Let’s just get it out of the way right now: LastPass (free download, $1 per month, aka LastPass Password Mgr Premium* on Google Play) is in desperate need of a makeover. But its clunky interface covers a truly powerful utility, one that actually changes how you use the Internet and can keep you safer to boot. Now it just needs to be as easy to use as its desktop counterpart.
If you’ve already got a LastPass account, you only need to shell out $1 a month to access your passwords on Android or iOS devices. You can also generate new passwords for websites, accounts, or apps. Unfortunately, the desktop version’s excellent password capture and autofill features are limited to the app’s no-frills browser.
The desktop version of LastPass currently shares an Editors’ Choice award for password managers with Dashlane, which also has an Android app available.
A Password App for App Passwords
I like apps that are easy to use the minute I download them but LastPass is not one of these. When I first launched the app, I saw a blank screen and couldn’t figure out what to do—it turns out I was staring at an empty Vault, or a list of saved login information and other data. This is fine if you’ve already set up a LastPass account through the desktop client, but definitely not if the app is your first experience with LastPass.
Most of the features are buried in the pop-up accessible by tapping the Menu button on your device. A handy search bar (that I failed to notice for nearly a year) lurks at the very top of the screen.
On my Samsung Galaxy S III, I mostly use LastPass when signing up with a new app. To create a new password, you tap Generate Password (an irritating three clicks away from LastPass’ main screen), and then save it. Unfortunately, the save window is made with websites in mind, so instead of entering a name you’ll have to enter a URL (pro-tip: use the app’s name for the URL). Irritatingly, LastPass doesn’t let you enter the username you’ve chosen. All of these options are, weirdly, editable later but it’s a tedious process to create a password, save it, search for it, and then edit it.
You can organize saved passwords into groups, but you cannot create new groups from the app. Because this is a cloud-based service, LastPass quickly syncs your account information across PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iOS, Android, and a Dolphin HD browser plug-in. This alone is worth the price of admission.
The absolute best feature, and the one that makes up for all the app’s frustrations, is copy notifications. Many applications will clear your clipboard when you move between them, making it impossible to copy and paste passwords into apps. With LastPass, you can create shortcuts to copy your password and username from the notification tray by tapping and holding a saved password and then tapping Create Notification. Notably, the (slightly) better designed iOS version has nothing like this feature; it’s totally unique to Android.
Surfing The Web Securely, And More
LastPass doesn’t play nice with other browsers (note the exception for Dolphin HD, above) but you can get some of the experience with its built-in browser. Don’t get too excited, though: this browser is ugly and hard to use.
It does, however, let you autofill passwords and usernames, use pre-made forms for websites, generate a new password, and save all the login data you’ve entered. This last feature is particularly powerful, and almost makes up for the app’s tedious editing system. Don’t expect to be prompted to use any of these features. You can install a bookmarklet from the main app that appears to autofill some login information, but I wanted more control over this feature.
LastPass also offers free plugins to use with third-party browsers like Dolphin HD and Firefox Mobile.
Got a dirty secret to record on the fly? LastPass also lets you enter unclassifiable jibberish into a Secure Note; you can attach photos, PDFs, and voice memos as well. Your subscription comes with 50 MB of free encrypted storage. Pretty neat.
Better, But Lags Behind Desktop Experience
LastPass for Android is a solid app for securely storing passwords and other sensitive information. However, without automated actions and prompts, it’s not nearly as useable as the Editors’ Choice-winning desktop application. It’s also slavishly designed around web browsing, which is just one facet of the smartphone experience. LastPass needs to get smarter about apps for it to really take off on Android.
All that said, the core function of generating, storing, and retrieving passwords is invaluable. And as awkward as most of the app’s features are (and they are so awkward) Copy Notifications are simply perfect. If you’re already a LastPass user, $1 a month is a small price to pay for mobile password security.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc