A Blog by Cabel Sasser

Apple Passwords Deserve An App

First, let’s consider three random tweets:

They already have.

They definitely should.

They seemingly won’t… but why?

We all know that Apple has nice built-in password management in macOS and iOS. But very, very few people know that Apple’s passwords can also:

  • Autofill any 2FA verification codes, which you easily can add by scanning QR codes!
  • Keep a “Notes” field where you can add extra data, like 2FA backup codes, for each password!
  • Import passwords exported from another app, like 1Password!

(And it all syncs across your devices, for free?!)

Very few people know these things because Apple tucks all of their important password features away in weird little Settings panels, instead of in a Proper Real App. I think this is a mistake.

Passwords are productivity, not preferences.

(heck yeah now i’m really sounding like a tech blogger!! what I mean is, i deal with passwords more than i write docs in Pages, you get it right)

The Position

Every Apple user should know about these features.

As much as I love 1Password (and I do! despite big fears about their venture funding! oh no here I go againnn!), there are people who can’t afford to pay a subscription for a password manager, or people who don’t even know they exist in the first place. They deserve easy-to-use security too.

The Problem

Here an example of what happens when you jam critical functionality into weird-ass places:

All that text is a big red flag reading “this thing should’ve been a proper UI”.

I can’t blame the designer here. It’s not their fault. Since someone decided passwords shouldn’t be given a full, proper UI, 2FA code setup was relegated to contextual menus and control-clicks. The designer knows the user is unlikely to ever find that on their own, so they have to give them little hint somewhere. Why not when they click the “Enter Setup Key…” button to manually do this?

The problem is: 99% of users will never find that button in the first place, let alone see this text.

(Bonus Panic UI Tip: people can’t/won’t read more than three (3) lines of static descriptive text.)

The Pitch

Pretty simple.

In my dumble opinion, Apple should:

  • Break Passwords out into a standalone app, with an actual fully resizable window (!!), and full, proper UI for most of its features
  • Make Passwords a toolbar item in Safari for easy access and to be top-of-mind for the user
  • Stick to a basic feature set, but do that well

The idea is not to replace third-party password apps, as I do not wish a Sherlocking on anyone. Those apps should, and currently do, offer more features than Apple ever will, like cross-platform support, team/family password sharing, etc.

The idea is that every Apple user deserves, as a baseline feature in 2023, obvious, clear, powerful, and easy-to-use password management.

I yield my time

PS: there is one place where Apple provides a nice standalone iCloud Passwords management app, with a fully resizable window. On Windows!?! 🫠

PPS: I dream of a future where Passkeys could make the password manager extinct. But it’ll take time…

Leave a Reply

  1. jlundell

    …replacing the ancient, user-unfriendly Keychain Manager in the bargain.

  2. paws

    While we’re at it, can we please get TOTP autofill on Chrome? It looks like the closest thing is this extension, but it’s blocked on Macs 🙁

    I’m likely ignorant of constraints here, but boy does it feel like this extension already does most of the heavy lifting — why can’t it autofill iCloud TOTPs into Chrome?

    Meanwhile the reason Chrome’s password manager seems insufficient here, AFAIK, is because it doesn’t support 2FA codes at all. (Presumably by design)

    1. Charlie

      Two factor codes should not really be stored alongside the username and password. This ideal, may also be why Apple are not exposing their features along these lines in a more readily available way.

    2. Tony A

      I suspect the main reason they haven’t made it a stand alone app is because they made Apple apps deletable a few years ago and have likely seen people who don’t realize they could benefit from something having deleted an app after phone setup. Having it part Settings guarantees it’s on every iOS device.

      Having said that, I completely agree it’s too buried and too many people have missed what it can do for them.

      1. Nicked

        It’s not convenient to find a specific password since you have to open settings app, swipe to find and press “password” and type the keyword. Luckily, I find the URL Scheme for the workflow that apple never tells: app-prefs:PASSWORDS&search=[keyword]

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  4. Wil (₩) Moore III

    I am digging the irony of the existing of the standalone iCloud Passwords management app on Windows.

  5. Wil (₩) Moore III

    I am loving the irony of the fact that there is a standalone iCloud Passwords management app for Windows.

  6. lollery

    That app already exists. It’s called Keychain Access on macOS.

  7. Matt Lee

    Someone shared this shortcut with me…

  8. casey

    Apple password manager is awful for one reason: my most valuable accounts are all unlockable with my phone passcode… which I type in public all the time. If someone has my phone and passcode – they have everything.

  9. Derek

    The only reason I have a 3rd party (2Stable’s Authenticator) 2FA app is because I tried using Apple’s builtin 2FA in the preferences password manager and it just wasn’t convenient to access, too many clicks. If apple was smart they’d create a seperate password/2fa app accessible from a Mac’s menu bar with an app on iOS.

  10. Fofer

    One of my favorite menu Shortcuts in Ventura is this one I call “iCloud Passwords” – provides quick access, like an app!

  11. Fofer

    This is one of my favorite menu Shortcuts, installed in Ventura. Quick access to passwords, like an app!

  12. Wgc

    It is arguably cross-platform.

  13. fofer

    One of my favorite menu Shortcuts is this one:

    It provides quick access to passwords in the iCloud keychain. Like an app would 🙂

  14. doe

    What Apple ultimately wants is a FIDO-based, passwordless experience. Hence, it is highly unlikely that they will release a dedicated app to manage passwords.

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  16. Mark Anderson

    I use the Apple passwords feature as well as 1Password, and you’re spot on with why they should make this an app. The main reason I stick primarily with 1Password is performance. I have 1700+ passwords in my Apple keychain/iCloud password thing and it’s quite laggy. Also, if you’re attempting to manage passwords that it highlights with security issues, it’s about 5 clicks each to resolve. Bad UI.

  17. Randal L. Schwartz

    You spend the entire article saying “people don’t KNOW that it’s there!”. Yes, I am one of those people, and re-read the article three times wondering WHERE IS IT? Please give us at least a hint of where this “password” feature might be hiding! Please!

    1. Damon

      Right there with you, Buddy! This was a very frustrating article.

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  20. strlng

    I can’t believe there is no way to edit the name or URL of a password entry. If that were possible I could be happy with the current Passwords feature.

  21. Abhi Beckert

    I’m not convinced Apple will ever get this right. It seems pretty clear their security team take “security is a compromise between ease of use and security” to the extreme edge, to the point where it’s often “lets deliberately break ease of use”.

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  23. Matt Zarzecki

    Apple sucks at the details anymore. Everything’s becoming buggy enterprise software without an opinion. Copy / paste on the iPhone didn’t exist until it was right. Nothing is great anymore, all just fine.

    I agree, it should be an app, but just not by Apple.

  24. Matt

    A standalone password app would be great.

    But I really want Apple to make a budget app. Something simple, clean.