Lantern claims its focus on proxying some of your traffic rather than all of it makes its performance faster and we witnessed this first-hand. However, besides the blazing speeds and a free basic service that provides access to some censored websites, it can’t be used for much else. It doesn’t unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer and there are some privacy concerns, so it’s nowhere near a full VPN product.
Has a free tier
Not a full VPN service
Doesn’t unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer
Doesn’t have much information available
Barely any customer support
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Lantern is a proxy tool for desktop and mobile devices whose primary purpose is to provide fast access to blocked websites and apps, using “a variety of techniques to stay unblocked in censored regions around the world, falling back to other approaches if some of those techniques are blocked”. It is important to note that Lantern is not a full anonymity tool, so the provider recommends you use Tor if you want to be anonymous online.
Lantern has a free tier but there’s a catch. To keep its free version running, the company has implemented a bandwidth limitation of 500MB/month. When you reach the bandwidth limit, the company starts slowing down the connection, urging you to upgrade to Lantern Pro. You can purchase one year of Pro for $32 or two years for $48. The provider accepts payments made via Alipay and all the major credit cards.
If you have a Pro account, you can deploy Lantern on three devices at the same time. It also provides you with “unlimited data to browse the web, stream videos, and download content”.
You can also get Lantern Pro for free. Specifically, when you sign up, you will get a unique referral code that you can share with your friends. If your friend signs up for the 2-year plan using your code, you will each get three additional months of Pro for free. Them signing up for a 1-year plan gets you each one month for free.
Since Lantern is primarily a proxy rather than a full VPN service, you won’t be getting all the perks of such a solution. This is why you might want to consider signing up for NordVPN or CyberGhost instead. If you’re looking for a free alternative, Windscribe is ideal as it has a generous 10GB free plan.
However, if you don’t mind paying a bit more for a truly complete service, then look no further than ExpressVPN.
Despite giving access to blocked and censored websites, Lantern isn’t a good choice for users who want to unblock geographically restricted streaming channels like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, or Hulu. It’s only good for unblocking such content on YouTube and Kodi.
About the company
The creator of Lantern is the company called Innovate Labs, LLC and it is registered in Los Angeles. It regularly updates the Transparency report on its website, which lists all the court orders, gag orders, warrants, searches, seizures, and backdoor requests it has or hasn’t received up until the specified date. The website doesn’t divulge the number of its servers, server locations, or IPs available.
Privacy and encryption
Lantern automatically upgrades unsecure HTTP connections to encrypted HTTPS whenever possible to keep your information private while browsing. It also blocks intrusive ads to provide you with smoother and faster surfing experience.
The company collects “diagnostic information when users share feedback and other information for debugging purposes”. It also collects usage analytics of its apps to provide a better user experience. The Lantern settings allow you to configure this according to your personal preferences. If you choose to send Lantern diagnostic and usage data, it says it “will not share, sell or lease this data to third parties or use it for any other purpose than making our services better for our users.”
However, Lantern is located under the jurisdiction of the US, which means the company might be forced by the authorities to surrender whatever little logs it does collect. This also makes it less than ideal for torrenting/P2P traffic (although it works for it), in addition to Lantern being only a proxy, not a full service, which means its security may not be on the same level as one.
Lantern has apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu. Its Android app has received an average 4.3 stars out of 5, which is a very good score, especially considering that a staggering number of 124,472 users decided to rate it. The app itself has been downloaded over 5 million times and was last updated very recently - on May 13, 2020. The iOS app has had much less success - being rated only 1.9 by 299 people. It was last updated on the same day as its Android counterpart.
The provider’s customer support isn’t easily reached. There’s only the web form option, and the website also directs you to its Facebook page, User Forum, or Developers Q&A section, if you need assistance. We’re still waiting for a response to a message sent via email.
Speed and experience
Lantern doesn’t have a traditional interface. Instead, you control it via the Internet site, where you can switch servers (but only if you’re a Pro user) and access the provider’s settings such as turning on/off the management of system proxy, whether you want all traffic to be proxied, and more. The latter refers to choosing whether you want all traffic to be sent through Lantern or only the blocked traffic, which is the faster option.
According to the website, “Lantern Pro limits the number of users on each server to offer you faster speeds.” The regular, free Lantern isn’t so bad itself. Quite the contrary, actually. When connected to a server in Frankfurt, Germany, we witnessed no lags whatsoever and the speed was a surprising 55Mbps on a 58Mbps testing connection, which we’ve rarely seen in this business. That said, you cannot choose the server to connect to yourself unless you have a Lantern Pro service.
Lantern is a very good proxy service in terms of download speed and accessing some blocked websites but not for much else, as it cannot unblock Netflix or BBC iPlayer, lacks the military-grade protection offered by a full VPN, and there aren’t many features to work with.
If you want a truly good VPN experience, then we highly recommend a top VPN such as ExpressVPN.
Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.