If you have Netflix, you have the ability to stream a wide array of movies and television shows for less than $10 per month. The digital streaming library isn’t as impressive as their mail-out catalogue, but any way you look at it, that’s a pretty decent price for what you get. And what you get is a lot. Old shows, new shows, crazy amounts of anime, and even some favourites like Glee, the now (sadly) cancelled Stargate Universe, and 2009’s Star Trek movie are on there. Unless you live in or visit a country other than the United States, of course.
If you do happen to be on the other side of that imaginary border line, however, and you have an iOS device, you can use a VPN to access the US Netflix streaming library — and you can do it without spending a dime if you use Hotspot Shield.
UPDATE: Hotspot Shield’s iOS configuration page is currently down. I’ll keep checking to see if and when it comes back up and will update you here. You could also try other VPN options, such as Witopia, but that one comes with a $40/year price tag.
UPDATE 2: I’ve been in touch with Anchorfree support (they are the purveyors of Hotspot Shield), and have been told that they are working on the issue. Apparently, they are re-launching the iPhone version of the VPN. I will update again when I know more.
UPDATE 3: The iOS app for Hotspot Shield is officially here! Check this post for more info.
We’ve talked about Hotspot Shield before, and even though the free version forces ads down your throat, it’s pretty handy when you want to access Hulu, Pandora, or US-only website content from across the border. It’s also handy for surfing securely at public WiFi locations, and all of the other fancy things you can do with a VPN.
So why bother with an additional post just for Netflix? Because Netflix isn’t a US-only site, but it does have US-only content. This content is accessible depending on where you are, as I found out by accident when visiting a friend in Washington state a couple weeks ago. I pulled out the iPad for my kid, loaded up Netflix to keep her busy, and was immediately boggled by the amount of new content I found staring back at me. I was hoping that we Canadians had suddenly gotten a slew of new titles, but was sadly disappointed when I returned home that evening.
Out of curiosity, I tried out Netflix on my laptop with Hotspot Shield enabled. That didn’t work. Generally (unless launched via the Chrome app, oddly enough) Netflix thought that I was trying to access the US site with a Canadian account. No dice, there. Then I remembered that Hotspot Shield was also configured on my iPad… and I was pleasantly surprised that it worked!
Here’s how you can try it out
Go to the iPhone configuration page on Hotspot Shield’s website, and follow the instructions there. You’ll want to be on a separate device for this, for simplicity’s sake.
Basically, they will have you turn off your iPad’s (or iPhone’s) WiFi, and then head to Settings > General > Network > VPN > Add VPN Configuration. From there, you do the following:
- Select the IPSec tab/pane
- In Description, type HotspotShield
- In the Server field, type 184.108.40.206
- Go back to the website and click the “Get Account ID” button
- Type the code that the button generated into the Account field
- Type the same code into the Password field
- Make sure that Use Certificate is set to OFF
- In Group Name, type hss
- In Secret, type hss
- SAVE and then turn your WiFi back on
Once you are set up, turn on the VPN. I’ve noticed that, if you try and turn it on from the iPad’s Settings dashboard, it will fail to connect. No idea why that is, but, if you turn it on from the Settings > General > Network > VPN switch, it connects just fine. Once the VPN says it’s connected, load up Netflix and watch in wonder as the app believes that you are in the United States and loads up the US Netflix library!
Things to note
- The VPN will slow you down a little bit, but not enough to affect video playback. Netflix technology is very good at figuring out how to play videos optimally, even at slower speeds.
- The VPN will disconnect periodically. This is annoying, but if you are already playing a video it will not affect it. The movie or TV show will play through to the end unless you pause it and let the iPad time out. If you find that you are having difficulty launching a show, check to see if the little VPN icon is in the upper left corner of the iPad’s notification bar. If it is, then you may need to restart the app. If it isn’t, then head back into the VPN settings and turn it on again. You may want to close Netflix out completely, first to make sure that the VPN takes with the app (double-tap the iPad’s hardware button to see the running/recently running programs, press and hold Netflix till it shakes and gets an X in the corner, then tap the X to close it).
There you have it! Access to US Netflix on your iPad whether you have a non-US account, or just happen to be visiting another country. It is important to note that this trick may only last until Netflix figures a way to block it out, but HotSpot Shield is versatile. They have managed to get people back into Hulu every time they’ve been locked out so far, so it will probably be the same with Netflix.