In a recent episode of Let’s Talk iOS, Cody and I discussed (again) our use of 1Password and iCloud Keychain to handle passwords on iOS and Mac. This conversation generated many comments from listeners who were wondering what the advantages of using 1Password instead of iCloud Keychain are. 

To me, it is pretty obvious that 1Password is much more powerful than iCloud Keychain and is well worth the price. If you’ve been wondering why anyone would use 1Password instead of iCloud Keychain, I lay down a few very important things to consider, and which in my opinion make 1Password the best option to not only handle passwords, but also other data types that might be just as important.

I take the example of 1password because this is the one password manager I have used for years. Other options such as LastPass seem just as powerful, but I can’t talk about them since I have not tried them. I will also not focus on obvious aspects of both services, such as syncing, and encryption. I am solely focusing on key differentiating points that are user facing.

1password vs iCloud Keychain

On the surface, 1Password and iCloud Keychain have a lot in common, but here is where I believe 1Password makes the difference.

1Password is cross platform and cross browser

If you’re an Apple-only kind of user, then iCloud Keychain is great, but if you are working on other platforms such as Windows, then your iCloud Keychain data won’t be able to sync over.

Worth, even if you are a Mac user but use a browser other than Safari (ie. Chrome), then you won’t be able to take advantage of the basic iCloud Keychain features.

In comparison, 1Password is available on Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and all popular browsers.

1Password features a powerful password generator

While iCloud Keychain is capable of generating passwords for you, there is absolutely no customization options available to the user as each password generated by Apple’s service is 15-characters long, composed of 4 groups of 3 alphanumerical characters separated by dashes (ie. 6h9-K1n-0oF-j2n). This is nice and convenient but it doesn’t offer any kind of flexibility as to how the password should be composed.

What if the service you are signing up for requires 16 characters? What if you want to add special characters in your password for added security? iCloud Keychain doesn’t have this flexibility.

In contrast, 1Password lets you create custom password recipes where you can choose the length of the password, as well as how many digits and symbols you want in there. Additionally, the password generator displays a strength indicator that tells you how strong your password is.

1Password isn’t just about passwords

While iCloud Keychain can only store passwords and credit card information, 1Password offers much more than that as it lets you save information for your driver license, passport, bank account numbers, membership cards, software license information, Social Security number, and more. It also allows you to upload specific file types such as images, text files, PDFs, and more.

For example, I have pictures of all passports as well as detailed passport information for all of my family members. When I travel and need to find out my wife’s or my kids’ passport expiration date, I don’t have to get up and go dig in the drawer. It’s all here in 1Password.

Same with my bank account information, the social security numbers of my family members, my driver license, and my medical coverage card. It’s all in 1Password.

As mentioned above, iCloud Keychain lets you save your credit card numbers, but one thing it won’t save is the three-digit CVV number on the back of your cards. So sure iCloud Keychain can fill out your card info, but you’ll still need to go find that card in your wallet to complete the purchase.

Data is categorized and searchable in a beautiful User Interface

If you’ve ever looked at your iCloud Keychain saved passwords, you know what a terrible mess that is, especially if like me you have several hundred passwords saved.

In comparison, 1Password offers a beautiful UI where your items are sorted by category such as logins, credit cards, passwords, bank accounts, passports, software licenses, and more. You can favorite your most frequently used items, and you can tag them or put them into folders. Of course, 1Password also features a powerful search feature.

Having a nice UI to interact with rather than a long list of website URLs makes a world of difference for people with many points of data saved in a password manager.

Everything is accessible from the Menu Bar

1Password is convenient and practical to use thanks to its Menu Bar icon. No need to launch the full 1Password app as everything can be accessed, viewed, and edited from the Menu Bar. It’s fast and practical, and beats going into System Preferences to find out what the password for this online service you use twice a year is.

1Password generates one-time passwords

More and more online services are offering additional security measures in the form of two-step verification where you must not only provide your username and password, but also a six-digit one-time password that is generated by a third-party application.

If you use iCloud Keychain and have enabled two-step authentication on some of these services (ie. Google), then you’ll need another app on your phone or computer to generate these one-time passwords.

If you use 1Password, you don’t need yet another app for that as it seamlessly integrates one-time passwords with the rest of your passwords.

Password history

iCloud Keychain can help you generate new passwords and even update existing ones, but you can’t see a history of your previous passwords, which can sometimes be very helpful. Granted this is not something you’ll need very often, but it is definitely nice to know it’s available for you.

Give it a try

This may sound like a paid endorsement for 1Password but it is not. I’m just that excited about it and want to share this great piece of software with you, so you too can use world-class password management software to increase your security and productivity.

Is 1Password a necessity when you have the free iCloud Keychain option? It’s not, but 1Password is more flexible and powerful than iCloud Keychain. It is also more user friendly. 1Password doesn’t only make you more secure, it also makes you more productive.

While it may not appeal to everyone, I believe everyone can benefit from it, even at the most basic level. My advice is to give it a try and see for yourself. You can download 1Password from the App Store and Mac App Store for free.

  • DD™

    Totally agree with you Sebastian. I was using another competitors PW manager and was looking for something better. 1Password is well worth the price (IAP subscription) for securing so many very important things as you mentioned. Been using 1Password for years and it’s been reliable, looks great and they have great customer service too.

  • Gh0st8

    I’m on the trial for 1password right now, and although it does have a really nice UI and feature set, the subscription model / price point is too expensive. It would cost me CAD $4.99 + tax / month which is way too much for this service. If I could pay a one time fee of about $69.99 – 99.99, I would be on board but I’m not going to pay monthly for this service when I can use iCloud Keychain for free.

    • Agreed. I believe there is some sort of workaround you can use to pay a one time upfront fee. Ask them on Twitter, they’re pretty good about answering that kind of question, and they will tell you if there’s a way to pay a one-time fee.

    • I got a $10 credit when my trial expired. Then when I decided to pay a subscription, since I’m in UK, a 20% VAT was added ?? so then I selected USA and I didn’t have to pay the VAT ??

    • Bjay O

      Agreed. Why pay extra when the in-built option is also quite capable?

  • f0llows_you

    Storing 2 FA codes inside 1password doesn’t make sense to me. All egg in one basket:(

    • fjordstrøm

      Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing!

  • J3ff

    LastPass is 2$ a monthwhih is much more affordable. I have been using it for 2 years and prefer it over 1password.

    • f0llows_you

      Yes. I use dashlane premium. But I recommend it over 1Password. Because you can get premium for 2 Years just by referring to 4 of your friends. Lastpass is also my favourite. Because it is free. Provides all features needed for a user. It is most secure in my excessive testing as a user.

    • DD™

      LastPass has been hacked a couple of times. 1Password has not from my knowledge. I’m a firm believer that you usually get what you pay for.

    • Michael Hulet

      They’ve fixed lots of bugs, but LastPass has proven themselves to be pretty incompetent with security in the past. I personally use iCloud Keychain, but 1Password is the gold standard

  • iBanks

    I like Keychain but hard to pull away from 1password. Been using since 2008.

  • greens

    I use lastpass at the moment, it works but the company doesn’t have the best security record. what is the price of 1passowrd, is it $3(ok) or $5(way too much)

  • Chris Lo

    Great article. I am wondering how do I migrate all my iCloud Keychain passwords to 1Password though?

    • I do not believe there is an export/import feature, What you can do though is keep iCloud Keychain enabled while having 1Password enabled on your browser as well. As you log in to sites, 1Password will ask if you want to save these “new” login credentials. This is I guess the most frictionless way to move your logins over to 1Password, although it might take a while and you might leave some behind. Other and most comprehensive way is to just add your iCloud Keychain logins one by one into 1Password, which sounds like a daunting task if you have hundreds of logins.

      • Chris Lo

        Thank you for your reply Sebastian! This is why I still haven’t moved onto 1Password. I have actually had it since I worked up in Apple Corporate 5 or 6 years ago (as it was free corporate software atm) but never fully transitioned because the last thing I have time to do is sit there and manually copy all my hundreds of passwords over. Think how many more passsords I have now 5 year later!

      • That’s why you can do it on a case per case basis. My guess is you mostly use the same sites/apps on a day to day basis. Transfer those first, then for the other ones, transfer them when you actually need them.

        For example, in 4 months from now when you sign into your secondary Instagram account, move your credential over for that account from iCloud to 1Password. This way you’re doing it little by little on an as-needed basis. I don’t know. That’s probably what I would do.

        Actually, that’s what I did a few years ago when I moved my passwords from Firefox to 1Password now that I think about it.

  • nova12

    I was using msecure for years and made the leap to 1Password a couple years ago. It’s awesome. I don’t pay a monthly fee.

  • Jeff Laing

    You’ll pry 1Password from my cold dead fingers. The key difference between 1Password and iCloud is that iCloud has repeatedly screwed up, failing to sync calendars, contacts, reminders, etc. And the only solution Apple could offer was “completely log out, then reconnect, on all devices”. In fact, I had to *delete* and reinstall the Reminders app on the iPad before iCloud would deign to talk to it.

    Yeah … nope, that’s not going to be where I store anything I need kept safe.

  • Kenneth Delgado

    1Password is king!