[Windows] TunnelBear is an excellent VPN — fast, easy-to-use, secure, and private [Android, iOS, Mac OS X]March 10, 2013 9 Email article | Print article
Maybe you are on a public network and want to protect your privacy. Maybe you are at work and want to access blocked websites. Maybe you live in a country where the government takes part in active Internet censorship. Maybe you just want to stay anonymous while surfing the web. Whatever the case may be, there are many reasons to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). TunnelBear is a VPN program available on Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS. And, frankly put, it is one of the best I have ever used.
WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO
VPN is the ability to run your Internet connection through a server operated by a third-party, which may be in a different country. To you, surfing the Internet is no different. However, at the back-end all your connections are funneled through the VPN server which allow you to bypass any restrictions that may exist on your connection or help you protect your privacy when on a public network because most VPNs encrypt traffic.
TunnelBear is a VPN program. It has servers in United States, United Kingdom, and Canada and works on Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS.
- Extremely easy-to-use — flip a couple of switches and go
- Has servers in United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, allowing you to pick whichever one you want to use
- Cross-platform — works on Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS
- Is very fast
- Has free usage and paid subscription. Free usage allows 500MB per month (download and/or upload). Paid subscription costs $2.99 per month for unlimited use on one mobile device at a time (Android or iOS) or $4.99 per month for unlimited simultaneous use on one Windows or Mac OS X machine plus two mobile devices (Android or iOS). There are discounts available if you purchase yearly subscriptions.
- Note: At the time of this writing TunnelBear is running a Twitter promo. If you tweet about TunnelBear, you get 1GB of free usage. You can repeat this every month so essentially you can get 1.5GB of free usage per month as long as this promo is active.
- Note: It is key to note that with paid subscriptions you can use your paid TunnelBear subscription on an unlimited number of devices/computers but are limited on the number of simultaneous use. In other words, with the $2.99 plan you can use TunnelBear on all your Android devices or all your iOS devices (you cannot use TunnelBear on Android if purchased on iOS and vice versa); however, you can only use it on one device at a time, i.e. you can install it on all devices but only use the VPN service on one device at a time. Similarly, with the $4.99 plan you can use TunnelBear on all your Windows or Mac machines (you cannot use TunnelBear on Mac if purchased on Windows and vice versa) and on all of your Android and iOS devices ($4.99 allows you to use TunnelBear on both Android and iOS); however, you can only use TunnelBear on one Windows/Mac machine and two mobile devices (Android and/or iOS) at the same time, i.e. you can use TunnelBear on one computer and two mobile devices simultaneously.
- No ads, even with free usage
- According to the developer, TunnelBear encrypts your connection using a “minimum of AES 128-bit”
- According to the developer, TunnelBear values your privacy; it does not data mine or sell your information to third-parties –it does not log website history or your IP address:
TunnelBear stores the absolute minimum amount of information required to operate our service. This information includes your email, first name, last name, # of times you’ve logged on and the overall amount of data you transferred for the month. We do NOT log any information as to the websites you visit, nor do we store/log/timestamp your IP address after you disconnect.
- Must register an account with TunnelBear to use; registering an account is free
- Purchasing a subscription can be a bit confusing. If you purchase from within the TunnelBear Android or iOS app, you only have the option to purchase the $2.99/month-for-unlimited-use-on-one-mobile-device plan. If you want the $4.99/month-for-unlimited-use-on-Windows/Mac-OS-X-machine-plus-two-mobile-devices plan then you need to make the purchase from within the Windows or Mac OS X program and then log into TunnelBear on your mobile devices using your account.
- Does not work for people living in China
- Note: Developer does not specify why this won’t work for people living in China. My guess is probably because Chinese government is blocking it.
- Doesn’t allow torrenting activity
- Android version requires Android 4.0 or higher — won’t work with Gingerbread (2.3.x) despite the fact that many Android devices are still on Gingerbread
- Typing in password on Android TunnelBear app is a bit difficult depending on what device you have because keyboard covers password textbox (but doable and not a big deal since you only have to login once and after that your information is saved)
- What about Linux support?
I was in Pakistan recently and wanted to watch Netflix while I was over there. Netflix doesn’t operate in Pakistan and if you log into Netflix from there, you get a message telling you that Netflix doesn’t operate in your country. Thus, to view Netflix while in Pakistan, I needed a VPN. I came across TunnelBear and decided to give it a shot. And boy am I glad I did; this is one of the best, if not the best, VPN I have ever used.
When evaluating VPNs, there are four key areas you should look at: speed, ease of use, security, and privacy. TunnelBear passes on all four fronts.
TunnelBear says you will get 75-85% of your normal Internet connection speed while using TunnelBear. By the nature of what they do, connecting through a VPN means you will have a slower Internet connection than normal. The fact that, on average, TunnelBear offers 75-85% of your normal connection speed is simply amazing. What makes it better is, when using TunnelBear, I experienced even better speeds than advertised.
You see when in Pakistan I was on a 1 Mbps connection. TunnelBear was able to make full use of that connection; I was constantly streaming Netflix (and other video websites, like Dailymotion) via TunnelBear at or around 1 Mbps — better than the 75-85% TunnelBear claims. In other words, the bottleneck was my connection — not TunnelBear. (This was with TunnelBear’s US server. I did not use the UK or Canada servers.) Does that mean everyone will experience the same speed as me? No, there are a variety of factors that go into play when it comes to connection speed when using a VPN. However, the fact that in my real-life usage TunnelBear did better than its quoted speed says a lot about the speed of this VPN; I have no doubt most people will get 75-85% or better.
In terms of ease of use, TunnelBear literally couldn’t be easier to use. Once you install the program/app (installing is extremely easy to do, nothing weird going on there), all you have to do is login (or register, if you don’t have an account already), select which server you want to connect to, flip the switch to ‘On’, and TunnelBear does its thing. (Note: You may be prompted to confirm you want to connect to a VPN, depending on what operating system you are on.)
In addition to all that, according to the developer TunnelBear is secure and private. TunnelBear not only uses AES 128-bit encryption to secure your connection but it also never logs your website history nor your IP address once you disconnect. It is key to note the “once you disconnect” part because obviously your IP address is seen on TunnelBear’s servers when you are actively using the VPN. (Note: There is no way for me to independently test their claims. Just have to take their word for it.)
Really, what more do you need from a VPN? Oh yes, you probably want me to discuss price.
As already mentioned, TunnelBear allows 500MB of free usage per month. This free usage can be currently expanded to 1.5GB every month if you tweet about TunnelBear every month. Beyond that, however, you need to purchase TunnelBear which is available for either $2.99 or $4.99 per month for unlimited use depending on what type of plan you want. I know most people are probably thinking: “Why can’t it be completely free for unlimited use?“. You have to understand, VPNs are one of those things that have reoccurring monthly costs (it costs the developers to run the servers that you use, mote notably bandwidth which is very experience). As such, the developers need some way to make money. There are, of course, free-for-unlimited-use VPNs out there. However, those VPNs are typically filled with ads and are very slow. Many even don’t take your privacy seriously. For a quality VPN, you need to pay money and TunnelBear is a top-quality VPN. Plus, if you research other VPNs you will learn TunnelBear is actually very cheap compared to the competition. $2.99/$4.99 per month for unlimited use? Insane!
CONCLUSION AND DOWNLOAD LINK
If you haven’t got the point by now, let me be explicit: TunnelBear is a terrific VPN. The fact that it is cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS) is icing on top of the digital cake. I highly recommend TunnelBear to anyone that wants or needs it.
Price: The program/app itself is free. Using the service is free up to 500MB per month, $2.99 per month for unlimited mobile only, and $4.99 per month for unlimited desktop and mobile use.
Version reviewed: v1.0.38 (Windows), v1.2.3 (Mac OS X), v50 (Android), v1.0.3 (iOS)
Supported OS: Windows XP and higher, Mac OS X 10.6.8 and higher, Android 4.0 and higher, iOS 5.0 and higher
Download size: 9.7MB (Windows), 8.5MB (Mac OS X), 13MB (Android), 31MB (iOS)
VirusTotal malware scan results: 2/46 (Windows)
Is it portable? No