AnchorFree, which distributes the world’s most popular consumer virtual private network (VPN), is bringing its Hotspot Shield to iOS (s aapl) devices. If this sounds somewhat familiar, it may be because AnchorFree released a work-around hack to make use of Hotspot Shield on the iPhone in 2008. But unlike that previous long multi-step process, AnchorFree is now going with a full native app that offers not only safe, private browsing but a new data compression service similar to Onavo that can potentially halve a user’s data consumption.
Hotspot Shield for iOS provides users with a protected gateway that allows them to browse safely on unsecured networks, keeping their passwords, financial information and other data secure. Hotspot Shield provides people with a temporary IP address and encrypts their data so they can browse safely, away from prying eyes. Hotspot Shield is already used by about 10 million people around the world, especially by web users in countries with censorship.
The privacy aspect alone should appeal to users who travel abroad or visit a lot of hotspots. And with the rise of mobile devices, the computing burden is shifting to smartphones and tablets, which are in danger from the same security threats that face their desktop cousins.
But Hotspot Shield is also offering a second service to entice users. It’s got a data compression feature that can cut down data usage by up to half, helping users stay under the data caps that are in use by most cellular carriers. Hotspot Shield compresses all text and images through its servers but doesn’t address video yet. Users can choose between high, medium and low settings to set how much compression is applied, which affects image quality.
David Gorodyansky, co-founder and CEO of AnchorFree said the app has taken a while because of scaling and engineering issues. But he said it comes at an opportune time, as mobile devices are exploding and data caps are being used to constrain network traffic. Gorodyansky thinks the move into data compression made sense, and says it will be just the first of more features added to Hotspot Shield.
“It’s logical step for us because we’re already securing the data stream so it makes sense for us to speed up the traffic and optimize it and make it as beneficial to users as possible,” he said.
Users can try the app for free for seven days, and then subscribe to service for 99 cents a month or $9.99 a year, with one subscription covering multiple iOS devices. AnchorFree is also throwing in two hours worth of free Skype (s msft) calls for users who subscribe. An Android (s goog) version is expected later this year.
As I mentioned before, the increasing use of data caps is bringing out a lot more companies touting their data crunching tools. You have to be okay with a company handling your personal traffic, but in the case of AnchorFree, many users already trust it with their data, so the company has a good head start.