I almost never recommend free VPNs over paid ones.
Free VPNs, such as Betternet can have a tendency to sell your data, show you lots of ads, not be as secure, and not perform as well.
Betternet says that it does things a bit differently and protects your privacy and security better than the other free VPNs out there.
But is Betternet VPN a good choice for protecting your security and privacy?
Is it safe for torrenting?
I took a deeper look to see if this free VPN can stack up to its paid brethren.
What Is Betternet? How It’s FREE?
If you’ve never heard of Betternet, it’s probably because they’re a newcomer to the VPN scene; they’ve only been around since 2015.
Since then, though, they’ve been growing rapidly and gaining a lot of users (especially on Android).
The main draw to this VPN is, of course, the fact that it’s totally free.
You can use their iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac apps, as well as Chrome and Firefox extensions, without paying a single cent. You don’t even need to register, so they don’t get your name or email address.
It definitely sounds good. But as we’ve seen in the past, VPN providers need to make money somehow, and they don’t always do it scrupulously.
Betternet relies on affiliate apps and videos, served through their apps, to make money.
Whenever you tap the “Install an App” or “Watch a Video and Connect” button, Betternet gets a small payment.
So far, it’s been enough to keep the servers running and the lights on.
Rising costs, however, pushed Betternet to release a Premium version of the mobile app in late 2017. The premium version offers access to dedicated servers, more location and IP selection choices, and 24/7 support. Fortunately, there’s a free seven-day trial of the premium plan that lets you try out these features without paying.
With the premium version, you get access to 11 servers in 10 countries (only).
But you don’t get to choose which server you connect to on the free plan; Betternet picks one for you. You can also choose from seven different cities in the US if you’re a premium member.
Here are the main pros and cons:
1. Solid Privacy and Security Options
It’s not easy to find information on the technology that Betternet VPN uses to protect its users. I like to see that kind of information presented upfront, where it’s easy to see. After a bit of digging, though, I was able to find some information.
For example, a blog post from 2015 states that Betternet VPN offers both 256-bit AES encryption over the OpenVPN protocol and 128-bit encryption over IPSec:
Other, more fully featured VPNs offer more protocol options, but in general, you won’t need them. OpenVPN is one of the most secure out there, and when you can’t use it, IPSec is a strong second choice.
Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to Betternet security. Because it doesn’t have as many features as other VPNs, everything is pretty straightforward.
If you’re concerned about government surveillance, you may want to know that Betternet is based in Canada, one of the countries that does a great deal of intelligence-gathering and collaboration with other members of the Five Eyes agreement. Their servers are all over the world, but the company headquarters is under Canadian jurisdiction.
That’s not necessarily a drawback, but I know that some people are nervous about working with companies in the Five Eyes countries.
Unfortunately, there are some other issues that might negate their use of solid security tech. We’ll get to those in a moment.
2. Totally Free
If I haven’t mentioned this enough times, this should make it stick.
Betternet is 100% free.
Of course, there are a couple catches: you’ll see ads, and you won’t unlock all of the features without signing up for the premium plan. But if you want to make your browsing more secure and can’t afford even the cheapest premium VPNs, this could be an important factor.
3. No Log Files
Beyond the price tag, Betternet’s no-logging policy is probably its biggest draw. The help file says it simply: “Betternet does not collect, log, store, share any data log of users.”
That’s a pretty straightforward no-logging policy, and I like to see that.
This policy also means that they can’t share your IP address if they get a DMCA takedown notice, which is how some VPNs have revealed their customers’ identities in the past. They do their best to comply with the DMCA notice, but they won’t give out your data. They also say that they’ve never received a valid court order to turn over data that they don’t have.
So Betternet is doing this right.
4. OpenVPN Encryption
This is industry standard tech, and it will keep miscreants from spying on your connection. It also helps prevent throttling from your ISP, site blocking from a coffee shop or school campus, and all of the other great things that you get from a VPN.
Again, we’re not sure when Betternet uses OpenVPN and when it uses IPSec (it’s possible that IPSec is used on older devices), but even IPSec isn’t too bad when it comes to security.
5. Customer Support
While you won’t get 24/7 support unless you’re a premium member, I do like to see that it’s available.
There’s no live chat option, which would be nice, but isn’t always 100% necessary.
The site’s FAQs don’t offer a whole lot of information, though, so if you need something, you’ll probably have to go through the customer service system.
As you can see, there are still FAQs posted from their help software that should have been deleted.
The Betternet team is pretty active on Twitter, though customer support questions are usually redirected to the standard system.
You might see this level of customer service as either a pro or a con—but we’ve definitely seen worse, so I think it’s pretty good.
6. App Simplicity
While the lack of features makes for a VPN with less functionality, it also makes for an app that’s very easy to use. Especially if you’re not trying to connect to a server in a specific place.
All you need to do is download the app and hit the Connect button. That’s really all there is to it.
That’s all there is to it. Betternet will let you know that you’re connected, and there’s nothing else you need to do.
The mobile apps are a little more complicated, as you need to start a free trial (and then figure out how to cancel it), but in general, Betternet is very user-friendly.
Cons of Using Betternet
1. Potentially a Security Threat
It’s undoubtedly popular, but Betternet might not be as secure as it seems. In 2017, several outlets reported the result of an academic study on VPN apps and whether they might be injecting malware or adware—or just not providing the security they advertised.
Betternet was ranked among the ten worst.
Many of the other apps in that list were removed from the app store, but Betternet is still around.
So far, I haven’t been able to find any evidence of Betternet injecting malware or doing anything else nefarious. But the fact that an academic study identified them as suspect is very worrying.
As you can see, Betternet has more downloads than all of the other free VPN apps combined, which does lend it a bit of credibility. However, we’d much prefer that its AV-rank be significantly better than 13.
No one likes seeing ads in their apps. They’re a necessary evil when you want to offer a free product or service, but it’s still unpleasant. And unless you’re using the premium version of Betternet, you’ll be seeing ads.
It’s great that Betternet is very transparent about how they make money and where that money is going (if you’re curious, the affiliate downloads pay for server space, and premium subscriptions pay for everything else).
But there’s no way around the fact that the VPN is selling access to its customers. That sucks. It might not be a big deal breaker for you, but when there are so many cheap VPNs out there that don’t show any ads, it’s tough to justify it in a free app.
3. Unclear Documentation
In one place, they say that Betternet uses 256-bit encryption. In another, they say 128-bit. And it was tough to dig up that information in the first place.
If you want to find anything more than the absolute basics about the app, you’ll have to do some investigating. And you might get some strange answers.
The user experience with the Betternet website isn’t great. The app is straightforward, but if you want anything more than that, you might have some trouble.
4. VERY Slow Speeds
You can’t expect a whole lot from a free VPN. But on my 100 Mbps connection, I got a download speed of 3 Mbps.
That’s just crazy.
To be fair, the upload speed was 12 Mbps (seeing a higher upload speed than download is weird, but that’s what happened). You could see better speeds than this, especially if you pay for a premium plan, but don’t count on blazing fast downloads when you’re using Betternet.
This makes it a poor VPN for torrenting. In general, Betternet users are able to use P2P file-sharing apps, which is nice. But if you’re trying to download anything other than a very small file, you could be waiting a long time.
5. Too Slow for Torrenting and No Netflix
If you are a heavy torrenter like me, Betternet isn’t the right option for you. It’s not that it doesn’t all you to torrent files, they actually are perfectly fine with it, but…
It’s just too slow. I tried to download different files through uTorrent and I never managed to achieve a download speed that was worth waiting for it.
Another huge problem in my book is that they don’t work with Netflix. Till date, Netflix has managed to block all Betternet servers and IP’s, so there’s no way for you to stream Netflix (or Hulu) using their software. If you need a VPN that works with Netflix, click here.
Pricing, Plans & Facts
The main draw to Betternet is that it’s free. And you can use it as much as you want without paying. That’s all most people will want to know about the pricing.
But the premium pricing is fairly competitive if you skip up to the annual membership:
- One month for $11.99
- Six months for $23.94 ($3.99 per month)
- Twelve months for $35.88 ($2.99 per month)
It’s not the cheapest VPN out there, but if you prepay for a year, the cost is very reasonable.
You’ll also get a free 7-day trial to test out the premium version (in fact, you have to sign up for a trial to use the mobile apps).
Here’s what’s included and what’s not:
- No Kill-Switch
- No Netflix
- 5 simultaneous connections (only for premium accounts)
- VPN protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec
Do I Recommend Betternet?
Unfortunately, Betternet doesn’t live up to its name. I love that it’s free. And if you absolutely need a free VPN, you could do worse than Betternet.
But the amazingly slow connection speed combined with the alarming results from the academic study showing that Betternet could be a security threat is just too much.
You get what you pay for, and free VPNs just don’t cut it.
- TunnelBear (data cap: 500mb)
- Hide.me (data cap: 2GB)
- WindScribe (data cap: 10GB)
- Avira Phantom (data cap: 500mb)
Add your own review
17 user reviews for Betternet
Very limited free version
They want to charge you after 7 days. So not really free.
pretty good service
I’ve been using the free version of betternet for over a year and the performance I’ve gotten with the two free locations USA and UK they have both been good enough for my needs in terms of speed but in case you want a VPN for downloading/streaming etc, I can’t recommend betternet as it would be too slow.
For a free decent VPN that you only need for minimal tasks I do recommend betternet.
Hopefully this review helps someone!
Don’t Do It!
I had BetterNet as a subscription for several months @ $12.71 (includes tax). I never got the app to work. I followed all customer support instructions many times, always assuming that I was at fault. After receiving a message from customer support telling me that I had used the trial subscription too many times and that this was the root of my problem, I finally canceled. I have the receipts on my phone showing monthly subscription payments. They apologized for “inconvenience” with no mention of wasted money for no service. I followed directions repeatedly to no avail.
I just don’t have time to babysit an app.
Zero response, complete scam
I tried the 7 day free premium trial and decided after day 3 that it wasn’t for me. It would randomly drop my connection and leave me exposed without warning. I was using the desktop version of the service and could not figure out how to cancel the service.
Their website has very detailed instructions for canceling using the Android/iOS versions, but not PC. I didn’t want my credit card to get hit, so I sent them a service request with my details and a polite request to cancel using the aforementioned zendesk service. After 3 days, they’d given me no response.
I didn’t want to get charged, so I put a temporary block on my credit card. The charge was attempted and blocked on day 7, as I expected. Then, I lifted the block. Three days later, with still no response, they ran my card again and got through. I had to have my bank reverse the charge, cancel my card entirely, and send me a new one to prevent this from continuing. I’ll now have to set up all my recurring accounts for that card.
Their own help site’s forum has several posts from people saying they’ve had the same problem and worse, that they’ve had to enact the same solution. Cancel a credit card to stop a service? Really? And it really blows my mind that they don’t even care enough to remove those comments from their help site. Perhaps they think it makes them look honest. This service is a complete scam.
Don't waste your time
For me, I just wanted to keep myself secure and fully hidden online, so I decided to “try” Betternet.
I used it for 7 days and all I can say is that their product sucks (seriously). Here’s why:
- It crashes at least once a day
- After 7 days they want you to pay money
- Constant ads and the whole experience is slow.
Not to mention using them for Netflix (which is impossible). Overall, I don’t recommend Betternet.
Usable, but too slow for Netflix.
I recently installed the free version of Betternet (about 1 month ago). Although it’s usable most of the time it’s pretty slow. Streaming services like Netflix are therefore not something I recommend doing. However, I mostly use Betternet for regular browser which seems to be working most of the time. So if you’re looking for a VPN to stream with I recommend going for something else.
Drains your battery
I use Betternet on my IPad as it was the first one I came across. It is simple to set up and all you need to do is press a button in the app and you are connected.
However, it does greatly decrease your internet speed and you lose battery extremely quick if it is not plugged in. On the other hand, it is a free app (Powered by ads) so I can not complain but the main issue is the power loss.
Misleading and disappointing
Well, my experience with Betternet consists of mobile and Chrome extension use.
When you first download Betternet, it works perfectly connecting fast and giving you a fast speed. While this is happening, they ask you to leave good reviews on the App Store. They only ask you to leave a review if you answer “Very Good” to “How have you enjoyed Betternet so far?” which I believe is quite misleading.
As I used Betternet and chose not to watch any ads of theirs and not leave good reviews, the performance of the VPN deteriorated. Slow to connect to the VPN itself, and then a slow connection speed. Then, of course, you get the prompt for their Premium service.
I installed Betternet free version just few days ago. I was enthusiastic as I thought I can use it forever. However, I quickly realized their too slow and they don’t allow any sort of Torrenting, let alone Netflix.
What’s even worse, today I got an notification that my FREE version is over. What?
Don’t recommend this VPN at all..
Betternet is fine
I’ve been using Betternet VPN for a few months now. Obviously the best thing about it is that it’s completely free unless you decide to support the developers. Free version only offers two regions (UK and US). It doesn’t ask for any private information. However, the connection can be slow sometimes and randomly cut off. There has also been some claims in the past about the VPN, saying that it was malicious, but if you don’t care about claims, this is a really nice and basic VPN.
Terrible - and service worse
Signed up for the free trial using my card number (bills you after 7 days).
Signed up on their website, downloaded, installed and couldn’t get it to even connect.
Emailed them to ask them to cancel the service which the refused to do saying that I had to do it on the App Store on my IOS Device or from my Mac. I don’t have either and explained this and told them I had signed up using Chrome on their Website. Again asked them ho to cancel (twice) – No reply.
I have been using Betternet premium for a year and love it.
However, just went to renew my subscription and it’s going to cost nearly 4 times as much as last year.
Guess it’s time to look for another provider.
Not for serious use
It works well for hiding your location – I can use Spotify with them, but it’s just too slow.
Free but with ads
The service is free, but you get tons of different ads, which are really annoying. So you still pay a “price” for it – your precious time. Other than that it is really slow, does not have a live chat support. I would not recommend it to people, who like to enjoy their browsing experience, but if you like to waste your time on ads and slow page loading, then go ahead!
Crashing all the time
This VPN is not for serious use. I installed their software on my Windows 10 and it crashed constantly. I tried connecting through their server list, but the app just crashed and that was it.
When I googled it I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had problems with this VPN. Waste of time.
Works in India, but slow
As our Government banned social media sites like Facebook and Twitter here in India, we’ve no option to use Betternet. It’s free and does the trick, but the downside is that it’s VERY slow..
OK for hiding your IP, but...
It’s a good service for hiding your IP, but the load times are a bit slow and the constant ads and upsells have pretty much ruined it.
However, if you don’t have a budget for a VPN – it’s probably a wise choice.