Most people approach the topic of VPN as something that is serious.
It is even treated as an essential tool that will help bring in a world where Internet freedom exists.
Then there’s TunnelBear, a VPN service that was founded in Canada back in 2011.
The company treats this serious topic with humor and ensures that users are not getting distracted by the negative stuff that surrounds VPNs in matters that relate to security and privacy.
The app for the VPN software itself features animated bears that are seen going through tunnels while a connection is being established to servers located in other parts of the world.
But that’s not all yet, there are some other references to this cute and cuddly “bear” character which is funny and playful, to say the least.
It is found even on their official website and on different social media platforms where they have established a presence.
The bear also appears in the installation and updating process of the TunnelBear VPN software.
That produces a friendly and very positive experience which really does a lot for the company.
The playful and funny bear makes users want to try it out of curiosity.
Also aimed at this purpose is their free version that is available for an unlimited time. This version can also be upgraded to the full version so that the bandwidth restriction that is present in the free version gets lifted.
The limit on bandwidth is the only thing that separates it from the paid versions because everything else has been made generously available for users to enjoy in TunnerBear’s free version.
- Easy and fun to use
- Delivers good speeds across different servers
- Features a DNS leak protection
- Free account that is usable forever
- Traffic Obfuscation and Kill Switch
- Google Chrome and Firefox browser extensions available
- Does not support P2P
- The server network is limited
- Poor customer support
The client software for TunnelBear has been designed to make a cartoonish world map version that shows tunnel exits in every location where one of their VPN servers exists.
Once you disconnect, users are going to be depicted as Internet sheep because they start using an unsecured connection.
Yes! You will appear as a sheep on the part of the map where your actual physical location is in order to illustrate this idea.
But it isn’t just fun and play because TunnelBear also has some serious features which can be found in the settings department. It has most of the basic tools that VPN users would be looking for.
For instance, you will find that in the App Settings section that there are toggle options for switching from GhostBear to VigilantBear. It actually works like the “Kill Switch” and a feature that helps encrypt data so they can be disguised as normal data on the Internet.
But their playful names shows how the company wants to maintain its theme in every aspect of the VPN service. For an added example, they also have the “RememBear” software which is their own brand of password management suite that was created in 2017.
The feature that’s called “Vigilant” is also a good addition which is TunnelBear’s DNS leak protection.
It can be enabled or disabled in the device that you’re using tunnel bear on. The company maintains the theme in both the minor and major features and settings.
Moving on, the TCP override feature is the one that recognizes your connection and throttles it or lags (at some point) in order to make the connection stable.
An auto-connect feature that enables when the user gets connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi is also available. This works by first checking for any unsecured connection when the device and the software start then initiate the connection to the VPN in case it detects that the connection needs you to use VPN.
Lastly, you’ll get the IntelliBear feature which helps in filtering the URLs to include only those that are needed and exclude the ones that can be accessed even without VPN.
Ad Blockers and Browser Extensions
The desktop software client of TunnelBear offers browser plugin/extensions for both Google Chrome and Opera.
Even if they’re limited in terms of features, they still work perfectly in conjunction with the desktop client and they both look similar to the standard version.
It also shows the cartoonish map of the world which may seem small for bears to dig tunnels on but works by showing users a list of the countries that contains some available servers.
The furry little bear will then be displayed right on the location that has been selected.
Additionally, an ad-blocking tool is available for Google Chrome which not only blocks the advertisements that are often annoying but also fights other culprits that tend to invade privacy like Flash Player menace, site fingerprinting, and many others!
The VPN Network
The number of available servers for this Canadian VPN service provider is quite slim compared to the major players in the industry.
You’ll find that there are only 20 countries available where servers are based but it’s already enough to provide coverage worldwide. And just like other VPN services out there, Africa is excluded from the countries that have server locations.
But overall, TunnelBear has a server in countries that don’t commonly have one like Hong Kong and India for example. That only means that they made sure to at least be on-par with the other VPN providers out there.
We have conducted plenty of tests on their network measuring lag and connection speeds and most of them have shown quick responses and great speeds.
However, the speeds took time to build-up but once the connections stabilize, they were all able to deliver speeds that were pretty good. Even countries that are most distant from our test location still returned great results!
For instance, we performed these tests in Europe so we prioritized the servers that were closer to our location. The screenshot below shows that the ping was low and the speeds were pretty decent.
Even for farther locations like India and Mexico, the results of ping and speeds were mostly consistent!
All connections also proved to be reliable in terms of speed and security since IP addresses were always in the correct server and DNS leaks where nowhere to be found in all of our tests.
This only proves that TunnelBear is able to provide anonymity to the best level and every VPN connection that they provide is sure to have the protection.
However, to those who want to access P2P, choosing other alternative VPN service providers would be the best option.
Privacy and Protection
TunnelBear’s official website explains further what kind of information they’re able to collect and store.
In general, they aim to work only with the smallest amount of data that they need to keep the VPN service up and running and that includes timestamps and how much data is used per month. No other VPN data is logged other than these.
When it comes to security protocol and available encryptions, TunnelBear has IPSec and IKEv2 along with OpenVPN 256-bit AES connection that has support for SSL which are among the most common choices that other VPN providers have at present.
We just don’t appreciate the fact that switching between them isn’t allowed because the software selects them automatically according to the device that you are using. IKEv2 and IPSec are only available for tablets and smartphones that run on iOS while OpenVPN is available for all the others.
Operating System and Device Support
Next, we go to the kinds of operating systems and devices that TunnelBear supports and the sad news here is that it isn’t most extensive in terms of device support as it does not cover most of the basic devices that end-users have.
For desktop computers, it is able to support Windows 7 and higher while for Mac, it supports version 10.10 above. Those who use Android and iOS smartphones and tablets can also use it.
Talking about browser extensions, TunnelBear also has it for both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
Support for Linux is also available but we noticed that support is more focused on popular devices. We think that this is normal since it isn’t the strongest and largest bear in the VPN forest yet.
Over time, we look forward to the time that they’re going to offer one feature that allows for manually configuring router settings so the maximum number of simultaneous users for a single account can have a workaround.
They currently just allow 5 connections. We also hope that they would offer support for other operating system platforms and as well as devices like Fire TV etc.
Plans and Pricing
TunnelBear also has the same plan and pricing scheme that other VPN services have.
They offer three plans which again matches the bear theme. First on the list is the “Little” version that depicts a cub and is actually the company’s free version. It imposes a 500Mb bandwidth limit every month which is actually the only restriction that exists for this plan.
You can get additional 500Mb of free bandwidth if you help spread the word about TunnelBear on Twitter and since the VPN service is available in almost every country, this would be an easy thing to do.
Going to the paid subscriptions, you’ll see the first one being labeled as “Giant”, the VPN’s month plan that costs $9.99. It is a higher price compared to the major VPNs that exists in the market at present.
In an effort to entice customers into choosing the annual plan that is called “Grizzly”, they offer up to 50% from the month price making the total monthly cost to only $5 or just $59.99 billed every year.
This is definitely a better plan and true enough because it’s the most popular option preferred by most customers. Other intermediary plans are not available as in other VPN service providers.
We wish to see a quarterly or semiannual subscription plan just to have more options than the monthly plan which is quite overpriced in our opinion. Thankfully, the well-valued annual plan is there.
We’ve also noticed that duration is the only difference between both plans, all the rest is identical between these two plans.
It is sad to know that TunnelBear doesn’t offer any money-back or refund policy so after paying for a subscription, there is no option of turning back or changing your mind.
This is really sad especially for those who chose to get the annual plan but we think it is fair because of the free version which may have a bandwidth limit but is available forever.
The company accepts credit and debit card payments and as well as other payment options like cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and as well as online payment service like Paypal.
Even in this section, the company preserves the funny image by providing jars of honey for the payment as what is seen on their Twitter page.
We think that this is one of TunnelBear’s weaker aspects. This is because they only offer one way of getting in touch with the “Support Bear” which is via tickets alone.
And this option is only available for users who are registered.
Other than this sole option, they have the common FAQ page which has information on the general questions such as VPN usage, payment details, and further technical support for both business and personal users.
A strong social media presence and as well as a website blog is also available.
Twitter and Facebook are the most common venues where relevant news on updates and other information related to the company is announced.
They do so still with the humor that maintains the bear theme. Their support staff also answers questions on these platforms and are really friendly to everyone.
Overall, we can say that TunnelBear sets itself apart from the competition by maintaining a humorous approach to the otherwise serious topic of VPN.
The effort that they do in presenting bear-related wording and concept throughout the different aspects that composes the business works effectively in keeping potential users curious to try it out.
Others even dig a bit deeper just to see how far the company takes the jokes that have become their identity.
This effectively takes many subscribers into the bear tunnels and caves where they find a fun VPN that works well.
Even though it lacks certain muscles compared to other VPN service providers especially on network size and device support, it still works and we’re just happy to see that!
We just hope to see some of its weak points being improved in the coming years such as being able to choose VPN protocols when the need arises.
We admire TunnelBear’s ability to provide consistent speeds even for servers that were located far away from where we conducted our tests. It was also able to offer full DNS leak protection throughout our testing.
The VPN also offers extra features that are aimed at fine-tuning the overall user experience and they even have a free version that you can use forever.
That’s why we think that TunnelBear is a fitting option for beginners and advanced users alike who don’t really have heavy programs to run via VPN.
It truly is one of the best VPN services out there for maintaining anonymity and content unblocking.