1Password: Not Sherlocked At All


Almost every major Apple software announcement causes a phenomenon known as Sherlocking — that is, some product or service becomes largely redundant because Apple decide to start providing it themselves.

Users of the popular password manager 1Password might be wondering if that’s what’s going to happen now that the iCloud keychain has been introduced. After all, it seems to do pretty much the same thing, and now it’s built-in by default and free.

I actually think that the iCloud Keychain is good news for AgileBits, who make 1Password. To explain why, let’s look at what each has going for it.

iCloud Keychain

  • Free. Probably the best thing about iCloud Keychain is that it’s free. 1Password, on the other hand, is not particularly cheap. It’s a fair price, but not an insignificant one.

  • Built-in. Here’s where it excels: it works right there in the native browser in iOS. There is just a little less friction to fill a password with the iCloud Keychain because you don’t have to go to the 1Password browser to access it.

1Password

  • Privacy. This post on the AgileBits blog sums it up. I really think they are trustworthy custodians of my most essential data. Apple? Hmm. Maybe.

  • Ability. Even those who like Apple will point out that they don’t have a fantastic track record with services like iCloud. It seems like an area that’s lagged compared to hardware or application software. AgileBits, on the other hand, are good at what they do — and there are multiple ways to sync data (including iCloud) between 1Password on different devices. They’ve proven themselves. Apple haven’t.

  • Cross-platform. If (God forbid) I had to use a Windows machine or an Android phone, I could have all my passwords right there. Ugh.

  • UI. AgileBits have well-designed apps which are pleasant to use. iCloud Keychain has a preference pane.

  • Not just passwords. Despite the name, 1Password can store a lot more than just login details. Social security numbers, software licenses, secure notes — they all have a place. If you’ve never used it you have no idea the peace of mind that comes from knowing all of your important information is in one safe place.

  • Vaults. A new feature in 1Password 4 (coming soon to iOS, I’m confident) are “vaults”, which are essentially a way to silo different groupings of passwords so that you can share only a part of your database with someone. If you hand someone your computer logged-in, they have access to everything that’s in the iCloud Keychain, or nothing, depending on your settings. 1Password allows for a great deal of granularity.

Taking this all into consideration it’s downright ridiculous to imagine that iCloud Keychain is a “1Password Killer”. In fact I think they’ll work quite well together. There are a few passwords that it just makes sense to save in iCloud because I require them so often. For instance, I have a homescreen bookmark to Paperback which automatically opens in Safari. I have that password saved in the iCloud Keychain.

Competition is healthy. But not only that: the new iCloud Keychain is going to educate people about password management in general, and when they reach the boundaries of what it can do, I think AgileBits could see a lot of new customers.

(Hat tip to @mpfjelsted.)