It's hard to even buy a book online without having to log into a web account. When you consider how many different usernames, passwords, credentials and logins users must manage, it's easy to understand why a password management application is a necessity. Without a program to track passwords, the simple act of ordering a pizza online can quickly become a futile exercise full of frustration.
The best password management applications provide easy yet secure access to myriad credentials directly from an iPhone or iPad. Fortunately, several excellent options are available for iOS users. Here are four of the best ones currently on the market.
1. iCloud Keychain
Apple has taken a crack at helping track not only web logins but credit cards, wireless networks, and similar logins using iCloud Keychain. Compatible with iOS 7.0.3 or later, Keychain can help users manage credentials across multiple platforms, including Mac and Windows computers.
Sensitive data stored within the iCloud Keychain is secured using a minimum of 128-bit AES encryption. The application encrypts data stored both on iCloud servers and in transit between iCloud and the user's device (Figure A).
iCloud Keychain on an iOS device.
iCloud Keychain is also priced right. The tool is included with the iCloud service, and users can get a 5 GB account for free.
AgileBits' 1Password is a $17.99 iOS alternative. Also featuring Mac (Figure B), Windows, and Android-compatible apps, this password management tool includes a feature common to many leading password programs, including Keychain, in that it also creates strong, complex passwords.
1Password on Mac and iOS devices.
1Password encrypts a user's data using a master password. The program's 1Browser feature helps replicate iCloud Keychain's functionality by helping automate the process of entering credit card information within shopping carts. Using vaults, users can also group passwords and credential data into separate categories to simplify organization.
LastPass approaches password management as more of a service. Instead of requiring users to purchase separate apps for Windows, Apple, and Smartphone platforms (as is sometimes common), its pricing is simple.
The desktop version is free. A web browser add-on assists users in remembering and automatically fielding login credentials once the information is added to their account. Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari are among the browsers supported with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
For $12 a year, the LastPass Premium subscription provides unlimited use of LastPass mobile apps, including iOS devices (Figure C). The service also works with BlackBerry, Android, and Windows phones.
LastPass Premium app.
The service, as is required for any quality password management tool, takes security seriously. In addition to AES 256-bit encryption, LastPass also offers multifactor authentication.
mSecure provides a cloud-synched application supported on Macs, Windows computers, and smartphones, including those powered by iOS (Figure D). The iPhone/iPad app costs $9.99 and runs on iOS 4.3 and up.
mSecure on an iOS device.
256-bit Blowfish encryption ensures a user's password data remains safe. The application's password is also never stored anywhere within the software itself, adding an additional layer of security.
In addition to offering a password generator and automatic backup reminders, sensitive fields are initially masked using asterisks to further help safeguard the application's sensitive data. mSecure supports credential entry within browsers and boasts an integrated search. Another mSecure advantage is its customizable nature, which helps users store additional information, such as safe combinations, bank account data, serial numbers, encryption keys, and more.
All told, mSecure provides a complete solution for the storage and retrieval of a wide variety of sensitive credential sets. Combining common password management features with additional security elements, integrated search, and numerous personalization options, mSecure is an excellent option for iOS users to consider.
Did our list include your favorite password management tool for iOS? If not, please tell us which tool you prefer and why in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.