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The Best iPad & iPhone Password Manager

Jonathan Wylie is a writer, educator and podcaster. You can hear the audio version of this article, and others, on the Unpacking iOS podcast


The Value of Password Managers on iOS

If I told you that I don't know any of my passwords, would you believe me? It's basically true. I log in to dozens of websites every day, and I couldn't tell you my password for any of them. I don't have them memorized, and I don't have them written down on post-it notes or in a super-secret password book. Instead, I use a password manager.

A password manager is like a vault for your passwords. Inside the vault is a collection of all the passwords I need, and no two are alike. The vault is locked with a master password, and you can't access anything inside the vault without it. My logins for all my favorite online services are stored safely in my password vault, and yours can be too. Here's how.

Best Password Practice for Everyone

Where passwords are concerned, there is an inverse relationship between secure and convenient. The more secure your password is, the less convenient it is. Good passwords are both unique and complex. Here's why.

Lots of people use the same password for multiple services. I used to be one of those people. It was convenient because I only had to remember one password, but it definitely wasn't secure. The problem with this kind of behavior is that if someone was able to guess, steal, or hack my password, they could use it to log in to all the popular websites that people use today. Instead, the best practice is to use a unique password for every website or service you use. That might sound insane, (I mean, who can remember all those passwords!), but this is exactly what a password manager is for.

Passwords should also be complex. They should include a mix of upper case, lower case, numbers, and punctuation. Ideally, your passwords don't include the names of your family, pets, or your date of birth, because all that information can be found on Facebook and other social media sites. In fact, you are much better off if your password does not contain words at all. A password like, f#8Sy8!fp?61, might not be that easy to remember, but it's probably a whole lot more secure than the one you are using right now, and a password manager can generate (and remember) complex passwords like these for you.

I know this might sound like a lot of work, but bear with me. iPad and iPhone password managers are here to help. They can make you more secure in next to no time, and they are simple enough for anyone to use.

Apple's Keychain Password Manager for iOS

iCloud Keychain is Apple's password manager for iOS and Mac OS. It's a secure method that stores and syncs your passwords and/or credit card information between Apple devices. This means that passwords that you save on your iPhone, will also be available to you on a Mac or an iPad that is signed in to the same iCloud account. Keychain encrypts your data on your device so that not even Apple cannot see it.

For this to work properly, you need to enable iCloud Keychain on all your devices. On an iPhone or an iPad, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Keychain and tap the switch to turn it on. You will also want to go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Autofill Passwords, and make sure that the Autofill Passwords switch is enabled.

The best password managers will sync passwords between devices

The best password managers will sync passwords between devices

Save Passwords to iCloud Keychain

If you are logging in to a website on your iPad or iPhone for the first time, and you already have an account that you set up on another device, Safari will give you the option to save that password to your device. Simply tap Yes on the pop-up box that appears, and it will automatically be added to your Keychain password vault.

If you prefer to enter passwords manually, you can do that in the Settings app. Once stored, these passwords can be used with AutoFill the next time you log in. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap on Passwords & Accounts
  3. Tap Website & App Passwords
  4. Authenticate with your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID
  5. Tap the + sign in the top right-hand corner
  6. Add the URL for the website and your login credentials
  7. Tap Done

Use Saved Passwords in iCloud Keychain

The next time you need to log in to that app or website, you can use Keychain to quickly enter your password. Here's how it works.

  1. Navigate to the website or app login screen, and tap Log In
  2. Tap on the username field
  3. Select your account from the space on the top of the keyboard
  4. Authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID when prompted
  5. Tap Login to complete the process

Generate New Passwords on iPhone & iPad

If you are using Safari to sign up for a new account with a website or online service, iOS can automatically generate a secure password for you and save it to your device. Here’s how.

  1. Tap Sign Up on the app or website you want to create an account for
  2. Enter your username or email as requested
  3. Tap on the password field
  4. Tap Use Strong Password when prompted at the bottom of the screen
  5. The password is now stored on your device with Keychain

Bonus tip: This also works for changing website passwords. Simply log in to a website and find the “change password” option in your account settings. When you tap in the “new password” field, your iPhone or iPad will prompt you to use the secure password it generated for you.

If you prefer to use your own password, tap Choose My Own Password and enter the password you want to use. Safari will then ask if you want to save this password to your iCloud Keychain.

iCloud Keychain can generate and remember secure passwords

iCloud Keychain can generate and remember secure passwords

View & Edit Passwords on iOS

The passwords that you save and generate inside of Safari and other apps can be found in the Settings app. You can view, edit or delete any of these passwords. Here’s how to find them.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap on Passwords & Accounts
  3. Tap Website & App Passwords
  4. Authenticate with your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID

A quicker way to see your passwords is to ask Siri. Here’s how that works.

  1. Find your iPhone or iPad
  2. Ask Siri to “Show me my passwords”
  3. Authenticate the request with a passcode, Touch ID or Face ID

If you see a warning triangle next to any of these accounts, it's because iOS has detected that you are using the same password on more than one account. If you tap on that account, you will see an option to "Change password on website". Tap this to navigate to the website where you can log in and change your password to something unique.

Using Two-Factor Authentication on iOS

In the unlikely scenario that someone manages to guess, steal or hack your unique and complex password, there is two-factor authentication. Online services like Facebook, Apple, Google, Dropbox, Amazon, Twitter and many others, offer their users the ability to turn on this extra layer of security. It means that when you log in to one of these sites or services, you will be prompted to authenticate that login on your smartphone via an app or with a verification code that is texted to you. If you enable two-factor authentication on your account, it doesn't matter if someone knows your password, because they won't be able to log in unless they also have access to your smartphone.

Apple made this process much easier to manage in iOS 12. Here's how it works.

  1. Log in to the app or website with your username and password
  2. Wait for the text message to arrive with your two-factor code
  3. Tap on the text field where you need to enter your code
  4. When your keyboard pops up, look for a prompt that says From Messages, (it appears at the top of your keyboard). You should see your two-factor code displayed in this space.
  5. Tap the code to paste it into the text field on the website
  6. Complete your login process
Two-factor authentication codes are just a tap away with the iOS keyboard

Two-factor authentication codes are just a tap away with the iOS keyboard

Alternative iPad & iPhone Password Managers

Apple's Keychain is a great iPad or iPhone password manager if you only use Apple devices, but if you also have a Windows PC or an Android device, you will still want a way to access those passwords when your Apple device is not at hand.

This is where third-party password manager apps come in. These apps offer the same high level of security, and most will offer features over and above those that you are used to from iCloud Keychain. So, even if you do spend all your time on Apple devices, a third-party password manager is still worth looking at. Here are a few of the best password managers that are worth taking a looking at:

  • LastPass
  • Dashlane
  • 1Password
  • Roboform
  • Keeper
  • Enpass

When you use one of these password managers on your iPhone or iPad, you create a strong and unique master password. This password is the key to accessing your password vault, so don't use it anywhere else. Remember, make it strong and unique. The master password is really important. In fact, it's so important that the majority of these password manager services have no easy way of resetting it because they don't know what it is and have no access to it. On the bright side, this is essentially the last password you will ever need to remember.

Using Third-Party Password Managers on iOS

Once your password manager app is installed, you need to tell iOS that you want to use this as your default password manager. This is just a quick trip to Settings > Passwords and Accounts > Autofill Passwords, and then tap the name of the app you installed. If you don't see your app listed, turn on Autofill Passwords and then tap the name of your password manager.

After that, it's a pretty straightforward process. Thanks to an update that Apple included in iOS 12, using a third-party password manager is actually very similar to the way you use Apple's own Keychain. When you want to fill a password that is already saved in your vault, you tap in the username box, then tap Passwords at the top of the onscreen keyboard. This will prompt you to authenticate with your password manager and choose the credentials you need.

If you want to sign up for a new app or website, tap login, and then tap Passwords at the top of the onscreen keyboard. This should open your password manager of choice and give you the option to add your username and generate a strong, unique password.

An Introduction to 1Password

One Password to Rule Them All

Password management can be an onerous task, but it doesn't need to be. Password managers for iPhone and iPad are here to take the hassle out of online authentication and they do it in a secure and efficient way. So, if you haven't switched to a password manager yet, now is the time to give it a try, and if you have questions, feel free to let me know.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Jonathan Wylie