Passwords are important. Strong passwords are even more important, as is using unique passwords, and above all, keeping them private is a pretty good idea as well. To make all of that easier, I've long recommended that people use a good password manager. I still do. But my thoughts on which password manager people should use have just changed. And not in the way that I expected.
See, I've been using 1Password for a long time now. I can't remember exactly when I started, but it was back in the days of buying it and syncing vaults using Dropbox. There was no built-in syncing and no subscription pricing, not that I mind the latter. The former is a necessity for anyone using multiple devices, but it's table stakes at this point.
Over the years I've used 1Password because of the cool apps, easy syncing, and above all, shared vaults. Being able to have a vault that has all of the family's passwords in is a lifesaver, especially when one of the kids needs the Netflix password or gets logged out of Disney Plus. Shared vaults were enough to keep me using 1Password and I basically ignored iCloud Keychain as a result. Sure it's free, and yes, it's built right into everything I use on the daily. But there's no way to have one password easily accessible to multiple people at all times.
Or at least, there wasn't. And now that there is, I figured it was time I take another look at Apple's password management system and potentially save a few dollars every month. And I liked what I saw.
Free as in beer
The obvious thing that iCloud Keychain has going for it is that it's free, which means that just by having the minimum features — so long as they actually work — it's going to be a winner for a lot of people. I could myself in that because while I'm more than happy to pay for software that makes my life easier or better, I'd rather use a free one so long as it does the same job as well or even better. It's with that mindset that I took a deeper look at what iCloud Keychain has to offer.
In use, it's almost identical to using 1Password which is a testament to Apple's APIs. The fact that third-party password managers function in the same way as iOS 17's built-in manager shows that Apple isn't blocking developers from competing here. The experience isn't going to be impacted by Apple.
So if entering a password when asked for it by a website or app is basically the same, it's time to look beyond that — how iCloud Keychain works.
In the case of sharing passwords, it's great. You create a shared group and tell the system who to send an invitation to and you're off to the races. It couldn't be easier, so long as they're using Apple devices of course. My family uses iPhones and iPads, so there were no issues there and anything I add to the shared group instantly appears on their devices. It's like magic, but better — it's free magic!
Beyond the shared vault situation, there was one smaller thing that kept me with 1Password — the lack of an actual iCloud Keychain app. That still irks me and I can't understand why one doesn't exist. But there are ways around that. There's a shortcut that can be used to instantly access the portion of the Settings app that currently holds all of our passwords, and it works. Add that to your Home screen and you can almost convince yourself it's an app. It's fine, but I still want a proper app in iOS 18.
So with all of that said, I sit here with my 1Password subscription canceled and iCloud Keychain doing its thing. It manages my usernames and passwords and even hosts my one-time passcodes as well, so multi-factor authentication is taken care of.
Now yes, I know some people store much more than passwords in 1Password so for those people this might not work — although locked items in Notes might fit some of your needs, and credit/debit cards can be saved in Safari, too. But if you're just storing passwords and want to save some cash, iCloud Keychain is finally a viable option for me. I reckon it could be for you, too.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
Creating Password Groups in Passwords is great except for two downsides:iMore.com said:With the addition of shared password groups, iCloud Keychain is finally a viable alternative to 1Password and similar apps and services.
I can finally use iCloud Keychain and ditch 1Password thanks to this key new feature : Read more
1. You cannot Create Password Groups for use with anyone who is not using iOS 17.
2. You cannot Create Password Groups for use with anyone who does not use an iPhone.
Hopefully Apple will add this functionality at a later date but it’s doubtful since they probably have these limitations due to security reasons.