PatronVPN is a free VPN that’s only available on iOS and comes with a fair few privacy concerns. Because you’re randomly assigned a server, there’s no guarantee of good performance, and access to both Netflix and BBC iPlayer is currently blocked. The app is easy to use but constantly trying to push the premium version on you, and the incessant ads every time you disconnect get frustrating very quickly.
PatronVPN uses strong encryption but that’s where the security benefits stop – there’s no kill switch, no protection against DNS leaks, and the logging policy leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no customer support on the website, bar a handful of overly-simple FAQs, and we never received a response to the email we sent. We wouldn’t recommend it for sending or receiving any sort of confidential information, as it just isn’t secure enough.
Speed & Reliability
Considering we could only test performance in one server location, there’s not too much to say about PatronVPN’s speed and reliability. The app connected us to various servers in the US so it was impossible to get any sort of indication of local performance, but it looks like this is going to be the case for the majority of users.
Downloads appeared to be capped at around 4Mbps, and while this is enough for general browsing and streaming (at a push), you can forget about watching anything in HD.
This automatic server selection is a problem for latency – the lowest we found was a whopping 162ms, which is no good for gamers. Some free VPNs offer local latency of under 10ms, such as TunnelBear.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
With the free version of PatronVPN you’re only able to connect to one server. The frustrating thing about this is that you don’t have any say over where you connect to. For us, it was sometimes as close as Amsterdam, other times as far away as the US. That isn’t great considering we‘re based in London.
The only way you can access more server locations is by signing up to PatronVPN Pro, which starts at $5.93 per month on the annual plan. It doesn’t seem very fair to us that there should be such a huge difference between the available locations included in the free and paid plans, but this is just PatronVPN’s way of trying to push you to upgrade.
Platforms & Devices
PatronVPN is only available on iOS, so if you want to protect anything other than your iPhone or iPad, you’re out of luck, as there are no manual workarounds for any other platforms.
If you do need a VPN that can be installed on all of your devices, we’d recommend choosing one that can be configured at router level, as this will save you from installing individual apps on each one. Our top pick for this is ExpressVPN, as it’s compatible with almost every device you could possibly think of.
Streaming & Torrenting
Those looking for quick, easy access to popular streaming sites should definitely avoid PatronVPN. Not only is it not possible to stream content from either Netflix or BBC iPlayer, download speeds were so slow that even if these sites weren’t blocked, you’re likely to have issues with patchy performance. Again, access to dedicated streaming servers is reserved for those who are willing to pay for the service.
Encryption & Security
PatronVPN’s lack of transparency surrounding the level of security it offers is concerning – the only information on the website is that it uses the SSL protocol with 256-bit encryption. Usually we’d expect to see at least some mention of OpenVPN or another well-known VPN protocol here, as SSL isn’t generally a term used by VPN providers, although it does create a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN server. AES-256 is the strongest encryption method there is though, so that’s good news.
Unfortunately that’s about all the information you get. Just by looking at the app we can tell there’s no VPN kill switch, meaning if the VPN connection were to suddenly drop without you realizing, your real IP address would be visible to any potential snoopers or hackers. We also ran a series of DNS leak tests and found that the app was leaking our DNS requests, which means your ISP is still able to view everything you’re doing online.
With no other security features to speak of, PatronVPN will do to protect you on insecure public WiFi networks, but we’d hesitate to recommend it for anything of a more sensitive nature.
- SSL VPN
PatronVPN won’t be much help in high-censorship countries such as China due to a lack of additional obfuscation tools. It states that the network has been “optimized…to provide a reliable connection”, but we can’t find any evidence to confirm this. Performance was so bad that even if you could get it to work, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to do anything at all, especially considering you can’t choose to connect to a specific server.
If you need a VPN that’s going to provide consistent access in countries with strict internet laws, look for one that offers extra layers of obfuscation to bypass the censors, such as Astrill.
The good news is, PatronVPN doesn’t monitor anything you do online while you’re connected to the VPN, but unfortunately it does collect your originating IP address. PatronVPN states that this is ‘obfuscated and anonymized’, however it also admits that it may be used to “derive your approximate location”, which is a concern. It’s deleted as soon as you disconnect from the VPN, though, which goes some way to reassure us.
PatronVPN is located in Hong Kong, which usually wouldn’t be too much of a cause for concern, as it’s not subject to any particularly privacy-unfriendly laws. However, following a recent investigation by our research team into the legitimacy of free VPNs, we have reason to believe the company does, in fact, have links to mainland China. Considering China’s history of intrusive online surveillance and regular internet crackdowns, this is incredibly concerning, and definitely not something you should be looking for in a VPN provider. You can read the full report here.
Ease of Use
PatronVPN’s app couldn’t really get much simpler. The main screen consists of a big on/off button, the amount of time you’ve been connected to the VPN, and a few server locations along the bottom.
To access the server list you can either swipe left on the main screen or click ‘More’ in the bottom right-hand corner. The ‘Free’ option is right at the top of the list, which is helpful, and all the locations below that are premium-only – you can easily tell them apart as there is a little padlock next to the country.
PatronVPN’s customer support is virtually non-existent, consisting of only a handful of FAQs on the website and not much else. Even these are pretty pointless as they only cover the very basics and seem to be tailored to the paid version of the service. The company’s Facebook page is very active, with new posts constantly being added – it would be great to see the same level of attention given to the clearly much-neglected website.
You can either get in touch with the support team via the email address provided on the website, or you can contact them on Facebook Messenger – this isn’t much good if you don’t already have an account, though. We sent an email asking one simple question four days ago and are still yet to receive a response, which is very disappointing. The email address is also registered to a Gmail account, rather than a business one, which is very unprofessional.
The Bottom Line
- Impressive upload speeds
- User-friendly iOS app
- Download speeds failed to reach 5Mbps
- No way of connecting to a specific country
- Blocked by Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Vague logging policy and no advanced privacy features
- Very limited customer support
PatronVPN is an iOS-only VPN with several privacy flaws. It also doesn’t allow you to select a specific country but rather connects you to an ‘optimum’ location, meaning performance really suffers. Downloads struggled to reach 4Mbps, so don’t even think about using this VPN for anything more than general browsing, and even though uploads were an impressive 90Mbps, security issues will likely prompt torrenters to look into alternatives.
An extremely badly-written logging policy makes us very skeptical of the level of privacy offered by PatronVPN, as does its lack of advanced features such as a VPN kill switch. It was also leaking our DNS requests during our performance tests, meaning your ISP would still be able to see everything you were doing online, totally defeating the point of using a VPN at all.
The iOS app is user-friendly, but we don’t like that it tries to convince you to upgrade to the paid version before you’ve even had a chance to use it. Customer support is basically non-existent, so don’t expect to receive a response the same day, or perhaps even at all. There are much better complimentary offerings out there that provide reliable, consistent speeds and a higher level of security.