premium version, released in 2017, gives you more server options and you can manually choose the one you prefer to use. Servers are located in 10 different countries. From the U.S. server, you can choose from seven different city server locations It should be noted that while you can confirm Betternet’s server locations, it’s much more difficult to confirm a specific number of servers.
As you search for answers, you’ll find the number of servers can be as few as 50. The Betternet website is minimal at best and doesn’t provide you with a whole lot of information regarding specific information about its servers.
The risk you take while torrenting with any VPN is the potential for legal crackdowns requesting user information. Most VPN’s that allow torrenting do so with the understanding that they will comply with legal requests for information. Betternet is on-board with this policy.
Betternet’s streaming capabilities fall short, mainly due to the lack of servers. One of the reasons for using a VPN is to be able to stream information from anywhere in the world, regardless of where your true IP address is located. If you are connected to one of Betternet’s servers in a country that doesn’t allow streaming or restricts access to websites, it can be beyond frustrating when you are blocked.
You may be blocked from websites simply because of the location of your IP address, which shouldn’t be an issue while using a VPN. The Betternet VPN even has challenges when connecting you to a server and streaming information from the same country.
Betternet cannot be used in China. Because all Betternet IPs and servers are blocked, and you will not be able to use it as a VPN for Netflix.
While the Betternet’s free VPN service is 100% free, it also offers a premium service. The premium service kicks in after the expiration of the 7-day free trial. The premium version offers additional perks such as more server selection, more IP options, better and faster connections, and better 24/7 support.
Pricing for Betternet premium packages:
- $11.99/month Six months = $23.99 (or $3.99/month)
- Twelve months = $35.99 (or $2.99/month)
Note that when you sign up for the premium service, you are required to supply your credit card information. You don’t set up an actual account with Betternet, just provide your payment information. Since you don’t have an account, you don’t have the option to track payments, download invoices or manage subscriptions.
If you opt to cancel, Betternet’s refund policy states that it “reserve the right to deny your refund for any reason, or for no reason at all,” so buyer beware. The company may opt to prorate the refund amount or if it deems there has been a breach of the TOS policy, you may not get a refund at all.
The free Betternet VPN service has little to offer for customer support. You have to use a “ticket” request system and you might be waiting a while for resolution or answers to any issues you are experiencing.
Once again, as you search Betternet’s website, you will have a hard time locating any type of contact information for customer support. As a free version user, your options are limited to accessing a troubleshooting guide or submitting a ticket requesting support.
Betternet’s paid VPN version offers 24/7 customer service support. Betternet’s 30-day refund policy sounds good at first. After reading the fine print, you’ll see that the refund policy is voided if bandwidth usage exceeds 50 MB for the month. If your refund request is denied due to using more than 50MB of bandwidth for the month, how does Betternet know how much bandwidth you’ve used without tracking your usage and/or connections trail? Something to think about for sure.
Summing it Up
As with any free VPN service, you simply cannot have high expectations. If you want an inexpensive, basic VPN service that offers the bonus of a P2P feature, Betternet will fit the bill.
However, if you want to unlock more features, benefits, better streaming capabilities and proven privacy/protection, Betternet VPN is probably not the one for you. Because Betternet is really more of a proxy than a VPN, the app doesn’t really give you the level of security, privacy and speed you expect and need from a VPN service.
The biggest issue with Betternet seems to be that no matter how far it runs, it can’t run away from the lack of trust due to security and privacy issues. As stated at the beginning of this review, a big reason to use a VPN is to provide privacy, protection, and security.
Sure, you want speed, reliability and other options or features, but it’s really that level of security that draws you into the VPN promises. The reported cases of malware, leaks and security/privacy when using Betternet software are beyond a red flag for anyone looking to use a VPN. Although a lot of “free” products and services are free because you must suffer through a constant stream of third-party ads and various other restrictions and limitations.
However, when your product is a VPN and your service is privacy and security, the credibility and trust factors of Betternet go down considerably.