Hundreds of servers spread around the globe. Purpose-based server selection. Friendly, simple interface. Can change public IP with a tap. Good speed test results. Free trial.
Expensive. Offers only two licenses per subscription. No free version. Lacks advanced features. Logs some user data.
- Bottom Line
Hide My Ass VPN has a cheeky name, but its web-traffic protection is no joke. However, its friendly, simple interface can't make up for its high per-device price.
Too many people assume that using a smartphone means their information is secure. But any information sent over the internet can potentially be intercepted, and your movements across the Web can be tracked—especially via Wi-Fi. That's why you need a virtual private network, or VPN, for your iPhone. With a delightfully brash name and a charming visual design, Hide My Ass makes VPN technology approachable. It's a great service, but one that's hampered by a stingy allotment of licenses and some concerning logging policies. If you're taken by Hide My Ass's design, you'll probably appreciate the similarly friendly experience and more generous offering from Editors' Choice NordVPN.
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What Is a VPN?
When you point your browser to a website, you're actually sending a request through the internet to the server where the website is stored. The server responds with the information you requested, which your browser in turn displays. All along this trip, others can intercept your requests, or simply watch what you're browsing and (potentially) see what you're saying online. Most of the time it's a question of advertisers trying to monitor your behavior for targeted ads, but attackers might also be lurking on the network to steal your personal information, your passwords, and who knows what else. A new enemy could be ISPs gathering your data to sell for big bucks.
A VPN guards against all of those dangers. When you connect to a VPN, you're creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN's server. The server passes along your request to whatever site or service you're trying to reach, and the information travels back along the encrypted tunnel. That means that anyone lurking on your Wi-Fi network, or even your ISP, won't be able to see a thing.
Using a VPN also hides your IP address, since anyone watching traffic on websites will see the IP address of the VPN server. Provided the website you're accessing uses HTTPS, your data should be secure all the way along its journey.
Clever criminals can set up a phony cellphone tower, such as a Femtocell, and jam the LTE and 3G bands. Doing so forces nearby phones to connect via the less secure 2G connection. Just as when an attacker controls a Wi-Fi access point, a bad guy (or a spy) can then harvest your web traffic without your realizing it. Of course, this is a very rare and exotic kind of attack. Even so, it's good to know that VPN services work over cellular connections, too. And most are smart enough to handle the hand-off between cell towers and when you move from cellular to Wi-Fi.
The most obvious place to use a VPN is when you're away from your home network—at a hotel when you're traveling, for example, or at the local coffee shop's public Wi-Fi. Unsecured networks like these are a favorite of attackers looking to swipe your personal information. VPNs are also a key tool for journalists and political dissidents operating in countries with oppressive internet policies.
But VPNs can be fun, too! We know that sounds like a stretch, but it's true. A VPN can spoof your current location, giving you access to geographically restricted content like BBC streaming or MLB TV. Some sites don't appreciate these activities (which may be in violation of terms of service or even local laws) and content providers such as Netflix are also cracking down on users who spoof their location and the VPN services they use to do it.
Features and Pricing
When you first log in to the Hide My Ass iOS app, you can choose a 7-day free trial or sign up for one of the paid plans. It's always great having a chance to try before you buy, but once that week is over you must pay up or drop the app. If you're in need of a great VPN, but have nothing in your wallet, you can always try a free VPN instead. However, most of these services either limit your bandwidth or display ads.
Hide My Ass has a 30-day money-back guarantee, and offers loyalty rewards for convincing others to sign up. That said, it costs $11.52 per month, putting it on the higher end of VPN services. Editors' Choice winner KeepSolid VPN Unlimited costs only $6.99 per month—or as little as $2.99 per week on a short-term subscription.
If you're the commitment type, you can get a Hide My Ass subscription for $49.99 for six months or $78.66 per year. Those are decent prices for those durations, but it's worth noting that some VPN services such as KeepSolid VPN Unlimited (for iPhone) offer lifetime plans, for long-term protection.
To buy a Hide My Ass subscription, you can use credit cards, PayPal, wire transfer, e-check, UnionPay, Diner's Club, or Cash at 7-11. You can also use gift cards from stores such as Starbucks or GameStop. Using these will make your payments semi-anonymous. What you can't use is cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which many VPN services like Private Internet Access, NordVPN (for iPhone), and others do accept.
Unfortunately, the service's relatively steep price seems even higher given the stingy number of devices it lets you protect per license. Hide My Ass only lets you connect two devices to the service, and only when those devices connect to different servers. That's fine if you just have a computer and phone, but plenty of folks have several devices and may share them with family members, too. Most other services offer at least five licenses, with no restriction on which servers they use.
Hide My Ass offers a handy guide for installing VPN software on your home router. Doing so protects every single device on your network—from your laptop to your smart fridge. However, that protection ends when you step out the door with your smartphone.
A key differentiator between VPN services is the number of available servers and their geographic distribution. With lots of servers, you're more like to find a server that's not bogged down with other users. With lots of locations, you have more choices for spoofing purposes. Plenty of locations also ensure that no matter where you travel there will always be a nearby server for the best performance. Hide My Ass offers 940 servers across some 240 locations in 190 countries. This is remarkable, since several of the best VPN services leave out huge swaths of the globe, especially Africa, Central America, and South America. Hide My Ass has these regions—and the rest—covered. That said, Private Internet Access VPN (for iPhone) has the most servers of any service we've yet reviewed, at more than 3,000. In fact, many services now offer more than 1,000 servers.
Hide My Ass VPN for Windows uses the OpenVPN protocol, as do the Android, Linux, and macOS clients. We prefer OpenVPN because of its open-source nature, and because it affords excellent speed and protection. The iOS client uses the IPSec protocol. Some iPhone VPNs support multiple protocols, and let the user choose; not Hide My Ass. That's not a big loss, as this app is all about ease of use. The average user isn't going to care how their VPN connects, only that it does.
Despite its impressive geographic coverage, Hide My Ass has nothing in the way of specialty servers. Editors' Choice winner NordVPN, on the other hand, has a specific server type for high-speed video streaming, another that routes your VPN connection through the Tor network, others for P2P file sharing and BitTorrent, and yet another that provides double encryption. That said, these specialty servers are more important to those using VPN on a desktop computer.
Other services, such as Private Internet Access and TorGuard VPN (for iPhone), include ad and tracker blocking, but Hide My Ass does not offer this ability, either. If you need advanced features, or even just the ability to change which VPN protocol to use, you'd best look elsewhere.
Hide My Ass has its company headquarters in the UK, a country that does have mandatory data retention laws. It's unclear if a VPN would be required to maintain information about users, but the possibility is certainly there. The company does keep logs about user activity, noting the IP address of the user, the IP address of the VPN server they connect to, and the time of connection. This information remains stored for two to three months. Many other VPN services operate in countries without mandatory data retention laws, and maintain a strict no-logging policy. For some users, this won't matter; for others, it will be a deal breaker.
One thing that Hide My Ass will never do is inject advertisements into your web traffic. In the past, VPN companies have done this as a method of monetization. A Hide My Ass representative assures us that is not the case for this product.
Hands On With Hide My Ass
The Hide My Ass VPN iOS app has a bright, colorful design. It installed in a snap on the Apple iPhone 7 we used for testing.
At the top of the main window is an animated image of the product's mascot, Jack the Donkey, slowly nodding and tapping his fingers. If you just tap the connect slider, the VPN chooses the fastest available server. As with VyprVPN, the main window's background changes color when you're connected, in this case from white to aqua. Jack gives you a thumbs-up, and waves the flag of the VPN server's country. Only TunnelBear VPN (for iPhone) comes close as far as making VPN usage fun.
Rather than just click to connect, you can tap Help Me Choose. This reveals four options: Secure My Internet, Choose a Country, Paranoid Mode, and Anti-Censorship. The first is no different from just opening a connection; it chooses the fastest available server. You'll want to return to this mode after experimenting with the others.
Tapping Choose a Country does just that—it lets you choose from a laundry list of all the countries where Hide My Ass has a server. It doesn't show the speed of the best server in that country, the way Golden Frog VyprVPN (for iPhone) does. But when you tap a country it reports that country's fastest available server and offers to connect.
Paranoid Mode finds you a fast server that's far from your real location, yet secure. Per the FAQ, it aims to "make sure that your ass is completely hidden." When we tried it from central California, it suggested a server in Buenos Aires. The ubiquitous Jack the Donkey appeared as the Invisible Man, an empty suit and sunglasses.
We reported earlier than Anti-Censorship mode looks for a server in what Hide My Ass calls the "closest free-speech country." In the iOS app, and in Hide My Ass VPN (for Android), it simply looks for the fastest server outside of the country you're in. When we tested the feature from California, it hooked us up with Vancouver, BC.
You can tap a button to view your actual IP address and your public IP address through the VPN. Here's something unusual; you can change that public IP with a simple tap. Most iPhone VPNs would require you to log out and connect again, without a guaranteed that the new connection would have a different public IP address.
People looking to access region-locked content with Hide My Ass might have a hard time doing so. When we tested Hide My Ass on an iPhone, we couldn't watch Netflix videos. The Netflix app just displayed "Network Error."
Good VPN Speed Test Results
No matter the VPN service you use, your connection will change somehow—usually for the worse. But not all VPNs have the same effect on your internet experience. To test impact on connection speeds, we compare the average results from Ookla's speed test to find the percent change with the VPN on and off. (Note that Ziff Davis, PCMag's parent company, also owns Ookla.) Because networks are notoriously fickle things, we take the baseline measurements immediately after testing VPN speeds.
The latency test measures how long it takes for your device to ping a server and receive its response. Going through a VPN rather than directly to that server naturally has potential to increase latency. Fortunately, Hide My Ass had a relatively small impact, increasing latency by just 50.7 percent. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited and NordVPN exhibited even less impact. TunnelBear and AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite (for iPhone), on the other hand, really ramped up latency, by 601.4 percent and 483.3 percent respectively. If you're that rare person who plays lag-sensitive fighting games on the iPhone, the latter two might cause frustration.
A drag on download speed is something you're more likely to notice, but don't worry—Jack won't slow you down. Quite the opposite, in fact. In our testing, downloads went 10.1 percent faster with Hide My Ass active, perhaps because the VPN server used a blazingly fast connection. Several others sped up downloads, though not by as much. TunnelBear, on the other hand, slowed downloads by 60.9 percent. Perhaps the bear stopped to hibernate along the way.
As for upload speed, all the recent products slowed uploads by some amount, but none by a lot. Note, too, that for almost all mobile activities, downloads are more significant than uploads. Hide My Ass slowed uploads by 10 percent, which is more than many. TunnelBear slowed uploads by just 4.9 percent, and IPVanish VPN (for iPhone) by 3.5 percent.
Taken all together, speed scores from Hide My Ass are quite good. It didn't increase latency by much, and made downloads faster. Its impact on upload speed is less important. This is one fast donkey!
Fun and Effective, but With Caveats
It's easy to see why Hide My Ass has such an ardent following. It has fun design, and is remarkably easy to use on any major platform. It also delivered solid speed test scores both on iOS and Windows. Best of all, it's very, very simple. Unfortunately, its two-license policy is quite restrictive, making it hard to justify the comparatively high price. The company's logging policy is also not ideal. If you value a slick, friendly interface, Hide My Ass is one of the best, but you can get an excellent experience and features at a better per-device price with iPhone VPN Editors' Choice winners NordVPN and KeepSolid VPN Unlimited.
Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990, he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His "User to User" column supplied readers with tips… More »
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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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