Sure, you could go without a password manager—if you want to try to remember all of your super-secure passwords and login credentials on your own, or if you live dangerously and use the same password for all of your accounts. But let’s get real: There’s no reason to do that, not when there are so many excellent password managers out there that can store passwords securely for you, and generate them, too.
LastPass has long been my favorite desktop password manager, but I’ve never been bowled over by its mobile version, available for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone devices.The desktop version just works: Install it as a browser extension and never worry about remembering a password again. But I always found the mobile version too clumsy to actually be useful, requiring too much back-and-forth between the LastPass app and my mobile browser.
I’m happy to say that things have improved greatly with the most recent version of LastPass mobile. Much of the improvement is thanks to the browser that’s built into the LastPass app. While this was, apparently, a feature of earlier versions of LastPass, it was difficult to find. Now, it’s prominently presented to you when you open the app.
If you already have a LastPass account, you’ll see all of your logins and passwords that you’ve stored in your LastPass Vault, ready and waiting for you. You can browse to any of those sites and opt to copy your password credentials, or to have the info entered for you automatically. LastPass’s browser is not as slick as most mobile browsers; it certainly won’t give the iOS version of Safari a run for its money. But it’s a very handy way to access the sites you need to log into securely.
Less impressive is the option for using bookmarklets in the mobile version of Safari to replicate the desktop experience. The option is hidden deep within the LastPass settings menu—and, thanks to the convoluted directions, I was unable to install this option properly.
LastPass is available in free and Premium versions for use on the desktop, but you will need to upgrade to Premium in order to access LastPass’s mobile apps. LastPass Premium costs $12 per year.
1Password is very similar to LastPass. In fact, it’s so similar that choosing between the two often comes down to a few small differences. Both store login information in secure vaults and generate secure passwords when needed. Both offer digital wallets for storing payment information and can help fill in forms. And both mobile apps offer built-in browsers that let you surf the Web, and Safari bookmarklets for filling in information while using iOS’s own browser.
Deciding between LastPass and 1Password mobile boils down to a few key details. The 1Password mobile app is available for Android and iOS only, while LastPass embraces Blackberry and Windows Phone users as well. But 1Password’s mobile apps are a bit sleeker and prettier than LastPass’s. Overall, both are easy to use and reliable. 1Password also provided excellent directions on installing the bookmarklet in Safari—in fact, that I was able to use them to install the LastPass bookmarklet, too.
The biggest difference may be in the pricing: 1Password’s desktop app is more expensive ($50 for a single user licenses) than LastPass’s. The mobile apps are priced competitively: 1Password is free for a feature-limited version, though it allows you to create, edit, and view logins, credit cards, and identities, and lets you fill information in both the 1Password browser, 1Browser and in the Safari extension. Paying $10 for the Pro features lets you create, view and edit items in additional categories (like wireless routers and software licenses) and gives you more options for organizing the information you store—which can be very useful if you have a lot of login credentials stored.
Dashlane’s mobile app is pretty, but it’s got more than looks going for it. It’s also easy to use and packed with features enough to stand up with competition like 1Password and LastPass, Dashlane can store payment information in a digital wallet, help you generate secure passwords, and store secure notes.
Like its rivals, Dashlane includes its own browser, which is—like those of its rivals—a bit clunky. But Dashlane makes you install the Safari bookmarklet if you want it to enter passwords when using iOS, but that part’s a snap—Dashlane’s mobile app walks you right through the process.
Like LastPass and 1Password, Dashlane is compatible with Apple’s TouchID technology, so you can unlock the app with a fingerprint if you enable that option. You can enter passwords and autofill login information with a fingerprint, too.
DashLane is free for use on a single device. If you want to sync data across devices—say between a PC and a mobile phone (Android and iOS)—you need to pay $40 per year for the Premium version, which also adds the ability to back up your account and Web access to your passwords. That’s a bit pricier than its rivals.
Liane Cassavoy is a veteran technology and business journalist. She contributes regularly to PCWorld and has written about business issues and products for Entrepreneur Magazine and other publications. She is the author of two business start-up guides published by Entrepreneur Press.