Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are a must-have these days. With so many hackers wreaking havoc on people’s security and data privacy, the need to protect shared content online and location is greater than ever.
Thanks to VPN apps and clients, users are now able to encrypt their traffic and hide their Internet Protocol (IP) address from hackers, government intelligence and surveillance agencies, online advertisers, and even Internet Service Providers.
TunnelBear VPN is a Canadian privacy and security company with a proven track record in the encryption industry. It is widely known for its attractive, fresh design and interface; elements that make for a user-friendly product.
It has a free service, but it caps user data at 500 MB per day (with the ability to go up to 1 GB.) The paid version is solid, too, and has several interesting features. TunnelBear VPN has browser extensions and a stand-alone ad blocker, but speed is not its strongest suit and the server network is a bit lacking. However, in spite of those drawbacks, it is a perfectly usable VPN app.
PRICING & PLANS
TunnelBear can be categorized as a freemium VPN company: it provides a free service, but if customers want to enjoy all the features the enterprise is willing and prepared to offer, they must upgrade to a paid plan.
The free version of TunnelBear is actually not bad, as it lets users enjoy up to 500 MB per month. Of course, it is far from Hotspot Shield’s offering of 500 MB per day, but the difference is that TunnelBear’s free service doesn’t show ads.
In addition to that, users can tweet about TunnelBear and take that number up to 1 GB per month. TunnelBear’s paid version is not so costly, but it should be categorized as below average pricing.
The Giant plan comes in at $9.99 per month, while the Grizzly mode costs $59.99 per year. They aren’t bad figures, but there are similar or better alternatives at the same cost or even lower.
As for payment methods, TunnelBear accepts anonymous Bitcoin transactions in addition to regular, ordinary credit cards.
PRIVACY & LOG POLICY
While TunnelBear does admit that it keeps certain user information and logs, they are clear about what they collect and how would they treat that information if they were to receive a warrant or a letter from the Canadian government. The data is kept for a month.
Here is TunnelBear’s official statement on the matter: “In the event TunnelBear is required to comply with law enforcement where subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents have been provided, valid under Canadian jurisdiction, the extent of disclosure is limited to the Personal information you provided upon registration as well as overall number of connections, overall MBs used that month.”
That means that no IP addresses are kept, and no data and traffic can be shared because they don’t exist in TunnelBear’s system. In the recent past, there was no P2P activity allowed, though that has changed.
Users should be thankful for VPN companies like TunnelBear, with its clear and concise privacy policies. Many times, customers don’t have precise information about what is kept and what is shared by their VPN provider.
All in all, TunnelBear VPN won’t make public, sell, or trade personal information with any third parties on the web. The company’s code has been audited and TunnelBear has published the results, which reflects transparency and openness about its strengths and weaknesses.
While TunnelBear VPN does not have 2,000 or 3,000 servers like the very best VPN companies in the field, it does more than OK in that department, with around a thousand spread across the planet.
TunnelBear offers servers in 22 countries, which is a little less than the usual suspects when we talk about the best VPN companies in the field. Most of the top VPN brands hover around 50, others approach 100, and others go for 140-150 or even +200, like HideMyAss.
TunnelBear’s server network covers numerous European countries, North America, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, and Japan. As often happens, Africa is completely forgotten, as is South America with the exception of Brazil. There are also no servers in the Middle East.
The brand has dedicated servers in all its network areas, which means that the VPN servers that users establish connection with are located in the advertised countries.
SPEED & PERFORMANCE
On average, TunnelBear can provide an average download speed of nearly 30 Mbps, with a peak of almost 120. The latter number is impressive, though, and it should be recognized.
As for performance, it is quite stable and there are no notorious issues when it comes to IP leaks, DNS leaks, or WebRTC leaks. That is an indicator of robust encryption and protection of people’s traffic and information.
PROTOCOLS & ENCRYPTION
TunnelBear lets users access the most sought after protocol on the market, which is OpenVPN. However, it can be found exclusively on Windows, Mac OS X, and Android clients. What about iOS users, you may ask?
For those that prefer iOS devices, there are two protocols to choose from: Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security (L2TP/IPSec) and Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2.) They are both very good and securely protect user data.
If you own an iOS device but still prioritize OpenVPN encryption, you have the option of using a third-party OpenVPN Connect software (which can be found online for free).
The encryption implemented by TunnelBear VPN is the always reliable AES 256-bit, with SHA256 authentication in all platforms except for iOS 8 and earlier (which is encrypted with 128-bit AES encryption and implements SHA-1 data authentication).
TunnelBear doesn’t waste its time and effort offering the unreliable and out of date Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). It uses RSA-4096 handshake and DHE-4096 forward secrecy.
There are numerous exciting features that users can access with a TunnelBear VPN subscription. The ability to connect up to five simultaneous devices applies for both free and paid customers, which is a plus and in keeping with the industry standards.
After not allowing P2P activity for years, TunnelBear VPN has changed its mind and is now a torrenting paradise. However, you should know that there is a clause in the terms and conditions that forbids any kind of illegal activity, and that includes downloading copyrighted content. Be careful!
An interesting feature is the Vigilant Mode, which is made to act like a kill switch: it avoids any data leakage in the event of a VPN connection loss, even if it only has been down for a few seconds.
The GhostBear feature helps users bypass VPN blocking measures by disguising traffic as HTTPS traffic. However, it is said to reduce speed and performance in substantial ways, so plan accordingly.
When it comes to security features, TunnelBear delivers, as you have seen so far. Another feature is Trusted Networks, or all your trusted and regular Wi-Fi networks. When on, Trusted Networks will automatically connect if you join a non-whitelisted network.
As for streaming, TunnelBear works with Netflix and other similar libraries and multimedia platforms, such as Hulu and the BBC iPlayer. In general, the VPN behaves well when users want to unblock access to sites and services that have been restricted internationally.
EASE OF USE
TunnelBear has been lauded as arguably the most easy to use VPN client or app in the industry. Signing up is very straightforward: for the free mode, customers only need to provide an email account and a password. After that, you will be redirected to download the client. Choose your platform, and voila.
The company also earns points for its high compatibility: it is suitable for Windows devices, MacOS, iOS, and Android. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Opera. However, there is no Firefox plugin as of this writing.
The website is very attractive to the eye, with a very creative design and good use of space and colors. It is very straightforward to navigate, too, as all the menus and configuration options can be found with ease.
There is a fine blog with everything you need to know about TunnelBear VPN and the industry as a whole. It is a very helpful tool for subscribers, especially those who aren’t experts in the matter.
On TunnelBear’s website, specifically at the bottom of the page, there is a Help page with everything you may need in case you have an issue or a doubt about the service or any of the products.
The covered subjects are “Status Updates”, “Getting Started”, “Accounts & Payments”, “Browser Extension Help”, “Windows App Help”, “Mac OS X App Help”, “iOS App Help”, and “Android App Help”.
However, there is no live chat feature and that is a definite disadvantage when compared to other services because there is no immediate help if you need it. There is, however, the ability to directly communicate with the support staff via an online form.
The support staff is very friendly, and responses via the online form usually take 24 hours or slightly less.
VPN brands and companies are known for providing customers the ability to ask for a refund after a determinate period of time if they find themselves dissatisfied with the services or features.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with TunnelBear VPN. However, users have the luxury of having the free version to test out the features and then decide to acquire the long-term, paid service.
One of the main negative aspects of TunnelBear VPN is that it doesn’t have a live chat feature. While the support staff can be contacted via an online form and there are numerous guides, tutorials, and useful articles in the Help section, a live chat is a must.
There is no money-back guarantee once you acquire the paid TunnelBear VPN service. If you decide to pay, there are no refunds.
The number of countries available for connection is not impressive, at just 22. There are paid VPN providers like NordVPN or HideMyAss that can offer more locations.
TunnelBear VPN is one of the market’s most useful security and privacy offerings. It works with Netflix and most streaming platforms, it has servers in Australia, Europe, and North America, and it has respectable speeds.
It is, by far, one of the most user-friendly VPN apps on the market, and that is why it is preferred by beginners. There is no live chat feature or a money-back guarantee, but there is a free service for those who are not prepared or able to invest.
If you want a good, non-elite VPN brand that protects your content and lets you stream content online, TunnelBear will work like a charm.