LastPass vs Keychain

apple-keychain-lastpass-screenshot-images-LastPass vs Keychain: a reader asks…

I have a MacBook, an iPad and an iPhone. I use Apple’s Keychain to remember my passwords, and it works across all the devices. Is there any reason I should need to use LastPass?

The fact that all the devices you use are Apple means that the Apple Keychain password manager can do almost as good a job as a true password manager like LastPass. The upside is that when you use Safari or iCloud-connected services, your keychain will deal with the password. Keychain’s downside is when you use apps on your iOS devices, which can’t tie into the keychain (per Apple’s rules). So for apps that require a login, you’ll still have to do a lookup and either manually type in a password or copy and paste. To access your Apple keychain’s list of passwords and remembered credit cards:

On your Mac:

  1. Open Finder to Applications > Utilities > Keychain Access.
  2. use the search box to find the entry for the webstie you want, and click to open it
  3. Click the checkbox to show the password. You can then copy it and paste it into a password field in your web browser or other app.

iphone-thumbprint-image-from-appledotcomOn iOS:

  1. Tap Settings > Safari > Passwords and either use your fingerprint or passcode
  2. Use the search bar to find the entry for the website you want and tap on it
  3. Read the password listed. You can tap-and-hold on it to copy it, then go to Safari, tap-and-hold in the password field and tap Paste to put the password into the field.

Keychain is great for remembering those passwords and credit cards, but not so great for other types of information you want remembered for you. LastPass has secure notes with a bunch of different templates for different information types, and you can even create a custom information type if you don’t find one that fits.

lastpass-logoLastPass also works pretty seamlessly across web browsers (not just Safari). and there’s a handy ‘Copy password’ button to streamline getting the password into the right field for non-browser apps.

I’d say if your needs are limited to website passwords (used in Safari) and credit cards (also used in Safari), then the Apple Keychain is perfectly acceptable to use instead of LastPass. It’s also debatable how complicated it is to look up and copy a password for either, I think LastPass has the edge in iOS for non-browser apps, just run the app (it’s fingerprint-enabled for login), tap a few letters of the website URL or account you want, tap on the entry and tap Copy password. Then paste that into the field of an app. For Safari logins, keychain has the edge since it will fill in the password for you without any action other than visiting the URL. On your desktop it’s nearly the same.

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  1. Brian Shea

    Is there a password manager that will AUTO FILL a log on with an app. Preferably on iOS? I have been using lastpass for the past 6 years and love it, however it struggles with app’s. Also, I have been using a window’s based computer, but recently I bought an iPad Pro 9.7 and the iPhone 7 plus. I installed last pass on both devices, but I am having difficulty getting it to work on safari and even chrome, which is what I use on my Windows computer. Oh lastpass says it works as an extension on my Chrome just like it does on my windows computer WRONG and it does the same on Safari and WRONG again and since we live in an app world especially on iOS I need a password manager that will auto fill or at least give me options like last pass does. I am not looking for a bargain, I am looking for a PM that works on APP’S. Thank you.

    • Hi Brian, thanks for your comment. The answer to your first question is no, there isn’t (on iOS). Apple’s security restrictions limit the ability of apps to work with each other (for good security reasons), and there isn’t anything app developers can do about it. As a result, many app developers build into their app either of these two features:

      1. the ability to remember the user’s password so they don’t have to put it in each time, or
      2. the ability to use the fingerprint recognition feature of iPhones/iPads to unlock the app

      Not all app developers choose to do either of these things, so we are all stuck with the mish-mash of working with apps on our smartphones. For 3rd party apps on iOS that don’t institute either of the above two as features on their app, you are stuck with having to deal with a more kludged-up procedure. Namely:

      1. In the app, fill in your username. Then switch to the LastPass app
      2. find the app entry in your Vault, and tap the Copy Password menu link
      3. Switch back to the app, tap in the password field, then tap-and-hold and tap Paste to paste the password into the field.

      No other password manager app can do things any better, they all have to work within the constraints that Apple places on app interplay. And I doubt Apple is going to change their policy much, since app interplay is a great way to hack into computers and devices. I don’t think anyone wants that.

      Next item: I’m betting the problem is you don’t know how to use LastPass with Safari and Chrome – it’s not the same way you do on a computer.

      For Safari on iOS, you can fill in user credentials on a website by tapping the Share icon (box with an up arrow coming out of it at the bottom of the screen), tapping LastPass (and authenticating with your fingerprint), then tapping on the vault entry for that website. That will fill in both the username and password into the boxes on the website.

      In Chrome on iOS you do the same thing, but the share icon isn’t always visible. You have to tap on the ellipsis (three vertical dots) at the top-right of the screen, then tap the share icon (at the top-left of the popup menu). Complete the rest of the process same as you do in Safari.

      The above two procedures are how LastPass works within the iOS Safari and Chrome apps. LastPass makes this clear in the video tutorials they have on their site. There’s no way anyone can make things work on a smartphone exactly like they do on a computer – it’s a different environment. Lastpass does work very similarly on iOS to on a desktop PC, but not exactly. In iOS, “extensions” are handled differently than on a computer, they work in the Sharing part of the operating system – when that feature is enabled in a particular app (as it is in Safari and Chrome). Very few other apps do anything smart about password management. Hopefully that will change in time.

      That’s the nature of the current state of our technology. If you want to blame someone, blame all of us who want maximum flexibility to do whatever we want, which spurs competition which means many companies making lots of different things. Nobody does things exactly the same way as anyone else – hence complexity and kludged-up processes.

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