Unique Wi-Fi/cellular combo connection. Excellent design. Data limiter. Good speed test results. No user activity logging. Free, limited version of the service.
Only two simultaneous connections. Limited server geographic diversity. No advanced security settings. Benefit of Wi-Fi/cellular combo unproven in our testing.
- Bottom Line
Hence the name, Speedify is all about speed, bundling your Wi-Fi and cellular data into one super-connection, and encasing the whole thing in a privacy-enhancing VPN. It might mean fast browsing, but it doesn't offer much in the way of features.
By Max Eddy
Until the US government took a strong stand against online privacy, the question about virtual private networks (or VPNs) I most often heard was, "Will they slow down my internet connection?" The answer is, "Usually." Speedify is a unique service for desktop PCs, Android devices, and iPhones (I tested the Android VPN service) that tackles that issue head-on by combining cellular and Wi-Fi data into a single stream. The goal is a powerful and resilient connection, even when the VPN is engaged. It's a friendly, affordable service, and one that may actually speed up your encrypted connection. Speed is important, but a lack of features means NordVPN and Private Internet Access remain our top pick VPN services for Android.
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What Is a VPN
Why do you need a VPN? Switching on a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and a server operated by the VPN company. That means that even someone on the same network as you—say, the unsecured one at the local coffee shop—can't see what you are doing. Your ISP can't see it either, which is a good thing, considering that it can now sell your metadata.
Because your web traffic appears to be coming from a VPN server, advertisers and observers on the web see the server's IP address instead of yours. This helps hide your location and makes it harder to track you between websites. Journalists and political dissidents in countries with oppressive restrictions on internet access have long known that VPNs can circumvent censorship and hide their identity.
You can use this same technology to spoof your location, thereby enabling you to watch region-locked content. Free BBC or MLB streams, for example, are only available in certain locales. Just select a VPN server in the appropriate country and suddenly those streams can be unlocked. But don't expect it to work all the time. Netflix and other streaming services have been particularly aggressive about cracking down on VPN use. I advise you to check all relevant terms of service (and local laws) before using a VPN, especially in this manner.
Cellular data connections are relatively secure, but they are not impervious to attack. One sophisticated attack involves using a portable cellular tower, such as a femtocell, and tricking nearby phones into connecting with it. Attackers then jam the LTE, 4G, and 3G bands, thereby forcing phones to connect via 2G, which uses an encryption scheme that has already been cracked. Once connected, these phones must pass their data past the attacker. In this case, a VPN would keep even their information secure.
Pricing and Features
Speedify is available for $8.99 a month or $199.95 per year. The company is currently offering a considerable discount on its annual plans, as is the norm for VPN companies. You can purchase a subscription from the Speedify website, which accepts major credit cards and PayPal. Many other VPN services also let you pay with untraceable services, like BitCoin or prepaid gift cards. You can also buy a subscription from within the app, via Google Play.
If you don't feel like opening your wallet just yet, Speedify lets you use its service for free, up to 1GB per month. That might not sound like very much, but 1GB can go a long way if you limit the amount of streaming from your phone. It's also a great way to try the full service out for yourself, and see if it works for you. Keep in mind that Speedify is just one of the free VPNs out there today. Many other services, however, have less generous data allowances, or only make a small subset of servers available to free users.
A subscription grants you unlimited data, and access to Speedify's servers across 35 cities. The company does not offer an exact figure on the number of servers, only that it has "hundreds" available. These servers cover a good swath of the globe, including Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. But that leaves out huge chunks of the world, including all of Africa and Central America. Also, while the company does support a server in Russia, it doesn't in other countries with repressive internet access policies, such as China and Turkey.
Other VPN services offer far more robust and widespread server networks. While "hundreds" sounds like a lot of servers, it's worth noting that, in my latest round of VPN testing, having a pool of at least 1,000 servers is becoming increasingly common. Private Internet Access, for example, has over 3,000 servers and covers a much more varied selection of locations. That's important, because the more servers a company offers, the less likely you're going to be stuck in an overcrowded one. Also, the more server locations available, the more likely you'll be able to find a server nearby. That's important because the closer the server, the better the performance.
Speedify also restricts how many devices you can use to just two active sessions. Most other services, including NordVPN, let you have at least five simultaneous connections. That's especially important in households with more than just one computer and one phone that need VPN protection. TorGuard and other VPN companies offer routers with their VPN software preinstalled. By placing the VPN protection on the router, every device on the network is secured. That includes devices that can't run VPN software on their own, such as game consoles and smart fridges.
One thing I like about Speedify is that it allows P2P and BitTorrent on its service. But, like many other services, it limits file-sharing activities to specific servers. A representative for the company confirmed to me that it keeps no logs of user activity and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The US is, notably, not a country with mandatory data-retention laws. You can rest easy that your activities aren't being monitored by Speedify. The company representative also confirmed that it does not inject ads into your data (I've seen services do this in the past), nor does not seek to profit from user data.
When it comes to security, Speedify uses the ChaCha cipher to secure your data. Speedify offers a large collection of technical information about ChaCha, which is said to be used by major companies such as Google and CloudFlare. It's a bit unusual, however, since most other VPN services use established VPN protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 to secure your data. I'm not too keen on the fact that Speedify doesn't give users choice about how their data is handled, but Speedify deserves credit for being fully transparent about how they encrypt and offering a great deal of technical information to back up their approach. Moreover, most users probably won't care how their data is encrypted, as long as it works.
As the name implies, Speedify's primary concern is, well, speed. It tackles improving your connection's speed and reliability by merging your Wi-Fi and cellular data connections into a single stream. It's a unique feature, and one I've never seen before in a VPN. Samsung devices have offered a special download utility for large files that does something similar, and wireless carriers outside the US are toying with similar technology. But Speedify's claim is bold. That said, security is the foremost concern in my mind, not speed.
Hands On With Speedify
I tested Speedify on a Nexus 5x running the latest version of Android N. It's available for iOS, macOS, and Windows, too. Keep in mind that you won't be able to realize Speedify's speed-ifying on a device that doesn't have a cellular radio.
Speedify uses a slick, modern interface, though with a bit of clutter. This is in contrast to the minimalism of apps like KeepSolid VPN Unlimited. The center of the screen shows your two data streams, Wi-Fi and cellular, and your connection status. Swiping along the bottom shows your data usage over each radio in various graphs. It's little more than eye candy, but it's pleasant to see.
One odd aspect of the design is how small the elements you actually interact with are. The option to select a different server, for example, is minuscule. Once you find it and tap it, it thankfully pulls up a full-size window. Notably, Speedify offers no information about the status of the servers you connect to, unlike NordVPN and other apps, which list the latency and load each server is experiencing. For future versions of the Speedify app, developers would do well to look to Hide My Ass VPN, which has one of the best interfaces I've yet seen for Android.
Speedify offers little in the way of advanced security options. You cannot, for example, choose to have your IP address change at set intervals, or use a static IP address provided by the company. TorGuard offers these options, and many more, for purchase. There are some useful options, like telling the app to use P2P servers, and putting it into Redundancy Mode, which uses the cellular/Wi-Fi connection to improve reliability rather than speed. One option that shouldn't be there is the ability to toggle encryption on and off. If you're going to use a VPN, use a VPN.
Since the app is focused on speed, it contains a few extra goodies for controlling how data moves in and out of your device. You can use it to set a priority between Wi-Fi and cellular data, as well as enforcing monthly and even daily limits on data.
Notably, Speedify does not include tools for blocking ads on your Android device. That's unfortunate, as it's a feature that's appearing in more and more VPN services. A company representative has told me it's possible it will appear in the future.
I am pleased that, in my testing, Netflix was available while the VPN was active. That's becoming more and more unusual, as streaming services move to block the use of VPNs and proxies. That said, you may find that Netflix has blocked Speedify by the time you get your hands on it.
Two Connections Are (Possibly) Better Than One
First and foremost, Speedify is designed to combine your cellular and Wi-Fi data together. Once you turn it on, that's what it does. I normally do not use cellular data during mobile VPN testing because it can be so fickle, but I included a special round of testing with both radios active for Speedify.
I try to get a sense of the impact a VPN has on web browsing by taking a series of tests using the Ookla speed test Android app. (Note that Ookla is owned by PCMag's publisher, Ziff Davis.) I average the results of several tests, both with and without using a nearby VPN server, and find a percent change between the two. This domestic server test prioritizes speed and reliability, and is likely how most readers will use their VPNs.
With both radios on, I found that Speedify increased latency by 100 percent in this test, which is a far cry from the best scores. Speedify also didn't seem to make use of any additional bandwidth for downloads; it actually decreased download speeds by 85.4 percent—that's the largest reduction I've yet seen. It's also significantly worse than how Speedify performed without cellular data active, as you'll see.
Speedify fared slightly better in the upload test with both radios on; it slowed uploads by 36.6 percent. That's slightly better than without the cellular radio active, but nowhere near the best score.
It's possible that you could realize an improvement to download and upload speeds over time with Speedify, but that wasn't evident in my testing. That said, using both connections simultaneously might prove to be more resilient to interruption (hence the Redundancy Mode mentioned above), if not actually faster.
I freely admit that my speed tests are limited. To really get a sense of how a network performs, you have to perform many times more tests, at different locations, and at different times of day. A great example of exhaustive network testing is PCMag's Fastest Mobile Networks report, which generates so many data points that we have to use an especially powerful computer to handle the number crunching.
That said, I am dubious about Speedify's claims of improved performance by using both the Wi-Fi and cellular data connections. In my testing, the app performed better with the cellular radio turned off.
Apples-to-Apples Speed Test Results
As I said, I test mobile VPNs without cellular data active, in order to control for more variables and give the device the best connection possible. I tested Speedify with cellular data active to try and evaluate its data-bundling powers, but I tested it again without cellular data in order to get a clean comparison against the competition. As mentioned, my testing suggests that Speedify might actually be speedier without cellular data.
I found that in this apples-to-apples test, Speedify increased latency by 693.3 percent. While latency is measured in milliseconds, and even huge changes are hard to notice, that's still a big increase. To be fair, it's not the biggest increase in latency. That dubious honor goes to Private Internet Access, which bumped up latency over 2,000 percent. TorGuard VPN increased latency by only 12.5 percent, the best score I've recorded to date.
More important than latency in determining the fastest VPN are download and upload speeds. I found that using Speedify slowed downloads by just 45.2 percent, which is the best score I've yet recorded for Android VPN downloads, beating out PureVPN by just .4 percent. PureVPN is the fastest VPN for desktops, but on Android it falls in with the rest of the pack.
My testing showed that Speedify slowed uploads by 41.4 percent, which is a fairly typical score for this test. Spotflux VPN for Android had the best score for uploads, reducing speeds by only 6.5 percent.
Regardless of the VPN service you chose, using it will have some impact on your web browsing experience. Generally, you'll see increased latency, and decreased upload and download speeds. In some cases, a VPN might even improve performance by routing users through high-bandwidth infrastructure. That's the case with PureVPN on Windows, an Editors' Choice winner because of its status as the fastest VPN I've yet tested.
Need for Speed
Speedify's dual connection is an interesting idea, and it's likely to appeal to anyone looking to get better performance out of their phone (or, for that matter, their unlimited data plan). As a VPN, it offers a slick and user-friendly service, one that doesn't require too much from the user. But the focus is definitely on speed, not security. The ability to choose a different server feels like an afterthought, for example, and the range of servers leaves something to be desired, as does the number of simultaneous connections allowed. And as for speed, my testing found that Speedify worked better without cellular data, although I will concede that it may be possible to see an aggregate improvement over a longer period of time.
The score Speedify takes reflects, above all, its adequate performance as a security service, where it has room for improvement. I continue to recommend Editors' Choice Winners NordVPN and Private Internet Access, both of which are more robust mobile VPN services.
By Max Eddy Software Analyst
Max Eddy is a Software Analyst, taking a critical eye to Android apps and security services. He's also PCMag's foremost authority on weather stations and digital scrapbooking software. When not polishing his tinfoil hat or plumbing the depths of the Dark Web, he can be found working to discern the 100 Best Android Apps. Prior to PCMag, Max wrote for the International Digital Times, The International Science Times, and The Mary Sue. He has also been known to write for Geek.com. You can follow him on… More »
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