Networking

Encrypt.me v. TunnelBear: How the VPN clients fare for iOS users

After testing two popular VPNs, our reviewer shares his thoughts on how they stack up for iOS users when it comes to privacy, network speed, connection options, and pricing.

Since the initial release of iOS on the original iPhone, online privacy has become much more important; fortunately, iOS is now able to work with third-party VPN clients. The increase in popularity of iOS VPNs is no surprise, as more iOS devices are replacing traditional computers.

Two popular VPN clients on the iOS App Store are TunnelBear and Encrypt.me (formerly Cloak). Both apps have clients for macOS, iOS, Windows, Linux, and Android. Read my comparison of TunnelBear and Encrypt.me on privacy, connection options, network speed, and pricing.

SEE: Wireless Networking Policy (Tech Pro Research)

What is TunnelBear?

TunnelBear has been around for a few years on iOS and features a full-fledged iOS app with iOS VPN integration that allows the app to connect automatically when it detects that you're no longer on a trusted Wi-Fi network. The company behind TunnelBear is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and features the ability to connect to its VPN servers in most major countries around the world.

The TunnelBear VPN app has cute graphics that show where you are tunneling from and to, but I found the app a bit confusing when installing the VPN profile for iOS; and, it seems TunnelBear wants you to use its app as your main way of connecting to the VPN service instead of letting iOS handle this for you.

What is Encrypt.me?

Encrypt.me is a multiple-platform VPN service that works with iOS' built-in VPN service to automatically connect you when you've joined an untrusted Wi-Fi network. The company behind Encrypt.me (StackPath) is based in Dallas, TX.

The Encrypt.me app has several features that are standard fare in most VPN apps now, including the ability to use the VPN service over cellular connections, and the ability to trust certain Wi-Fi networks easily. Overall, the Encrypt.me app is clean and simple to use. It seems that the Encrypt.me app favors customers using the iOS VPN toggle over the app, though you can use both to trigger a connection manually.

SEE: VPN services 2018: The ultimate guide to protecting your data on the internet (ZDNet)

Privacy

TunnelBear and Encrypt.me have very different privacy policies. TunnelBear favors a stripped down approach to data collection and logging, while Encrypt.me appears to log a lot more information. Check out the information collection policies for TunnelBear and Encrypt.me before downloading and using either app.

As of this writing, TunnelBear does not log your IP address that you're connecting from, or the IP address of the VPN destination you're connecting to; Encrypt.me does log this information, though it is deleted after an expiration period.

Pros: TunnelBear does not keep logs of IP addresses, DNS queries, or other identifying information. TunnelBear's privacy policy is a bit easier to read than Encrypt.me's policy.

Cons: Encrypt.me keeps logs of IP addresses; however, it claims to delete these logs after a retention period has expired.

Connection options

Both VPN services offer many connection options through their respective apps. You can choose to automatically connect to the VPN service whenever you're on an untrusted network or connected to cellular. Both apps also let you manually connect to the VPN inside of the app without using the automatic connection options. Both apps let you choose your default VPN region from which you'd like to connect.

The Encrypt.me app handles connecting to a VPN much more smoothly and quickly than the TunnelBear app. The Encrypt.me app lets you connect to the VPN service even when you're still connected to a trusted network, while the TunnelBear app does not and requires you to remove the trusted network before connecting.

Pros: The Encrypt.me app is stellar in connecting when switching networks and was overall faster to connect than TunnelBear—it was rare that I had to open the app to connect manually.

Cons: TunnelBear is slow to connect to the service when switching networks from a trusted network to an untrusted network, which often required me to open the TunnelBear app and connect manually.

SEE: The Best VPN Services of 2018 (CNET)

Network speed

I ran a speedtest.net network speed test for TunnelBear and for Encrypt.me, and both services had fast connections.

To give you an idea of the speeds you'll see, I tested my network without being connected to the VPN and had speeds of 111/8 Mbps. When connected to TunnelBear, I had speeds of 81/5 Mbps; with Encrypt.me, there were slightly better download speeds of 84/5 Mbps.

During my testing, I let both services automatically connect to the fastest networks it had available; TunnelBear connected me to VPN servers that were geographically closer to my location, while Encrypt.me did not.

Pricing

TunnelBear has two pricing options: Full plans and iOS-only plans. The Full plans give you 500 MB of data as a trial, and can be upgraded to unlimited data on five computers, phones, or tablets for $9.99 per month, or $59.99 per year. iOS-only plans works on iPhones and iPads and can be purchased for $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year.

SEE: Tech budgets 2018: A CXO's guide (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Encrypt.me pricing is $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year; both pricing plans offer unlimited data. You can get a 14-day free trial of unlimited data to try out the service. The company also offers weekly or monthly passes for $3.99 and $9.99, respectively.

Encrypt.me also offers family plans for 5 members at $12.99/month or $149.99/year. For Business users, there is a team account available starting at two team members for $15.98/month. Team pricing can be calculated on the Encrypt.me pricing page. As you can see, Encrypt.me offers many different pricing models over Tunnel Bear, catering to a wide variety of audiences.

Conclusion

Both services are good and come in at different price points. For business users, Encrypt.me is a great option, but for the more casual user and someone who is more privacy focused, TunnelBear provides all of the same benefits, plus it does not log the user activity. For the price, TunnelBear also offers a lot more value, even though its app does not work quite as well as Encrypt.me.

Also see

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Image: Cory Bohon / TechRepublic

About Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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