iPhone and iPad users living in web censorship-happy lands or who are simply trying work around restrictive work firewalls now have access to an iOS version of Hotspot Shield. The app version, which launched today, allows Apple owners to set up secure and high-speed Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. Hotspot Shield has been popular among iPhone users for quite some time, but the service required a complicated configuration setup before the software launch that turned away a wider audience.
The iPhone app is the first mobile product launch from parent company AnchorFree. Subscriptions will cost either 99 cents monthly or $9.99/year and will offer secure data browsing for all iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. New subscribers will also receive a voucher for two hours of free calls on Skype and a seven-day trial period. However, it is important to note that the free version of the PC software contains constant ads that many users feel detracts from the web experience.
According to AnchorFree cofounder David Gorodyansky, the service will also offer users protection from snoopers and cybercriminals checking in on unprotected coffee shop, hotel, and restaurant Wi-Fi networks. Fast Company has previously reported on Hotspot Shield and the product's role in the Arab Spring.
Gorodyansky was a recent panelist at the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, where he spoke about the role of Hotspot Shield and similar products in democratic uprisings around the world. VPNs allow users in foreign countries a measure of protection from intelligence services and the ability to access banned websites—for instance, YouTube is banned in Turkey and access to LinkedIn has regularly been blocked in China.
Apart from the cybersecurity aspects of the product, there are some additional features of interest to North American users. A proprietary data optimization feature works as a sort of super-cache that helps users stretch their monthly data allowance, and the product works automatically—once installed, Hotspot Shield requires no additional configuration or activation.
A second, U.K.-only version of AnchorFree PC's edition is called ExpatShield and is marketed toward British expatriates working in countries that restrict Internet access. The default VPN software included in iOS requires users to set up their own proxy servers for Internet access; this is a time-consuming process that is skipped over by AnchorFree's subscription-based software.
The company also plans to release iPad-optimized and Android versions of their software in the future.
[Image: Flickr user Juanpol]