How To: The 4 Best Password Managers for iPhone & iPad

The 4 Best Password Managers for iPhone & iPad

Using a strong password is critical to the security of your online accounts. However, according to Dashlane, US users held an average of 130 different accounts in 2015. Memorizing strong passwords for this many accounts is impractical. Fortunately, password managers solve this problem.

Password managers address this issue of needing a strong password by taking the memorization out of the equation. No longer do you need to worry about remembering all of your passwords, as the manager stores this information, and it can even be autofilled when needed. Users need only to protect the one database.

The App Store contains several great password managers to choose from. We installed and tested all of the top offerings and have concluded that these four managers are the best available. Using any of these password managers on your iPhone or iPad will dramatically improve the privacy and security of your online accounts.

Table of Contents

What Are Password Managers?

A password manager is an app with a database containing your login information for all the various accounts you use. The database is typically encrypted with a master password to prevent unauthorized access. While this master password may be combined with other secret unique information to increase security, a user typically won't need to memorize anything more than the master password itself.

The master password is how one part of the typical password dilemma is solved — you only need to memorize one strong password for all your accounts. However, you don't reuse this password — instead, you allow the manager to create strong passwords for all your other accounts.

A strong password

Once a master password is created, you add the login information for all your accounts into the database. At this point, you'll want to replace the password for each account with a stronger one. Using the "change password" function for each of your accounts, the password manager will create a new passcode. The manager will allow you to choose from various parameters, such as whether to include uppercase or lowercase, special characters, and the overall length of the passcode, to create a strong password that you will never have to memorize.

Comparison Chart

Key Comparison Points

  • Premium Price (Single-User): The price to unlock all features for a single user.
  • Family Price: Value pricing for multiple accounts. All but LastPass provide five user accounts for the listed price, with LastPass including six users. Like the Premium Price, this will unlock all features.
  • Free Version Available: Whether or not you can use this service for free.
  • Local-Only Mode: This feature provides security in place of convenience. Instead of using the cloud to synchronize the database, your database resides only on your device. This provides more control as to who has access to it and who can view its contents, and it decreases the risks of being hacked.
  • Cloud Sync: Your database is stored in the cloud, making it accessible across multiple devices. Using the cloud, any modification made on one device will automatically update all the other devices with access.
  • Audit Passwords: The manager reviews all login credentials and will recommend changes to passwords. For example, the manager will recommend changing if your password hasn't been modified in a while (typically three months), or if you use the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Bulk Password Changing: The manager allows you to change the password of multiple accounts simultaneously.This feature requires websites to enable support in order for it to work. While LastPass does offer the feature, Dashlane is the only app in which the feature is accessible via the app.
  • Security Alerts: The password manager alerts users of potential threats to their accounts.
  • Multiple Vaults: Within the app, users can access multiple vaults (databases).
  • Share Passwords: Users can extend access to passwords (whether individually or as a group) to other users. Some managers require that the users receiving access already have an account with the service.
  • Emergency Access: In the case of the user's death or incapacitation, loved ones can be assigned access to the database. This way, the user's online accounts can be managed or deleted depending on the user's situation.
  • Tech Support: The managers on our list provide support through either an online ticket system or email. Email is superior as you don't have to keep a page open to wait for a response.
  • Control Clipboard Timer: The ability to modify the time in which your copied data remain in the clipboard and therefore accessible for pasting. LastPass is the only manager that allows users to increase or decrease the time depending on the users need.
  • (Autofill) In Apps: The ability to autofill user names and passwords into your iPhone apps. Each manager on our list utilizes Share Sheets to achieve this functionality, and therefore, shares the same list of compatible apps.
  • (Autofill) Compatible Browsers: The browsers supported by the password manager which can be auto-filled on iOS.
  • Apple Watch Support: Whether or not the manager supports the Apple Watch. Usages can include access to your vault from your wrist, or as a tool to authenticate users (multi-factor authentication).
  • Touch ID: The fingerprint scanner can be used as an alternate way to log into the vault.
  • Face ID: Apple's facial scanner can be used as an alternate way to log into the vault.
  • Encryption: The method used to ensure the security of the database. As of today, the highest standard available is AES-256 encryption. Encryption protects the database by making it virtually unreadable to unauthorized users.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: Using multiple means to authenticate (identify) users. The most common form is using a third-party authenticator, which is an extra app you install that receives an OTP (one-time password) that you enter in addition to your password to prove your identity. Some examples include Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator, and Authy.
  • Universal 2nd Factor: Also known as U2F, this is another way of providing multi-factor authentication. U2F is a set of hardware keys (typically USB) which need to be in your physical possession if you want to log into your database. Since the hardware keys can't be stolen remotely, many feel this provides the highest level of protection.
  • Secure Cloud Storage: Encrypted cloud storage that comes with your subscription. Keeper is the only manager to require that you upgrade to a family plan to access any storage, while the other two managers which offer the feature include it with the premium plan.
  • Bug Bounty Program: The security of a system is heavily dependent on its ability to work as intended all the time. However, even the most well-written code will have bugs and unforeseen errors. To combat this, companies offer a financial incentive to those outside the company to report these errors. Typically, higher rewards attract more white-hat hackers (hackers for the good guys) and higher skilled ones.
  • White Paper Available: A technical report on how security and authentication are handled by the software. It provides necessary transparency and allows others to make suggestions to improve security for all.

How We Picked These Apps

Password managers have expanded beyond just housing account information. Many, including each one on our list, have an abundance of features that greatly enhance the experience for its users.

Our first requirement for each password manager was the implementation of the latest security tools. Currently, that means AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard with a 256-bit key), PBKDF2 SHA-256 (Password-Based Key Derivation Function 2 and Secure Hash Algorithm 2 with 256-bit digest), and salted hashes. Also, your account should be secured using a password, as it provides the best protection. Other methods, such as PIN codes, are too short and limited in possible combinations, making it easier for unauthorized users to gain access.

Our next requirement was that each app has some way to autofill user names and passwords into apps and browsers. Without autofill functionality, managers become somewhat of a hassle, as they add an additional step (or steps) whenever you want to log into your account.

Another important requirement was the inclusion of an Emergency Access feature. This allows users to establish a list of trusted friends and family members who can access their vault in the case they are unable to do so (for example, when they die). This will save friends and family from having to contact each account provider separately and presenting large amount of documentation to prove their authorization. For more information on Emergency Access and its importance, click the link below.

Finally, the app must be well-designed and easy to use. All options should be properly described and the layout shouldn't interfere with navigation. Basic tasks, such as adding login information, shouldn't require any assistance from a techy friend. Password managers should be accessible to all users, not just power users.

App 1: LastPass

If you ever heard about password managers before this article, it was probably thanks to LastPass, who has been aggressively advertising its services in the last few years. LastPass has lived up to its popularity by creating an app that checks most boxes when it comes to features you'd expect a password manager to have. But what truly sets LastPass apart is the fact that its feature-packed service is offered at the lowest price of all the managers on our list.

LastPass was designed for casual users. Its developers worked to ensure the end-user experience was both simple and convenient. Starting with the menu options, each option is well described to ensure no confusion.

LastPass lets you add a wide array of credentials to your database — not just online account information, but also credit cards and driver's licenses. This lets you autofill virtually all information that may be requested online. Since LastPass is the only manager on our list to include cloud sync for free, you can access this information on all of your devices, as LastPass has an extension or app for all major browsers and operating systems.

A feature called Secure Notes lets you create small documents that contain bits of information that don't properly fit in any of the above-listed categories. Thanks to LastPass' usage of both AES-256 and PBKDF2 SHA-256, you can be sure this information is both secure and private from all unauthorized users.

Similar to all the other password managers on our list, LastPass uses iOS' Share Sheets function to autofill passwords into apps, and it uses extensions to autofill into browsers. When it comes to browsers, LastPass supports both Safari and Chrome.

However, unlike other managers on our list, LastPass lets you control how long information copied from the vault remains in the clipboard. This is important, as data in the clipboard is a common target for hackers. While the clipboard isn't utilized for autofill (unlike some other apps on our list), for the few apps that don't support autofill via Share Sheets, the clipboard is needed to copy and paste the information manually.

LastPass's Security Challenge feature will audit your passwords and provide a score for their overall strength. LastPass's analysis includes scanning the sites associated with the credentials to ensure their integrity and the strength of your master password. Suggestions are available to improve your score, giving you a measurable goal to achieve.

However, the best aspect of LastPass (and what gives it the biggest edge over its competition) is its pricing. At $23.99 per individual user, it is 20% cheaper than the next lowest price on our list. The same 20% difference carries over to the family pricing, which also includes one more user account compared to the other managers on our list.

And if you don't want to pay a dime, you can still use most features for free, including cloud sync. No other manager on our list offers a deal even remotely comparable to LastPass' offerings. Because of LastPass' effective combination of low pricing and features, we absolutely had to put it first on our list.

App 2: Dashlane

Dashlane for iOS attempts to simplify the password manager. Using a new approach, codenamed Project Mirror, Dashlane wants to eliminate our own incompetence when creating passwords for our accounts. While this app does include many of the features users have come to expect with their password manager, it's their Password Changer that places it in a league of its own.

Password Changer is a feature that lets you (almost) instantaneously update multiple passwords without ever leaving the app. Password Changer includes password auditing functionality which analyzes the strength of your passwords and recommends which passwords need to be modified to preserve security. Once the accounts are selected, just tap "Change" in the upper-right corner of your screen, then Dashlane will automatically change your passwords for you.

Password Changer is one aspect of Project Mirror, Dashlane's ambitious plan to kill the password. Another major component is Critical Account Protection, which provides an in-depth analysis of all accounts associated with your email address, including the type of accounts you have and when they were created. For more information, check out Dashlane's YouTube video below.

Dashlane monitors your accounts to ensure they remain secure and uncompromised. If there is ever a breach in a site, its Security Breach Alerts feature will let you know and make suggestions to protect your data.

Features such as sharing passwords and emergency access are present. Also, Dashlane utilizes the same Share Sheets function to autofill apps, with at least 300 apps supporting the feature.

Dashlane supports both multi-factor authentication and U2F. The inclusion of these feature not only increases security, but provides additional controls. For example, you can opt to use the app-based authenticator you already use for other accounts or choose to use another one. You can also increase security by using Universal 2nd Factor, which requires the user to have a device (typically a USB drive) in order to access the vault.

The two glaring omissions in comparison to the other managers on our list are the lack of multiple vault support and family pricing. Multiple vaults are only available to Dashlane business users, and without family pricing, each user must pay the single-user price. Not only does this forgo the typical savings associated with bundled accounts, but Dashlane's single-user pricing is also one the highest. At $39.99 apiece, families are better off paying the additional $8.01 for LastPass' family tier, which provides six accounts.

Pricing aside, Dashlane provides a user-friendly experience that even your grandparents would be comfortable with. The Password Changer is a game changer in the password manager market, providing an enormous convenience that makes it hard for users not to be secure. As Dashlane continues to implement more of Project Mirror, this app will only get better.

App 3: 1Password

1Password on iOS is an interesting offering. Unlike its Android counterpart, users can create a cloud-based vault that operates similarly to the other password managers on our list — or, you can go with a standalone vault, which prioritizes security over convenience. This choice and it broad array of features are two of the biggest selling points for 1Password.

The cloud-based vault will automatically synchronize your data across multiple devices, but you must yield a certain amount of trust to 1Password, who stores your vault on their servers. While 1Password cannot access the information (more on that later), you must presume their security will only authenticate authorized users.

However, for those who don't wish to trust 1Password, there is the standalone version. With the standalone, only you have a copy of your vault. The vault is locally stored on your iOS device, therefore eliminating most reliance on 1Password's security. The problem with this method is that cloud sync isn't available through 1Password and requires a third-party cloud service to house your data. Fortunately, 1Password included support for iCloud, Dropbox, and WLAN servers within the app.

The standalone option has two version, the free version and the pro. The Pro includes features such as support for multiple vaults, Apple watch support, and more categories for better organization. And because you are not using their services, it is a one-time purchase of $9.99 compared to the cloud-based subscription model. This variety in pricing gives users a better ability to choose exactly what vault suits their needs.

For those looking for a more simple option, 1Password's cloud-based model would be the better choice. For $3.99 a month, you'll have access to all the features of the standalone's pro version and gain the benefit of cloud-based storage. Your vault is automatically synced across the all platforms where 1Password is available, and you'll also gain access to 1 GB of secure storage for digital copies of important documents.

1Password provides security alerts with a feature known as Watchtower. Watchtower alerts you of security breaches on sites you use and recommends a course of action to correct the situation. However, unlike the other managers on our list, there is no way to audit your password.

1Password also authenticates users in a much different way compared to the other managers on our list. Normally, managers use the master password to create a hash to authenticate users with their servers. A hash is a one-way function that alters data (in this case the master password) to a fixed size. The modification is usually irreversible (hence one-way) so hackers aren't able to derive the master password from the hash.

1Password goes a step further using what known as a two-secret key derivation. As the name implies, a second component, known as the Secret Key, is used to create a hash. The Secret Key is also unique and only known by the user, improving the security of the hash. The Secret Key is a string of characters that is first generated by your device when you initially create an account. This key is stored locally and is inaccessible by 1Password. While you'll never need to memorize the key (as the system automatically retrieves it), its uniqueness is what makes it secure and helps with authentication.

Due to this method, 1Password relinquished support for multi-factor authentication, as its method (in essence) already utilizes a form of it. Whether you prefer 1Password's method or traditional third-party authenticators is up to you, but it could be a deciding factor when choosing your next password manager.

Finally, the pricing for 1Password is high, about 20% more than the next highest single-user pricing. Its family pricing also shares this higher price tag, a mere 11 cents less than the highest option. However, the one silver lining for 1Password's pricing is the standalone version. For those who don't mind losing features such as automatic cloud synchronization and shareable passwords, the standalone pro version's $9.99 one-time fee is an enticing offer.

Ultimately, the differences between 1Password and Dashlane come done to one feature: password auditing. Its inability to review passwords gave Dashlane the small edge to elevate it to second and drop 1Password to third.

App 4: Keeper

Keeper isn't the prettiest app on our list. Nonetheless, it does have all the major features you would want in a password manager, making it a solid choice for any user. However, its lack of a few minor features and its pricing prevent us from placing it higher on our list.

First, let's start with the good. Keeper does a great job of letting the user know the strength of their passwords when manually adding login information. When inputting password, a colored bar appears below to reflect the strength the password entered. To eliminate any confusion, the colors match the same schemes as traffic lights, with red meaning weak and green meaning strong.

Under the DNA tab, Keeper includes a multitude of authentication options. Choices range from Touch ID, which adds convenience, to Apple Watch and OTP, which improve security. Apple Watch can act as a multi-factor authenticator, providing an additional tool to properly identify you. Keeper also supports Google Authenticator for app-based authentication.

Unique among the password managers on our list, Keeper includes a feature known as Self-Destruct, which automatically erases any local vault on the device after several failed login attempts. When using the premium version, this isn't a huge deal, as a copy is saved on the cloud — but for free users, five incorrect attempts can erase the only copy of your vault. While this feature does increase security, the heavy consequence makes its overall worth somewhat debatable.

Also, unlike the other password manager, Keeper offers some level of interface customization. The background can be altered using a small list of preinstalled choices. It isn't much, but it's something.

Finally, pricing is fair. The premium price is the second cheapest option at $29.99 a year. Its family pricing, however, is the highest at $59.99 a year, but it gives you five accounts. A free version is also available, but cloud synchronization and Apple Watch Support will be sacrificed.

Keeper is a good password manager, but not great. Its major issue is it lacks any true advantages over the others on our list to warrant a recommendation over them. However, if you despise the other choices (or find appeal in its aesthetics), Keeper is a solid choice.

Conclusion

Every iOS user should be using a password manager in this day and age. We, as human beings, can't be expected to memorize strong unique passwords for each of our many accounts, and we can't be expected to change them every 90 days as recommended. With a password manager, none of this is a problem.

For iOS users, LastPass is the best option. It offers great pricing for an extensive list of features that are unmatched by the other managers on our list. However, its lack of a local-only mode means you'll need to extend a little bit of trust to the proper storage of your vault (and LastPass' own server security).

However, if you wish not to trust them, Dashlane would be your best bet. Without paying a dime, all your data will be stored locally on the device, where you control how it is stored. Either choice will provide all the features you've come to expect from a password manager and, in the case of Dashlane, a little more.

What do you think of our list? Which password manager do you plan to use on your device? Let us know in the comments below.

Cover image and screenshots by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

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