Mobile

iOS 11’s new ‘Password Autofill for Apps’ won’t work with (or replace) your favorite password manager

Written by techgoth


The next version of Apple’s iOS operating system, iOS 11, is going to make it easier for you to log into your apps. The new mobile operating system’s software will introduce a new feature called “Password AutoFill for Apps,” which will offer easy access to your passwords right from the iOS keyboard when you’re on an app’s login screen.

Password AutoFill was actually one of many new features teased on stage during Apple’s WWDC 2017 keynote address this week. A slide was briefly shown detailing iOS 11’s many other additions that the company wouldn’t have time to detail during its presentation.

Image credit, above: The Verge

Plus, “Introducing Password AutoFill for Apps” was the name of a session hosted at Apple’s developer conference this week:

Essentially, Password AutoFill for Apps works a lot like Password AutoFill in Safari does today. That is, it provides you with a way to tap into the passwords saved in your iCloud Keychain.

Logging into apps, as Apple notes, is a source of friction for many users. We’re supposed to use complex passwords, change them frequently, and not store them in unsecured places – like an Excel spreadsheet or note, for example. But it’s also difficult to remember which passwords we need to gain access to which resources, if we don’t write them down somewhere.

Password managers, like 1Password, LastPass and Dashlane, have become valuable tools over the years, as our database of passwords grew along with their complexity requirements. These tools work around many problems associated with using passwords, offering desktop software, apps and extensions that allow you to securely save and, at times, even automate your logins to your favorite services.

Apple, too, had introduced its own password autofill feature for third-party apps a few years ago, but developers had to enable the feature themselves – and few did. That option allowed iOS apps to tap into Safari’s AutoFill & Passwords feature, but developers had to first associate their apps with their websites for this to work.

The new PassWord AutoFill for Apps in iOS 11 will no longer rely on that same level of developer adoption – though it may still require some tweaks. Largely, however,  iOS 11 itself will figure out which credentials to display in the app, based on those users already have saved.

Like the earlier iteration, the new feature will tap into the passwords saved in iCloud keychain – which syncs the passwords you’ve saved in Safari across all your Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

Image credit, above: taj693 on Reddit

The option to use the saved password will appear in the app in the QuickType bar appearing above the iOS keyboard, as you can see in this screenshot posted to Reddit. (See above).

However, it appears that the bar will not just say “password,” as that image on Reddit shows, but will also include the website name and username you use on that site, as saved in iCloud Keychain. A key icon will also appear on the right side of this bar.

You can see better examples of the functionality, posted to Twitter, the first of which was pulled directly from this week’s WWDC session.

According to iOS 11 beta testers on Reddit, the feature is already working in top apps like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

However, one thing it’s not doing – at least, not yet – is working with your preferred third-party password management apps. It only works with Keychain for now, we’re told.

“Password autofill in iOS 11 does not tap into the information stored in 1Password,” the company confirmed to us, when we asked.

But 1Password did note their extension that’s integrated into many apps will continue to function. 1Password also says it’s experimenting with other iOS features, like “drag and drop,” to make using its software even better.

This, in fact, is a clever workaround for the lack of third-party support with Password AutoFill for Apps. As you can see in the video the company shared on Twitter, 1Password takes advantage of split screen mode on iPad and drag and drop to let users drag their username and password from its 1Password to the login screen in the app. Nifty!

Dashlane also notes that Apple’s new password-filling feature for apps isn’t open to them — something that’s not the case on Android.

“No, unfortunately, [the feature] won’t be open to third-party password apps like Dashlane, yet; which ultimately limits the choice and experience of Apple’s consumers,” explains Dashlane CEO Emmanuel Schalit. “Open architecture, like Google/Android, has allowed third-party password managers and other apps to integrate and thus enhance users’ security and convenience,” he says.

At Google’s developer conference last month, Dashlane had said it would work with Google on an autofill API for apps, Schalit notes.

“Because Apple’s keychain has similar functionality in the sense that it stores credentials, we expect them to eventually open their platform to third-party password managers and the massive cross-platform convenience and security advantages that come with them,” Schalit adds.

Dashlane’s co-founder & VP Product, Alexis Fogel, points out that it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Apple to limit access to a new feature like this at launch.

“Apple is known to first try new things with system first before opening it. It happened with Touch ID, for instance – that could be used at the beginning only to unlock the phone or with Siri. That is progressively being opened to developers,” he says.

The introduction of Password AutoFill for Apps also comes at a time when Apple is diminishing Facebook and Twitter’s role in its ecosystem. Axios recently confirmed that integration with these social services is being removed from iOS 11.

That means apps – many of which use Facebook and Twitter for their logins – will no longer have access to users’ signed-in accounts. This, to some extent, may force developers’ hands in adopting the new AutoFill for Apps feature. And that, in turn, will further lock consumers into Apple’s ecosystem by making it more difficult to switch to another platform, as all their credentials would be saved in Apple’s cloud.


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