Among all the streaming apps available, Kodi is one of the most powerful, versatile and controversial. It’s not without its weaknesses, though. Still, its impressive array of goodies and free price tag have made it the preferred streaming app for fans of TV shows and movies the world over. If you’re still unsure whether this is the right app for you, this article highlights its perks and downsides so that your choice is based on realistic expectations.
How does Kodi work?
Kodi is an open source multimedia player used for organizing and playing stored media content. It’s also designed for recording and live streaming online content.
When it was developed for Xbox in 2003, it was referred to as the Xbox Media Center. Its current version is now a universal app used for managing and viewing photos, as well as recording, storing, and streaming audio and video content across all your devices, be they smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops or Smart TVs, among others.
Even though it’s managed by the non-profit organization XBMC Foundation, Kodi is open source, meaning its custom builds, forks and derivatives (some of which have become proprietary commercial software) can be altered and distributed by anybody.
You can install the media player on OSX, Windows, jailbroken iOS, Linux, Android, CEC-compatible TVs, set-top boxes, Raspberry Pi, and streaming devices such as Xbox One and TVs. To make it a full media hub for your living room, you can configure it to work with a game controller or remote control, the same way that it works with numerous remote controls, including remote control apps.
There are three ways in which Kodi works: as your home’s central media hub, as a gateway to online content, or both.
To use it as a media hub, you need to store content in the cloud, or locally to use Kodi to access it from anywhere in your house or in the world (if it’s cloud content). To use it for streaming, you need to install plugins and addons that let you access on-demand videos and live streams from content streaming services.
What can you do with Kodi?
Kodi’s user interface is intuitive, albeit quite loaded. It works with both network and local storage services. Although it may not bundle content out-of-the-box, the media player is nonetheless a powerful tool for entertainment.
Perks include the following:
- Has smart playlists and tags for organizing your media library.
- Supports numerous music file formats: AAC, MP3, and OGG among others.
- Supports many video formats, including a number that a lot of media apps don’t, e.g. 3D, ISO, and H.264.
- Streams online content: Vevo, YouTube, etc.
- Records and streams live podcasts and TV.
- Tracks your social media feed, traffic, weather, etc.
- Records TV shows, with tags, actors, descriptions, etc.
- Imports and adds media files, posters, trailers, video extras, fan art, comments, etc.
Why use Kodi?
Whether you want to record live TV, stream live content, or manage your cloud-stored or local media, Kodi is the perfect media player to use for the following reasons.
- It’s compatible with all devices and supports pretty much all video and audio formats.
- It provides all-in-one entertainment. You have all your content in one comprehensive app, eliminating the need to gather dozens of apps to manage and stream your media.
- It’s easily upgradable. Kodi’s basic build allows it to be upgraded and expanded through third-party plugins and addons, the majority of which are free.
- It’s easy to sync. Once you set up, you can use Kodi to access all your media files on any connected device.
- It’s perfect for building an entertainment hub for your living room. You can use game controllers and remote controls with Kodi and its eye-friendly UI is easily seen up to 10 feet away on a sizable screen.
- It’s incredibly easy to use. With a vast wiki for setup and every feature you need, Kodi couldn’t be more user-friendly. Anyone can understand its highly intuitive features and UI, and its advanced settings need little handling.
- Its UI is customizable. Content is front and center with Kodi. But it also leaves a lot of room for customization and personalization from custom builds to widgets and skins.
- It’s free!
What are the benefits of setting up a VPN for Kodi?
Kodi comes with a plethora of verified and unverified plugins and add-ons to build a powerful entertainment center. However, using a VPN for Kodi is absolutely essential if securing your data and maintaining privacy are concerns for you. The following are reasons why a growing number of people worldwide are using a VPN with Kodi.
- Avoid government surveillance
People became increasingly interested in encrypting their online traffic since Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive surveillance programs by the NSA and intelligence agencies in other countries. They have good reason to do it. If small and large businesses alike are encrypting all their online data, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same. Fortunately, you need not spend thousands of dollars because many quality VPN services are available at a reasonable cost.
Market leaders in the VPN industry encrypt user data with military-grade encryption ciphers that make it virtually impossible for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on your online activities. Make sure you use a VPN provider that has a strict no-logging policy and doesn’t openly publish its keys. The level of online data protection that VPN affords you is indispensable.
- Security from cyber attacks
In addition to hiding your location and identity from snoopy government agencies, a VPN also provides a secure barrier to keep out cybercriminals. Using a public Wi-Fi at a restaurant, public park, hotel, airport, library, etc. without a VPN leaves you open to attacks by hackers and malware. Thousands of users have been victims of Man-in-the-Middle and Honeypot attacks because they were negligent about their online security.
Consider this: 30 percent of those in attendance at the 2018 RSA Conference on cybersecurity unwittingly made an unsecure connection to a Wi-Fi honeypot set up by researchers and used it. If 30 percent of cybersecurity experts and online privacy enthusiasts compromised their security by mindlessly connecting to a public Wi-Fi, how many more people within the general user population leave themselves open to cyber-attacks?
Data obtained by a honeypot includes your IP address, device make/model, and your MAC address. Man-in-the-Middle attacks simply collect all your data. To avoid becoming a victim of these and other attacks through your Kodi, use a VPN.
- Prevent your ISP from spying on you
For many people, if they knew how much their ISPs knew about them, they would become extremely anxious, because the fact is that your ISP has data on everything you do online through its network. This includes the websites you’ve visited, your search history, TV shows and movies you’ve streamed, as well as your personally identifiable information, such as your email and IP addresses. If you’re like many people, that’s cause for worry.
You would be right to be worried because the governments of some countries, such as Australia and France, authorize ISPs to carry out targeted surveillance on users—without a warrant. In the US, there’s no law stopping ISPs from selling your data to third parties. If you’re using Kodi to access pirated content, you may find yourself on the wrong side of a copyright infringement lawsuit thanks to a collaboration between a law firm and your ISP.
Throttling is another problem you may run into as a result of your ISP monitoring your online activity. Remember that time when your otherwise lightning fast Internet connection slowed down to a crawl as soon as you logged into that Call of Duty multiplayer game or pressed play on that live stream football game? That was your bandwidth being throttled by your ISP.
A VPN makes it impossible for your ISP to determine if you’re accessing a streaming service or an online gaming website through Kodi, meaning throttling will be a thing of the past.
- Access Geo-restricted content and bypass censorship
A sizable portion of the many streaming add-ons on Kodi is only available in certain regions. With a VPN, you can access these add-ons just by using a VPN server in any of the countries where it is available. This is especially useful for avid sports fans who want to access major sports tournaments that are broadcast for free in some areas in Asia and Europe.
Censorship is another problem for which using a VPN for Kodi offers a solution. A government or institution, such as a company or school, may set restrictions on the type of content that its citizens, employees, or students can access using a firewall. Such restrictions affect many Kodi users. Fortunately, using a good commercial VPN that employs a powerful VPN protocol such as OpenVPN enables these users to bypass firewalls and access their preferred content on Kodi.
- Access new releases of games, TV shows and movies early
It can be rather frustrating when your counterparts in Canada, the US, or Japan among other countries, get to enjoy new and exclusive releases of shows, movies, games or even beta versions of your favorite software. When you set up a VPN for your Kodi, there’s no reason why you should start playing a game now that was released a while ago in another market region. A Kodi VPN lets you get your hands on these goodies the moment they’re released.
Having learned the importance of using a VPN for Kodi, you may be tempted to use one of the many free VPN services that have flooded the market. We, however, strongly recommend against using free VPN services because, as with most worthwhile products and services, you get what you pay for.
Building a truly robust VPN infrastructure is a huge investment for a VPN provider and, like any business, the provider needs to get a return on their investment one way or another. Many free VPN services do this by collecting their users’ data and selling it off to third parties. When you do manage to get a decent free VPN from a trusted provider, it usually comes with limits such as monthly data caps or free trial periods that are only good for testing the service.
For these reasons, you’re better off researching commercial VPN providers and identifying one that most suits your needs (in this case, one good for Kodi) and budget. Thankfully, our experts have tested the best Kodi VPN services on the market. Read our review of the best Kodi VPNs to make an informed decision on which service to purchase.