I've always been good about using multiple passwords for different sites with varying degrees of complexity. Recently, it seems like a week doesn't go by without hearing about another hack, so I decided to give Apple's iCloud Keychain password manager a try. One of the best things you can do to secure your online information is to use very strong unique passwords for every website and app you use. If we could do this and remember them all there would be no need for password managers, but obviously that's not practical. Apple's iCloud Keychain tries to make it easier. It does some things well, but struggles in other areas. If you're an Apple and Safari user, read on to see if you should use it.
What iCloud Keychain does and doesn't do
There are a few different elements to iCloud Keychain. Let's start with Keychain itself first. On its own, Keychain remembers usernames and passwords, credit card information, wifi passwords, and email logins. It can also suggest strong unique passwords when setting up a new account or changing a password so you don't have to think of different ones for every website.
Keychain can be used on a single device, or iCloud can be enabled to sync usernames, passwords, and other info across all Apple devices that you authenticate and enable. Data stored in iCloud is encrypted.
What Keychain doesn't do is work on browsers other than Safari or provide an easy way to login in to iPhone, iPad, or Mac apps. Passwords can still be retrieved manually, but this can be frustrating in practice. For example, if you try to login to YouTube in Safari (whether on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad) there is an option to autofill your login information, but if you attempt to login into the YouTube app on an iPhone there will be no such prompt. If you don't remember your password (or used Keychain to generate a random password) you'll have to go through the following steps to retrieve it on an iOS device: go to Settings - Safari - Passwords & AutoFill - Saved Passwords, then enter your iCloud Keychain passcode, find and select YouTube in the list, then your password will be shown and you can copy it, go back to the YouTube app, and paste the password in. A lot of apps remember passwords for a long enough period of time that this isn't an issue once the device is set up, but it is annoying. You'd have to go through a similar process to login to Mac apps or enter a password into a browser other than Safari.
Expect some 'quirks'
When it works (which it usually does in my experience) it's simple and quick. However, it has some quirks that can't be overlooked. On some sites, I wasn't prompted to automatically enter my login info or suggest a new password. From what I gather, this has to do with how the site is coded, and isn't necessarily Apple's fault, but it's still annoying. I found it to be especially troublesome when managing three different Google accounts in the same web browser. Eventually, I gave up and now access my two secondary accounts through Chrome. Also, if you create a new random password and accidentally don't select to remember it, you'll have to go through the password reset process on that website. I accidentally did this once or twice.
Should you use it?
For these reasons, it's hard to recommend iCloud Keychain unless you use Safari as your web browser on all of your Apple devices. It can still be used to remember passwords on a single device, but then it will be cumbersome to take advantage of the password generator, which is one of the primary reasons to use a password tool in the first place. If you're willing to overlook some quirks and growing pains as you get used to it, I recommend using iCloud Keychain if you're concerned with your password security (which you should be). Get more info on iCloud Keychain and how to set it up here.