What is Betternet VPN?
If you’ve been interested in getting a VPN for the first time, or perhaps acquiring a new one, you’ve likely heard of Betternet.
Betternet is easily one of the most popular VPNs around, mostly because of its presence in the mobile app market.
Betternet has been the #1 VPN app on both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
On the Play Store alone, it counts over 10 million downloads, and in total Betternet claims to have 38 million users worldwide.
Clearly, Betternet is popular. How? Why? There are so many VPNs nowadays, especially for mobile users. What makes Betternet among the most popular?
Betternet’s popularity would have you expect an extremely well-featured, comprehensive VPN.
This is not the case: Betternet’s essence is simplicity and ease of use. It also gets its tremendous appeal from being one of the better free VPNs around—or at least, that used to be the case.
Within the last week, it would seem, Betternet has undergone a significant change in its pricing and judging from unhappy comments on the app stores, one wonders how much longer Betternet will be able to maintain its popularity.
I’ve been using Betternet for a while, and I love VPNs. Betternet at one point would have been one of my top picks for free VPN options—recent developments have significantly changed my opinion.
In this review, I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the stuff that is brand-new you need to know about. So without further ado, let’s get started—with the good!
Let’s start with the good news: Betternet doesn’t mislead about its features.
Chiefly this concerns simplicity and ease of use. It all comes down to what you want in a VPN. Betternet is a very simple VPN, but it works very well. For some users, other VPNs that are loaded with extra tools (some of them might be gimmicks though, watch out) might seem more attractive.
However, for anyone who simply wants to download and get an anonymized connection right away, Betternet is a good option. Installation is extremely quick, as is setting up an account if one desires.
Overall the result is a service that is simple and transparent about how it works and what it will provide: it then successfully delivers on these promises. It’s secure, still protects your anonymity, and performs well—these essentials of VPN service all get check marks.
To my mind, Betternet is an overall successful VPN. Unfortunately, it used to be much better—so let’s get into the cons.
What shortcomings can come of such a straightforward VPN?
The question belies the answer, I’m afraid. Simplicity is not for everyone—some people want VPNs to have tons of possible server locations, a kill-switch feature, an included ad-block, etc, etc.
Betternet admittedly lacks some features common to other VPNs. Even the paid version has fewer available server locations than other VPNs (though it’s still plenty to get by on) and few other features beyond the basic encryption process itself.
If I had written this review even two weeks ago, I would have said one of the downsides was the free version had some advertisements. But, at least it was free with unlimited bandwidth.
Betternet no longer has a free option. I think their website hasn’t caught up with recent changes, perhaps: there used to be a free version that did not require an upgrade and could continue indefinitely.
Extremely recently, it would seem (judging by unhappy comments on the app store), Betternet’s free product is now only a 7-day trial.
This is a huge disappointment—prior to this change, Betternet was one of the best free VPNs. (Alternative WindScribe VPN offers 10GB a month into free version)
Now it needs to be mostly evaluated in the context of its paid option and anyone interested in a quick week-long fix.
Additionally, Betternet claims to not require registration. This used to the case, but now mobile users must register with a payment method even if they plan on getting their money back after 7 days.
In light of the fact that their website and app store descriptions still do not reflect these serious changes, I’ve got to say that Betternet has seriously let its customers down. If it cannot afford the free model it used to support, that would be understandable—however, to fail to inform the customer is serious.
So, all in all, Betternet certainly has some drawbacks that will render it less attractive to some people. As a matter of fact, this will probably render it unattractive to many current free users, who will prefer not to upgrade.
However, it’s still tremendously popular, and maybe not solely for the price: of tens of millions of customers, a good portion must find the actual service itself good.
So for those who are interested in seeing what they would get for a paid account, let’s check out the details.
Pricing and Features
Price is important. A variety of people use VPNs, but unlike certain types of online software that are geared more towards businesses, many individuals use VPNs for personal reasons.
For these people, pricing can be important. Everyone should be able to browse the internet with privacy if they so choose. Can someone on Betternet do this?
I’d say yes. Although Betternet’s move to paid-only plans is disappointing, their paid plans are pretty reasonable.
Betternet’s pricing is on-par with many VPNs but on the cheaper side.
While much of Betternet’s marketing has been centered on its free product, we can only hope they make changes immediately, as their existing pricing is not unreasonable in itself.
One annoying thing about Betternet’s pricing is the lack of transparency, as mentioned.
At the time of this writing (early December) Betternet claims to be very free based on a model that allows users to watch videos or download recommended apps. It also claims to not require registration.
Neither of these is true anymore: Betternet now requires registration with a payment method for mobile users, who will then have to request their money back if they do not like the service after 7 days of use. It’s not so much a free trial as a money-back guarantee.
The desktop software will allow you to use the software for free for 7 days without registration, an actual free trial, but even that is disappointing in the face of Betternet’s advertisements.
It’s not just me who’s disappointed. If you look at comments made on the app store within the last week of November, you’ll find many users angry at the “free” description.
One last thing that bothers me: many VPNs do not restrict payment methods to cards, b including PayPal or digital currencies as well. Betternet only accepts the card for now.
Anyway, there’s only one premium tier, and the price changes depending on the time period you want to commit to.
One month is $11.99, 6 months is $3.99 a month, and one year is $2.99 a month.
These prices are still pretty cheap even as paid VPNs go, but I would be hesitant to pay for it personally. It depends on what you want out of the VPN, but if I’m going to pay, I want to get a very well-featured product.
That’s just my preference, but clearly, for some the paid version of Betternet is well worth it.
Though I think their website could be more up-front about their premium prices, they’re certainly not trying to hide it. If you open the app, you’ll soon realize they’re really not trying to hide their paid options.
So, Betternet seems to be very simple price-wise. That’s good to hear—how do the features break down? Do they complement the price? For those interested in the free version, how much can one get for free?
As VPNs go, Betternet is on the less-featured side. To some people, this isn’t a bad thing—some VPNs add a bunch of tools that aren’t strictly related to VPN technology, to sound robust, so a VPN that stays in its lane is fine for a few.
However, I do feel a couple or a few features could be added. Overall, Betternet performs well at what it offers (more on this later), and that’s the important thing.
What does it offer? The basic VPN service, of course. Betternet also has a few locations to choose from, at 10 countries, and each with their own selection of servers.
I wish there were more countries available, and I also think it’s unfortunate that most of them are in Europe, aside from a couple in East Asia and one for the United States or Australia. Nonetheless, you do have a few locations and switching over to them works fine.
Betternet is also particularly useful for mobile users because it can easily encrypt internet connections even while you’re on the go—meaning not just different WiFi networks (many of them possibly public) but data connections as well. Obviously, you can turn off the VPN if you don’t want it to do this.
One last thing I like about Betternet is its availability on a wide variety of platforms. It can be downloaded on Macs or PCs, as well as on Androids or iPhones/iPads, and there’s even a Chrome extension for those who are interested. You can use Betternet simultaneously on 5 devices.
That’s mostly it. To put it easily, Betternet is a very simple VPN. This is not inherently a bad thing—Betternet’s company also produces a different VPN and Adblock software, so it’s not as though the company is unable to afford extra features.
Simply put, Betternet sticks to the basics of VPN tech, and that’s fine. Its number one priority is securing and anonymizing your internet connection, and it doesn’t try to bog you down beyond what’s necessary.
Roughly speaking, do the features fit the prices? Because the prices are on the lower side, it could be worth it to some. However, I would say there are quite a few VPNs that are much better featured for relatively insignificant pricing increases.
There are also free VPN options with comparable features, though speed or bandwidth limits might be a drawback.
However, few Betternet customers appreciate it for the features. For many, simplicity is a major attraction, so let’s take a look at that.
Ease of Use
Betternet is, by a long shot, one of the easiest VPNs around. This is an especially interesting assertion when one considers that VPNs are generally pretty easy to use.
After all, the gist of a VPN is that you open the software, click a connect/activate button, and then go online. How much simpler can it get?
Quite a bit simpler, I found out. First off, Betternet’s download and installation were one of the fastest download and set-up processes I’ve experienced—I did the whole thing in about a minute.
Aside from a super easy set up (on any platform, by the way), the software itself is extremely straightforward. As I mentioned, Betternet isn’t feature-heavy, but that’s okay. Its selling point is accessibility.
And on that level, Betternet does great. All VPNs are pretty easy to use in my opinion, but with Betternet you basically toggle one or two options and then go about your internet use. It’s nonchalant, lightweight, and simple—not for everyone, but I can certainly see a lot of people who could get good use out of it.
In particular, those who have not used VPNs before might really like Betternet.
To sum it up, this part is straightforward. One of the priorities of the Betternet VPN is ease of use—in this regard, it succeeds remarkably well.
Of course, even an easy to use VPN should have customer support. Some technical difficulties may occur even with the best services—plus, customers may have unique issues they need help with (perhaps related to their location or internet service provider).
Betternet does have some customer support, but as with everything else, it’s a very simple set up. There are essentially two components: their support page, which is a mini-knowledge base, and their ticketing system.
The Betternet support page is alright—actually, I think it could be more comprehensive. There are a few categories of articles, but only a small number of articles in each category (one to three) and each “article” is usually a very short answer.
Their website lists an FAQ page, but it’s a dead link—so the support page is all you have for on-site information.
Frankly, online material could use some significant improvements.
The good news is that the ticketing system is pretty reliable. The representatives are knowledgeable and sympathetic, as well as good for random/unique problems.
It is unfortunate that there is no live chat, but at least you can still talk to a representative.
My overall takeaway is that Betternet’s customer support is not the best, but this is a natural fit for Betternet’s approach.
In its attempt to be a casual-use VPN, Betternet does not really need robust customer support. Ultimately, you’ll have to factor in how much this matters to you.
Security and Reliability
Security and reliability are of utmost importance when considering a VPN service. After all, the whole point of a VPN is to get a measure of security through anonymity, and all decent VPNs strive for reliable performance.
When one uses a free VPN, they might be compromising such things. After all, most free services on the internet are free because the user is also the product—their data, or at least their exposure to ads, is what allows products to be free.
Although Betternet is no longer free, some may wonder whether Betternet is still trustworthy—or even more trustworthy—as it used to have an ad-supported free product.
Well, it’s a little complicated. Back when Betternet supported a free model, it funded it by direct advertising. Apps paid Betternet to recommend them: if you installed the apps that Betternet featured, Betternet would receive some money.
Betternet also had an option for watching videos. Watching the videos earned money for Betternet as well.
Obviously, this is not ideal. Many (but not all) people want VPNs so they can avoid advertisements.
Fair enough. The key here is the advertisements are not targeted: you’re still not being tracked.
In other words, the essential point of having a VPN was not lost simply because Betternet once showcased recommended apps—anonymity was still protected then, and I can only assume it is equally if not better protected now that they only use a paid model.
Aside from that major concern, I think Betternet does okay. Betternet follows the basic policy of not keeping logs.
Another nice point is that creating an account is optional.
Betternet encrypts all traffic between the user and its servers using TLS 1.2 with perfect forward secrecy, and 128-bit/256-bit AES GCM data encryption. If that sounded like gibberish, here’s the translation: Betternet has industry-standard security protocols.
As far as performance goes, once you’re actually using it, Betternet is solid. I wouldn’t consider Betternet the fastest VPN I’ve ever used, but it’s not too slow either. For its price, I think it performs pretty well.
Some people still might be suspicious, and to be honest, I am as well because of their lack of updated information regarding their pricing structure. As near as I can tell, Betternet is pretty secure—but that’s something you should take with a grain of salt.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend Betternet?
So, do I recommend Betternet? It seems that Betternet’s recent changes may have tipped the scale—right?
Yep. First of all, I would have recommended Betternet as a very solid free VPN before its change. Without a free option, Betternet loses that special place and everything depends on how much it can bring to the table for its now paid-only plan.
Although Betternet is probably one of the simplest and easiest to use VPNs around, other VPNs that have more to offer still are pretty easy to use.
Moreover, Betternet doesn’t have a great selection of locations, the customer support is average at best (if not lacking in some areas), its current information is misleading, and there aren’t many other features or customizable settings.
Nonetheless, I would like to remind you of Betternet’s massive popularity: with tens of millions of users, it’s easily one of the most popular VPNs around. This is because Betternet is simply a good option for those who want ease and efficiency, and do not care to be extremely in-depth with their VPN technology.
Of course, most of those people probably became Betternet fans because of its simplicity and free option, so the jury is still out how its customers will react. The bright side is that as far as price goes, Betternet’s is reasonable, and its core services remain solid.
For those who are interested in trying a VPN, Betternet might be okay—but even then, there are other free options.
My recommendation for a free VPN (which has a good paid option as well) is Windscribe: it has a bandwidth cap but is still generous and far better-featured than Betternet without sacrificing ease of use either.
For the vast majority of people, I’ve got to say I can’t recommend Betternet. It was once a great free option, but in its current state, it’s only a mediocre paid option.