Windscribe is a good option if you look for free VPNs to be used in the Chinese market. It allows you to prevent others from seeing your physical location, get around censorship, and avoid ads and trackers on websites that you visit.
What people like with the application is that it’s flexible with competitive prices. Out of almost 10,000 reviews, Windscribe has a significantly high rating of 4.7/5.0 in Apple Store, which speaks for itself.
However, as mentioned above, if you want to have a VPN that is suitable for China and comes with superior features, you should aim for paid VPNs. You can read more about some of the best VPNs in the article we listed under the section about Tunnelbear.
Encryption Protocols: AES-256 cipher with SHA512 auth and a 4096-bit RSA key
Size: The application occupies 109.1 MB on your cellphone/desktop
Server count and locations: Servers in over 63 countries and 110 cities
Statis IPs: Some IPs are not meant to change, they just stay the same all the time
Auto Pilot: They VPN automatically picks the best location for you. You don’t have to do anything!
Cookie Monster: Keeps track of cookies that are set, and deletes them on tab close
Location Warp: Spoofs your GPS to the location of the connected proxy
Different Packages and Flexibility: Windscribe allows you to choose from different packages and they even have a build-plan where you get paid per location that you use (more about that later).
What I like the most about Windscribe VPN
Windscribe is a popular and reliable VPN that comes with many benefits as listed under the features section above.
Keep in mind that these are just examples and plenty of other benefits follow. The application provides a high level of protection, is easy to use, and comes with a nice interface.
Besides, the prices are reasonable too, if you decide to opt-in for the paid versions.
I recommend you give Windscribe a go if you want a highly-rated VPN that comes with a lot of flexibility and security. It’s a good VPN overall that has a proven track-record and with many positive reviews.
What I like the least about Windscribe VPN
There are a few drawbacks with this VPN too, of course. Some outspoken disadvantages when using Windscribe are:
- They only have service bots that often come with unhelpful answers
- People claim that you won’t get access to Netflix catalogs of other countries
You can also download the application and give it a try to see if it suits your needs.
How much does it cost and what option should I choose?
Windscribe is a freemium VPN, which means that you have both a free and paid versions available. The packages are currently as follows:
- Monthly Plan: USD 9 / month
- Yearly Plan: USD 4.08 (Billed USD 49 every 12 months)
- Build a Plan: USD 0.00 (you’re billed USD 1 per location per month)
For more information, you can visit their website or contact them directly.
Who do I recommend this VPN for?
If you are opting-in for the free version, I would say that Windscribe is suitable if you only need limited usage of the VPN.
With that said, if you want a more robust solution for daily work, I would recommend you to go for a paid VPN. Examples include Windscribes paid packages or other VPNs such as Nord VPN and Express VPN.
There’s a jungle of VPNs out there and it can be difficult to find one that suits your budget and needs. As mentioned, I recommend you check our separate articles where we list the best VPNs in China.
Hola is a leading VPN that was created by the founders of Jungo, a leading operating system for home routers that was bought by Cisco for USD 107 million in 2006. It’s a freemium VPN that comes with many other add-ons, including ad removers, data mining, video speed-ups, and more.
The application has a rating of 4.4 / 5.0 based on more than 1.3 million reviews on Google Play, which is indeed not bad. With more than 225 million members, it’s undoubtedly one of the most popular VPN, at least if you use the paid version. This is a reason why Hola VPN might not be suitable for people who look for free VPNs. I cover this in greater detail below.
You can download the application for free or opt-in for their paid version, starting from as little as USD 2.99 per month. The paid version gives you better security, protection, and you won’t contribute to idle resources while using the network.
Encryption Protocols: DES3, AES128, AES192, AES256 (default: AES256)
Size: The size varies between devices
Server count and locations: Hola VPN comprises a peer-to-peer network, giving you access to thousands of servers and millions of IPs
Static IPs: You can use the IPs that come from data-centers (static IPs’) to anonymously get access to web resources with stable and long sessions and fast connections.
Autopilot: The VPN can automatically pick the most suitable location for you. With that said, some users complain that the application automatically changes to locations in the US and Europe. The users primarily live in Asian countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh and try to use local locations
Extension in browsers: You can also use Hola in the top four browsers as an extension
Smart TVs and casting devices: You will soon be able to use Hola for Smart TVs and casting devices
What I like the most about the Hola VPN
First of all, I like the fact that Hola is a freemium product that allows you to use it for free. The paid version isn’t that expensive either, setting you back from USD 2.99 per month. With that said, the free version comes with some limitations in terms of usage. For example, there’s a cap to the data and the time it can be used.
Therefore, many users suggest that you are opting in for the paid version.
The Hola VPN is known for being fast and it’s easy to get started using the app. I also like the fact that it can be used on multiple devices, on iOS/Androids, and installed in the browsers.
What I like the least about the Hola VPN
While the Hola VPN comes with many benefits, some users have been discouraged from using the application as the free version has many limitations.
As you can only use the application for one hour, then wait for an hour. Hola VPN is not a recommended option if you look for a free VPN and have to use the VPN for more than 1 hour consecutively daily.
If you’re willing to pay a small amount every month, you should give it a try though. If not, there are many other options available as listed in this article.
However, if you want a VPN with good performance in China or to get around geographic restrictions (for example, to watch Netflix), we recommend that you choose one of the premium VPNs that we recommend in this article on the best VPNs for China (updated monthly).
Encryption protocols: OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2
Simultaneous connections: 5 connections
Server count and location: Servers in 20 countries
Server changes: Unlimited
Applications: Windows, Mac, Android and iOS
Trial period or guaranteed money back: 500Mb free per month
After-sale service: Fast service via tickets (no live chat)
Extras: GhostBear (Ofuscation), Kill Switch (VigilantBear), browser extensions (Chrome, Opera and Firefox).
What I like the most about TunnelBear VPN
Free: TunnelBear gives you 500 MB per month for free. In addition, it’s one of the only low-cost or free VPNs that doesn’t compromise your privacy or security.
Easy to use: Its apps are very easy for everybody to use.
GhostBear: Despite being a low-cost VPN, it offers the possibility of obfuscated connections, which prevent the connection from being identified as a VPN, which is very useful for getting around geographic restrictions and censorship. However, it’s not as powerful as other VPNs, for example, Tunnel Bear won’t let you watch Netflix.
What I like the least about TunnelBear VPN
Speed: As tends to be the case with cheap VPNs and those offering free services, this greatly affects the VPN’s performance, as they can’t maintain a lot of servers and the majority tend to be saturated with users.
Performance in China: In addition to its poor performance, TunnelBear doesn’t offer the possibility of using OpenVPN on iOS devices, which is currently the only protocol that usually works in China. There are much more stable and faster VPNs for China.
App simplicity: Even though the app is very easy to use, for advanced users, it might seem too simple, as you can’t customize practically anything.
External audits: TunnelBear states that it was the first VPN to be subject to external auditing to demonstrate that it doesn’t participate in the doubtful practices that are very common among VPN providers (especially free VPNs), such as selling bandwidth and browsing data, offering low-security levels or even installing malware. The audit carried out by Cure53 found a few vulnerabilities that were later corrected, which seems to indicate a credible and rigorous audit.
How much does it cost and what option should I choose?
Currently, TunnelBear offers three types of plans:
Free plan: 500 Mb of data for free per month.
Monthly plan: 9.99 USD per month.
Annual plan: 49.99 USD (4.17 USD per month).
TunnelBear makes sense if you choose the free subscription with a one-time use of the monthly plan if you run out of data before the month is over. Remember that you have to cancel the subscription if you don’t want to use the unlimited data plans, as otherwise you might be automatically charged for the renewal.
Who do I recommend this VPN for?
In my opinion, Tunnel Bear is recommendable for people that want to use their VPN in a very limited way, such as for sending WhatsApp messages, as in this case, you don’t need a lot of speed and the 500 MB for free should be more than enough for one month (unless you send and receive photos and videos all day).
6 reasons to avoid most of free VPN
In this last part of the article, I expose 6 reasons why you should avoid using most free VPNs.
Offering a VPN service is not free
This is the main reason why you should never trust a free VPN.
To offer a free VPN service, is it necessary to have servers in various countries. For example, ExpressVPN has more than 1,000 servers located around the world. The cost, whether to maintain or rent them, is high and can amount to thousands of dollars for each server, depending on the volume of the traffic they are able to withstand.
Unless you believe that someone is going to be so generous as to spend thousands of dollars so that you can use a free VPN, the question is: where does the money to offer a free VPN come from?
While I imagine that there are thousands of ways to make a profit off of a VPN, in the following sections, you will see some of the methods that the most famous VPNs use to make money.
Some companies sell their users’ bandwidth
As I said at the beginning, maintaining servers isn’t exactly cheap and because of this, some VPNs have designed a system to lower costs; that is, using their users as servers (converting them into a botnet), which is similar to what Tor does. Some VPN providers have even been revealed to sell your bandwidth to other companies. This has two basic problems:
- Your computer and internet connection will go much slower: This is because you are letting other users use your bandwidth and processor
- You are going to be responsible for what other users connected to your computer do: that means that because the users are connected to your computer when they browse, your IP will appear, and as a result, if they do something illegal, you are going to be responsible.
Below, I have added an extract from the FAQ of one of the most famous VPNs (it is even recommended by CNN and Business Insider):
X is a Peer-to-Peer VPN community, where users help other users make the web global again. This means that X redirects traffic through other nodes (Peers) in its network, as opposed to routing via expensive servers.
They acknowledge that they don’t have servers and that they use your computer as a server. What they don’t specify (and which has been proven) is that later they sell this to paid users of other companies. That means that you are basically letting paid users of other companies use your bandwidth so that this company can make money.
Some companies collect and sell your internet use data
In 2013, Facebook bought a free VPN app for 120 million dollars, and other companies have followed in its footsteps. Why? The reason is very simple: what these apps or software do instead of providing you with a secure connection is to collect all of the information on your use of apps, web pages visited, what you buy online, etc. This information is very valuable and they use it either to sell to other companies or for their own benefit.
The personal information that we collect and store includes your name, IP address, email address, your use of mobile applications and data, and can include the combination of said information (including identity information) with information that we receive from business partners or third parties; said information can be used to offer market analyses and related services to business partners or third parties, and to operate services, such as virtual private networks and device tracking.
They are basically saying that they will use your information for whatever they want.
Some providers modify the web code to show ads
This is another one of the ways to make money off of VPNs, although this is a practice that is much more common with proxies (it is estimated that around 25% of proxies do it).
X may share anonymous data with third parties, including their affiliates, advertisers, and current and future business partners. X can use anonymous data collected for the administration of websites, advertising, and other promotional purposes, and may share said information with diverse affiliated and non-affiliated entities to those ends. It may also establish agreements with external companies, which permit the personalization of advertising and marketing messages to users while they use X, and these external companies may access the anonymous data collected from users.
This basically says that they will collect all of your information to sell it or to show you advertisements while you use it. So, be careful about the VPN software you install, because this isn’t very far off from malware.
Many VPNs don’t really offer secure connections
One of the most common uses of VPNs is to improve security when browsing the internet. If this is your case, don’t even consider a free VPN, because as you have seen in the previous sections, free VPNs aren’t exactly secure.
A good VPN will have its own servers and encryption protocols designed for it, so that information passes through as few people as possible, reducing possible security failures to a minimum.
Free VPNs as well as many low-cost VPNs don’t have their own servers and their encryption protocols have been designed by others.
To conclude, if you want a VPN that is actually secure and efficient, just pay for a good service.
VPN services can be used by scammers
Using a VPN means that you are redirecting all of your web traffic through a server controlled by the service provider, which means that this provider has access to everything you are doing. This is basically a paradise for scammers, who can collect bank information, access to user accounts, etc.
In any case, it is more and more common to report VPNs for inserting malware (malicious software) into users’ devices.
If you want a secure and fast VPN that doesn’t sell your browsing data to third parties, I recommend that you read our comparative review of three excellent VPNs that we currently recommend. You will see the difference!
If you are still convinced to buy a free VPN, before downloading any VPN check out Tunnelbear.
Free VPNs in China
It’s one thing to make a VPN work in the United State or Europe, but it’s another thing to make it work in China (or another country with internet restrictions). In China, the difference between good VPNs and others is very obvious, as for a VPN to offer good service, it needs to have good servers and good encryption protocols.
Even many paid VPNs don’t work or don’t work well in China and offer speeds that are incompatible with any use, such as having a Skype conversation or watching a YouTube video.
If you are in China or another country where there are internet restrictions and you are using a free VPN, you will have realized that often it is torture every time you want to look up something on the internet. Do yourself a favor and invest 8 USD per month for a good VPN and stop losing time every time that you connect to the internet.
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/byeangel/]