Not every person has the same budget for a VPN service, especially when you take into consideration each user’s needs. That’s why brands that can offer several price ranges are popular in the market; with a special mention for free services.
Although free VPN alternatives come with particular security risks attached to them, they are beneficial and convenient. And if they have another tier for users to “upgrade,” such as a premium version, they become even more appealing.
That is the case of TunnelBear. The Canadian VPN brand offers an adequate free app, with a daily 500 MB data cap (upgradeable to 1 GB under specific conditions), no ads, and a slick, fresh design. The premium version has more servers, countries, browser extensions, and an ad blocker.
- Freemium model: TunnelBear lets users enjoy a free version and two price tiers: The Giant plan at $9.99 per month, and the Grizzly mode at $59.88 per year.
- Extremely user-friendly: With a slick and cool interface full of colors and original images, not to mention clear menus and easy-to-access configurations, TunnelBear is one of the most user-friendly VPN apps you will see.
- Torrenting allowed: Whereas it used to restrict torrenting activity in the past, TunnelBear has joined the fun and it now fosters a P2P-friendly environment.
- VigilantBear (Kill-switch:) The VigilantBear feature acts as a kill-switch to take down the user’s Internet connection automatically if the VPN connection collapses.
- AES 256-bit encryption: TunnelBear’s OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 protocols provide 256-bit AES protection, and IPSec offers a decent 128-bit AES encryption. It is a fantastic setting for content protection.
- No-logging policy: TunnelBear implements a strict no-logging policy in all of its plans and versions that ensure users that their traffic, identity, and location remain private.
- GhostBear: It tricks governments and external agents, hiding the fact that the user is using a VPN connection. It can somewhat slow down the connection speed but is a useful tool to defeat traffic blocking performed by some sites.
- 5 Simultaneous connections: The premium TunnelBear service offers users the chance to connect five different devices at the same time under one account, right around the industry’s average.
TunnelBear’s interface is widely considered one of the best in the business, earning high praise from users. The website is very easy to navigate, thanks to a creative design, and a clever usage of colors and space. The menus can be found with ease.
There are several sections available on the website, and all are very straightforward to find. They are “Download”, “Features”, “Pricing”, “Help”, “My Account”, “About Us”, “Teams”, “Pricing”, and “Login.”
TunnelBear also has a useful blog in which you can find every bit of information about the brand and more than a few articles about cybersecurity and VPNs.
TunnelBear VPN Apps
TunnelBear VPN is available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android users, so it has apps for both desktop and mobile devices. Additionally, it has developed two browser extensions, one for Google Chrome, and one for Opera.
The apps are very user-friendly and organized, and just like the website, they have a smooth interface. Signing up to the service is actually quite simple: the free mode requires clients to enter their email and password, after which they will be redirected to download the app.
All apps will show you where you are, the tunnel you’re using, and the location you appear to be browsing from.
One negative aspect about TunnelBear (besides not having a Firefox browser extension) is that it is not compatible with routers.
TunnelBear for Windows:
TunnelBear for Android:
TunnelBear for iOS:
Privacy and Security
Because it’s free, some users may consider TunnelBear an unreliable VPN and avoid using it, but that is not the case. In fact, the brand prioritizes privacy (somewhat sacrificing speeds and server network), and has several features and tools to protect its customers’ content.
First of all, it uses OpenVPN as the default protocol for Windows, Mac OS X, and Android clients, and it also has L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2. The AES 256-bit encryption is reliable, with SHA256 authentication for all platforms except for iOS 8 and earlier (128-bit AES and SHA-1 data authentication). It uses RSA-4096 handshake and DHE-4096 forward secrecy.
Other features that help people protect their privacy and online security are the VigilantBear (a kill-switch,) and the GhostBear.
TunnelBear doesn’t have a large server network, not even in the paid plan. The company has servers in just 22 countries, while other elite brands have presence in over 50 or even 90 nations.
One advantage for using TunnelBear instead of other less reliable brands is that it has dedicated servers that are in the places they advertise. They aren’t rented.
The servers that TunnelBear owns are mostly spread across North America, Europe, and other areas such as Japan, India, Hong Kong, Australia, and Brazil. Apart from the latter, there are no other South American locations, and Africa and the Middle East have no representation.
TunnelBear is compatible with all iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows devices. However, unlike other brands in the market, it doesn’t run on routers
Installation and Setup
TunnelBear’s installation process is very smooth. The app is available on each platform’s respective app store (App Store for iOS, Google Play Store for Android, for example or the website.
Windows, Android, and MacOS use OpenVPN as the default protocol, while iOS gets IPSec/IKEv2, with the possibility of installing OpenVPN via a third-party app.
After downloading the appropriate app or client for your device, the installation manager will guide you through the process. To set up the service, you will need your email and password and, if you are hiring a paid plan, a valid payment method.
When it comes to protocol availability, TunnelBear may not have the full package that some of its elite counterparts offer, but it still scores some major points thanks to its OpenVPN protocol (even as the default option for Windows, Android, and MacOS.)
Users can also enjoy IPSec and Internet Key Exchange, version 2 (IKEv2) if they don’t like OpenVPN. TunnelBear does not offer the outdated and obsolete Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol (PPTP.)
Pricing and Payment Options
You can find three options in TunnelBear’s pricing grid:
- A free service that includes 500 MB of daily bandwidth,
- The Giant paid plan that offers unlimited bandwidth and five simultaneous connections for $9.99 per month,
- The Grizzly feature, which is really the same VPN service but with an annual payment model of $59.88.
Users can pay with all major credit cards, including Visa, Master Card, and American Express. Furthermore, you can use Bitcoin as payment method. There are no refunds, though.
Help and Support
TunnelBear doesn’t have a live chat feature per se, But it doesn’t mean that customer service support is poor or incompetent. The company’s ticket-based model is extremely helpful, and the responses are quick.
- Ticket support: Well-designed, with lots of puns and word play; but most importantly, it’s efficient and helpful. The company says that response time to any inquiry or request takes about 48 hours, but the truth is it’s significantly faster.
- The Help section: It covers issues such as “Status Updates”, “Getting Started”, “Accounts & Payments”, “Browser Extension Help”, “Windows App Help”, “Mac OS X App Help”, “iOS App Help”, and “Android App Help”.
Pros in a nutshell:
- AES 256-bit encryption
- A no-logging policy
- A free plan
- Exciting features, such as the GhostBear and the VigilantBear
- No leak issues
- Bitcoin payments
- Torrenting allowance
- Several protocols available, including OpenVPN
- Friendly customer support staff
- Five simultaneous connections
- No ads, not even in the free version
- Secure and reliable
- Very easy to download, install, and use
- It works with TOR
Cons in a nutshell:
- No live chat feature
- Doesn’t provide high speed levels
- Not compatible with Netflix
- Not compatible with routers
- No refunds
Other VPN Providers
If you think free VPN providers aren’t worth the risk, and you’d feel a lot more comfortable using high-ranked paid VPN services, check out the list below for alternatives:
In conclusion, TunnelBear may not be the flashiest VPN app in the market, but it gets the job done if you are a beginner looking to encrypt and protect your content or to bypass censorship and blocks. It has its fair share of features: it is secure, reliable, and implements the latest techniques and resources for privacy protection.
It has both free and paid versions, is ad-free, and allows P2P torrenting. However, it is not compatible with Netflix or routers. Still, the overall package that TunnelBear offers is enticing, and the interface is very user-friendly.
Reliable and secure, albeit without the largest server network or the fastest speeds, TunnelBear is a perfectly acceptable VPN service that is excellent for beginners due to its cool design and easy-to-use apps.