The iPhone is gradually becoming an option for people to store their personal information, including passwords and other personal information. Personal is an iOS app and cloud solution that’s still in beta (it’s also available for Android devices). It calls itself a personal data vault for storing personal information like bank account numbers, health records, and other information you need to access from your iPhone or the cloud.

Hurricane Sandy recently reminded us of the importance of backing up important personal and professional information, and Personal might be the solution for some people in this regard.

Personal includes the following features:

  • Access to information from or your iPhone
  • Offline access
  • Snap photos of your credit cards, warranties, drivers license, and passport for upload to Personal
  • Secure sharing of your private information and notes with a single click
  • Password protection over your data, and Personal does not store your password
  • 256 bit AES and 2048-bit RSA encryption (military grade)
  • Data synchronization between your iOS device and so you always have access to the latest information

This app is based on the concept of gems, which are modules designed around various secure and insecure information types. There are gems for the following types of information:

  • Electronics
  • Financial
  • Food & Drink
  • Home & Safety
  • Personal
  • Pets
  • Places
  • Shopping
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Travel
  • Vehicles
  • Work

Get Started with Personal

Setting up a Personal account is best done using their web site and not the mobile app.

I’ll warn you that the Personal account confirmation is a bit complex, and it’s hard to tell whether that’s by design or because the product is in beta.

To get started:

  1. Sign up for a Personal account on, and establish your login and password
  2. Follow the prompts to go through the account confirmation process
  3. Download the free Personal iPhone app to your iPhone
  4. Tap Personal
  5. After you enter your email address and password, Personal will open to some introductory content about the key elements of the app — and once you scroll through the introductory content, you’ll see your empty Vault (Figure A)
  6. Figure A

    Here is an empty Vault.
  7. Tap the plus sign [+] to bring up the Add Gems screen (as show in Figure B)
  8. Figure B

    Screenshot of the Add Gems screen.
  9. Tap a gem to start using it in your Personal Vault (Figure C shows the Allergies gem ready to be added to Personal)
  10. Figure C

    The Allergies gem ready to be added.
  11. Tap Add Gem to add the gem to your Personal Vault
  12. Once the gem you selected is added to your Vault, you can begin adding information to it. In the example of the Allergies gem, you have the following options:
    • Tap plus [+] or minus [-] to Add Another or Delete Gem
    • Tap the top right button to Grant Gems (secure), Request Gems (secure), Email Gems (non-secure), and view who has access to your gems and what other users’ gems you can access
    • Attach Files & Photos
    • Attach Notes
  13. Fill in The Essentials section of the gem (Figure D shows you the level of detailed fields that the Allergies gem includes, and other gems include a similar level of detail to fill out)
  14. In the case of the Allergies gem, it’s not free field, so when you tap on Medication Allergies, a list of Allergies for you to select appears
  15. Figure D

    Fill out the Allergies Gem.
  16. Tap Done when you complete the field, and when you return to the main screen, you’ll notice a lock icon next to the field you just completed
  17. Tap Back when you complete filling in the gem

Share a gem with other users

While my first inclination for using Personal is to lock down some private information just for my own reference, it does let you share gems with other users (for example, your spouse or business partner).

To share a gem with others:

  1. Open the left side menu
  2. Tap + Invite
  3. Enter the email address of another Personal user to invite, and when the user confirms the invite, they’ll appear in your personal network
  4. Tap Secure Share, and then tap on one of the following options:
    • Grant Gems (secure)
    • Request Gems (secure)
    • Email Gems (non-secure)
  5. Next, Personal prompts you to Select Gems
  6. Tap Next
  7. Select a Contact
  8. Tap Next
  9. Review what you are sending (optionally, you can add a message to the recipient)
  10. Select Can Import if you want the recipient to be able to import that gem into their Personal account
  11. Tap Grant

Your iPhone: your Vault

While the cloud component of Personal might be a deal breaker for some iOS users, as a long time Evernote user, it doesn’t bother me. For a beta product, the Personal app shows some real potential. I would definitely consider using it on a limited basis as a secure repository for personal information, just because I would want to see the service in final production before making a decision.