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Going all-in on iCloud Passwords

Posted in Apple

A big reason a lot of people update their operating system is new emojis; iOS 15.4 Beta has recently been released and, for the first time in a while, there’s a clutch of new emojis. I’ll be updating as soon as it’s released, but not (solely!) because of the emojis.

I had a scan through Macworld’s roundup of features coming in iOS 15.4, and the stand-out feature for me was iCloud Keychain Notes.

MacRumours goes into more detail on the feature, explaining how an ‘Add Notes’ button will be available in Passwords, Apple’s new password manager (Settings → Passwords), that makes a textarea available to type whatever you want; things like:

  • Memorable words
  • Two factor authentication backup keys
  • PIN numbers (yes, I know the ‘N’ stands for ‘Number’…)
  • Email address, if it’s not also the Username
  • Extra information like server addresses and port numbers

I’m a long time 1Password user and have always bought the newest version of app whenever it was upgraded. A shut-up-and-take-my-money situation. But things have started to change in recent years.

The problems with 1Password

Five years or so ago 1Password launched memberships, where for a monthly subscription they would host the encrypted password vaults. I had always used Dropbox to sync, so, although I participated in the Beta for memberships, it wasn’t really something that I needed, so I went back to using the service the way I always had.

In recent years 1Password have been making a strong push towards the subscription model. This makes sense for business users, but for individuals…? The £2.99 per month they currently charge for a license is not a lot of money but add that to Netflix, Disney+, and the rest of the things the average household pays for each month and it feels like a stretch.

This subscription push is only set to continue, now that they’ve raised a further $620 million and investors want to see a return.

Another symptom of the need to make their investors money is the decision to abandon native technology for their Mac app; understandable from a dollars-and-cents business perspective, but being a great native Mac app is part of what made the product successful in the first place. Yet another web-wrapper that doesn’t feel quite at home on the Mac and has funky keyboard shortcuts isn’t something I can get excited about.

Something else I’ve noticed is that 1Password’s new iOS browser extension doesn’t work without a membership. So people like me who bought the app and sync vaults with other services are starting to be left out of features.

1Password, like Dropbox, feels more like a feature than a product, and Apple are building that feature across their ecosystem just like they did with iCloud Drive. It’s true that 1Password offers a lot more power and flexibility than as Apple’s password management system, which:

  • doesn’t offer structured data for things like passports, email accounts, and so on
  • doesn’t have tags (though I don’t make heavy use of these)
  • only works in Safari
  • hasn’t got shared vaults

But, all things told, I’m ready to make those compromises.

In fact, removing 1Password from my workflow will mean I no longer need Dropbox, which will feel good uninstall.

With iOS 15.4 and iCloud Keychain Notes, Apple’s Passwords will finally have enough for me to cut the cord with 1Password, and spend the time migrating my 1023 passwords across. I’ll miss 1Password, a faithful companion over the last decade or more, but things change and the time feels right to let go.

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