Too usually, safety corporations go for ominous imagery of faceless hoodie-clad hackers or different scaremongering designs to promote their merchandise. Not so with TunnelBear VPN. This virtual private network, or VPN, secures knowledge with a cadre of cute however highly effective bears. The app is bursting with appeal, but it surely additionally delivers safety at a great worth. Nevertheless, the iPhone version lacks the superior options discovered within the Home windows app, and it fared poorly in a few of our pace exams. Even so, TunnelBear’s appeal and ease imply it’s possible you’ll need to set up it on your non-techie mates.

What Is a VPN?

The free public Wi-Fi on the public library or web café could also be handy, but it surely’s not secure. A malefactor on the community may intercept your site visitors. The community itself could also be a creation of malevolent forces. It could not even be the community you assume you are utilizing—crooks can spoof the community ID, making your gadget assume it is one in every of your standard connections. Out on the net, advertisers and authorities snoops are keen to trace your actions on-line. To fight these attainable spies, you need a VPN.

When your VPN is lively, it routes your internet site visitors by way of an encrypted connection to a server managed by the VPN service. Knowledge thieves and phony networks cannot contact that knowledge. Utilizing a VPN additionally helps shield towards your ISP promoting anonymized metadata about your internet habits. When your site visitors exits to the net by way of the VPN server, you seem to have an IP deal with at that server’s location. This protects your actual identification as you browse the net, and foils advert networks that pin your browsing habits to your IP deal with.

Journalists or folks dwelling in nations with restrictive web insurance policies usually use VPNs. However they’re additionally a useful strategy to spoof your location for much less critical wants. With a VPN, you’ll be able to view content material that’s region-locked, reminiscent of sporting occasions or Netflix motion pictures which can be out there in some nations, however not in others, as a result of the service spoofs your location. Netflix has gotten clever and began blocking VPN entry. In our earlier evaluate TunnelBear was one of many VPNs that worked with Netflix, however not this time.

In keeping with our recent survey, there is a good likelihood that you have by no means laid fingers on a VPN earlier than. If that is the case, don’t be concerned! We have got an entire characteristic on tips on how to set up and use a VPN.

Pricing and Servers

TunnelBear is likely one of the few suppliers we have reviewed that provides a free VPN service. Nevertheless, the free TunnelBear tier does prohibit you to solely 500MB of knowledge per 30 days. You possibly can earn extra knowledge by tweeting in regards to the firm, which might elevate your restrict to a complete of 1GB for one month, and also you earn bandwidth by tweeting each month. Different free VPNs, like that provided by HotSpot Defend Elite, serve you advertisements, restrict entry to servers, or each.

When you determine to pay for TunnelBear, it will not break the financial institution. You possibly can snag the Large plan for $9.99 per 30 days or the Grizzly plan for $59.88 per yr. The present common month-to-month worth is about $10.50, so TunnelBear’s worth mixed with the standard of service makes it a great worth. Each the paid plans provide limitless knowledge and a full set of options.

You possibly can pay for TunnelBear utilizing main bank cards and nameless BitCoin transactions. You can even pay from the app on the iTunes retailer. Different VPN companies like TorGuard VPN (for iPhone) go even additional, accepting pay as you go present playing cards from different retailers, reminiscent of Starbucks and Subway. The following time you obtain one in every of these as a present, think about placing it in direction of a VPN as an alternative of a venti mocha.

TunnelBear Main Window

With both a free or a paid account, you need to use as much as 5 gadgets with a single TunnelBear account. That is common for VPNs, though NordVPN gives six, CyberGhost provides you seven, and KeepSolid VPN Unlimited (for iPhone) enables you to tack on extra gadgets for an incremental cost.

IPVanish VPN (for iPhone), TorGuard, and some different companies provide software program for routers. This successfully protects each gadget in your community whereas solely counting one gadget (the router) towards your restrict of protected gadgets. TunnelBear does not provide this scheme. In any case, a router-based VPN will not do you a lick of fine when your cellular gadget is away from the house community.

Representatives from TunnelBear informed us that it gives roughly 1,000 servers at any given time. That is a great providing, but it surely’s a far cry from Personal Web Entry, which gives nicely over three,200 servers in additional than 20 areas. With greater than three,400 servers in 59 nations, NordVPN (for iPhone) provides you much more selections. The variety of servers issues since you get higher efficiency if the VPN server you are utilizing is not already stuffed to capability with different subscribers.

As for server areas, TunnelBear gives servers in 20 nations, together with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Eire, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and these United States. It is a wide variety, but it surely leaves out all of Africa, the Center East, and locations like Russia and Turkey, which have repressive web entry insurance policies. Editors’ Alternative winners VPN Limitless and NordVPN provide extra areas. The extra areas a VPN firm gives, the higher efficiency you may have when touring overseas, since there shall be a VPN server shut by. Having extra server areas to select from additionally means extra choices for spoofing your location.

TunnelBear doesn’t embody built-in advert blocking. As an alternative, the corporate has quietly launched a stand-alone browser plugin referred to as Blocker. It retains TunnelBear’s trademark bears and appeal, and is surprisingly nicely polished for a Chrome plugin, but it surely’s naturally much less helpful on an iPhone. See our evaluate of the complete TunnelBear VPN for full particulars.

Word that a number of superior options from the Home windows version do not seem on the iPhone, particularly: Vigilant mode, which protects your knowledge whereas the VPN reconnects; Ghost Bear, which disguises VPN site visitors as HTTPS site visitors very similar to the same characteristic in Golden Frog VyprVPN (for iPhone); Trusted Networks, which routinely makes use of VPN if you happen to hook up with an untrusted community; and Kill Change, which halts internet-aware applications when the VPN connection is misplaced. Apple’s robust grip on what apps can and may’t do make these options robust to implement below iOS, although NordVPN gives Kill Change and VyprVPN prompts routinely on untrusted networks. In fact, TunnelBear’s iPhone version is sleeker and friendlier with out these superior options.

Your Privateness With TunnelBear

TunnelBear’s biggest energy, apart from its highly effective bears, is its stance on privateness. It has among the finest privateness insurance policies we have seen, explaining, in nice element and with plain language, precisely what it collects and why. It additionally contains dialogue sections, during which the corporate explains the way it arrived at a specific determination. For instance, a pull-out part talks about how the corporate used to collect customers’ names to customise communications, however determined that this info did not have to be gathered or saved and that its loss may put prospects in danger.

TunnelBear’s privateness coverage additionally clearly states that it doesn’t retailer the IP addresses of these visiting the corporate’s web site, the IP deal with of customers upon connection, any DNS queries from customers whereas related, or any info relating to different actions by customers whereas utilizing TunnelBear. This contains different apps you is perhaps operating, or different websites you may go to. By not having this info within the first place, the corporate can’t be compelled at hand it over to regulation enforcement, nor may it lose management of it in a knowledge breach.

Notably, TunnelBear says that it’s going to not disclose, promote, or commerce private info with third-party corporations. That is a exceptional dedication that not each VPN firm makes. TunnelBear does use third-parties for fee processing, however this isn’t uncommon. Moreover, an organization consultant confirmed to us that TunnelBear’s solely income is subscriptions—not knowledge mining or advert retargeting.

The corporate relies in Canada, and an organization consultant defined that it’s not topic to any necessary knowledge retention legal guidelines. We at PCMag don’t really feel that we are able to adequately go judgment on an organization’s privateness practices primarily based solely on its location. Nevertheless, you will need to know the place a VPN firm is headquartered and below what authorized jurisdiction it operates. We suggest that customers think about this info, and easily go along with the service they’re most comfy with.

TunnelBear has the notable distinction of getting accomplished an impartial code audit, and publicly launched the outcomes. The purpose of a code audit is to search out potential flaws within the app’s design, so that is welcome information. These sorts of third-party evaluations aren’t at all times carried out, or made public, and we’re glad to see that TunnelBear takes privateness and safety critically sufficient to endure the audit. The one different VPN service we have reviewed that has undergone an identical analysis is AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite (for iPhone).

Palms On With TunnelBear

TunnelBear gives consumer software program for Home windows, macOS, iOS, and Android gadgets, in addition to browser plug-ins for Chrome and Opera. The plugins provide you with VPN safety on any gadget that may run the related browser, however they’re much less essential on an iPhone. For testing, we put in the TunnelBear iPhone app on an Apple iPhone SE. It put in in a snap and was instantly able to go.

TunnelBear Connect Automatically

Like NordVPN and VPN Limitless, TunnelBear’s person interface facilities on a world map. NordVPN’s map is a bit whimsical, with sailboats within the oceans, whereas VPN Limitless gives a extra businesslike map. TunnelBear’s map is the best-looking of the three. Tunnels protruding of the bottom establish server areas, whereas bushes, shrubs, and mountains add curiosity. Faucet a tunnel, verify your need to attach, after which watch as an animated bear tunnels there out of your present location, and roars to point success (you’ll be able to flip off the bear sounds). If you want, you’ll be able to merely select the specified location from a listing, however the place’s the enjoyable in that?

On iOS gadgets, TunnelBear makes use of the IKEv2 protocol. This protocol is newer than IPSec, however normally we desire OpenVPN. The issue is, Apple requires excessive vetting for any app that desires to make use of OpenVPN. VPN Limitless is among the many only a few that help OpenVPN. TunnelBear does use OpenVPN in its Android, macOS, and Home windows apps. Regardless of the platform, you aren’t getting a alternative of protocol, however that is tremendous for many customers.

You possibly can set TunnelBear to at all times handle your telephone’s Wi-Fi site visitors, and individually set it to activate everytime you’re on the mobile community. There’s additionally an choice to outline sure networks as trusted, that means you do not want VPN safety on that community. Or, as the assistance system places it, give your bear a espresso break.

Some Sluggish Speeds

Regardless of the VPN you select, you may see an impression in your web-browsing expertise. More often than not, it is a unfavorable one, however there’s the occasional exception. For instance, in our newest spherical of testing, Hotspot Defend really made downloads and uploads sooner.

TunnelBear’s Home windows app earned poor scores in our newest pace exams. It vastly elevated latency within the home check, and slowed downloads greater than every other within the worldwide obtain check. For cellular apps, we persist with testing on home servers.

TunnelBear Choices

To arrange for this check, we set the iPhone to airplane mode, disabling the risky mobile connection, after which activate Wi-Fi. You are more likely to come across man-in-the-middle assaults and different assaults over Wi-Fi than arcane assaults in your mobile knowledge. We use Ookla’s internet speed test tool, operating it a number of instances with the VPN turned off and instantly operating a number of extra exams with the VPN related. (Word that Ookla’s Speedtest.web is owned by Ziff Davis, PCMag’s writer.) Averaging runs with and with out VPN lets us see simply how the VPN affected speeds.

Latency, merely put, is the time it takes to ping a distant laptop and obtain a response. Excessive latency may trigger lagging in a fast-paced motion sport, although you are extra prone to play these on the PC than on an iPhone. TunnelBear elevated latency by 21.7 p.c, higher than the present common of 28 p.c. CyberGhost VPN (for iPhone) aced this check, with only a three.7 p.c improve. On the different finish, IPVanish elevated latency by 79.5 p.c.

Related Story See How We Test VPNs

Any lower in obtain pace because of VPN utilization will irk most customers, particularly if it is a large lower. Right here, too, TunnelBear did not fare so nicely, slowing downloads by 34.four p.c. Solely IPVanish, with a 47.four p.c slowdown, did worse in latest exams. CyberGhost solely slowed downloads by 9.5 p.c, and, as famous, Hotspot Defend elevated obtain pace.

All latest merchandise slowed uploads, however not by an enormous quantity. Even the worst, Personal Web Entry and TorGuard, solely slowed uploads by eight.5 p.c. TunnelBear slowed uploads by 5.1 p.c, a bit greater than common. PureVPN (for iPhone) put only a 2.four p.c slowdown on uploads, whereas Hotspot Defend sped them up a bit.

Novices Will Love the Bear

TunnelBear has at all times been a favourite of ours. Within the usually ossified and overly technical world of safety merchandise, it is lighthearted and cute. The corporate has at all times put a premium on design and person expertise, uncommon on the earth of VPNs. The Windows version of TunnelBear VPN is an Editors’ Alternative. The iPhone app lacks among the superior options that impressed us below Home windows, however that is simply tremendous for informal customers. Pondering of putting in a VPN on your dad and mom, or for a non-techie pal? TunnelBear is a good alternative.

That mentioned, it falls brief within the essential space of geographically various servers, and it lacks the specialty servers provided by among the competitors. As well as, it triggered vital slowdowns in a few of our pace exams. For an iPhone VPN that is each efficient and enticing, we suggest NordVPN or KeepSolid VPN Limitless, our Editors’ Alternative merchandise on this space. Nonetheless, we would not fault anybody for cuddling up with this bear.

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