McAfee SafeKey (for iPhone) review

McAfee LiveSafe users can enjoy free access to this tool for creating and managing passwords on their iOS devices, but some quirks hold this app back.
Photo of McAfee SafeKey (for iPhone)

One of the best ways to secure your identity online is to use complex, unique passwords for every app, website. That’s simply too many passwords for one person to remember, which is why password managers like McAfee SafeKey (free download) are so important. If you have a McAfee LiveSafe subscription ($79.99 per year), the free SafeKey app can help you keep track of all your passwords and more, but it’s not the most intuitive experience on iPhone.

Using SafeKey
First things first: if you’ve used LastPass for iPhone, then you’ve used SafeKey. McAfee wisely chose to partner with a company with great experience in password management on iOS rather than roll their own app. You must have a LiveSafe account, however; a LastPass account will not grant you access to SafeKey. It’s also worth noting that LastPass is free for use on desktop browsers, and costs a mere $1 per month on mobile.

Once installed and authorized with LiveSafe, you can start entering login credentials for websites, bank accounts, credit cards, databases, email, instant messaging, and Wi-Fi passwords. SafeKey also supports FormFill Profiles—which automatically fill certain forms with your information—in addition to driver’s license information, insurance information, memberships, passport information, your social security number, and encrypted notes for general information.

SafeKey and Websites
You can either add website login information manually, or use the built-in SafeKey browser to capture data you’ve already entered on a website. I was pleasantly surprised how well this feature worked on my iPhone 5c. After entering a password and username for Amazon, one tap created a new entry in SafeKey.

In fact that auto-capture system worked too well, in some cases. While it did correctly nab my credit card number, it entered it into a field with an arcane name that I couldn’t change. I also didn’t like that I had to enter the Settings menu in order to launch the browser—which is an awkward, no-frills affair.

You can also generate new passwords, with options for length, the characters used, and a handy “pronouncability” option. You can either copy the generated password for use in a browser, or save it for later. Annoyingly, if you save a password you cannot enter critical information like the name of the service which will use the password. Instead, you have to head back to your list of passwords, choose the correct generated password entry (if you can find it) and edit the login information.

You can access all your stored passwords and notes from the McAfee LiveSafe website, as well as any other smartphone with an authorized copy of SafeKey.

Apps and SafeKey
The SafeKey browser also boasts automatic website logins, a feature which worked swimmingly. SafeKey cannot automatically log you into application but you can quickly copy and paste the username and password between apps using iOS 7′s multitasking feature. This works, but I really liked LastPass’ Copy Notifications feature for Android. Unfortunately, Apple won’t allow anything like that on iPhone.

The tedious process of generating new passwords means that while you can use SafeKey to create passwords for applications, it’s a bit of a chore. In general, SafeKey (and thus LastPass) are overly focused on web logins when that is a tiny part of the smartphone experience. Hopefully future versions will be more relevant to the way we currently use iPhones.

Good For McAfee Users
Since SafeKey and LastPass are so similar on iOS, they share all the same strengths and weaknesses. Being able to create and retrieve passwords on the fly is fantastic, but the limitations that iOS places on apps does mean that some features aren’t well realized. The browser is awkward to user and to access, and the stored information (including captured logins) are inflexibly arranged making it difficult to edit and retrieve your information in a way that makes sense to you.

If you have a McAfee LiveSafe account, then getting SafeKey is a no-brainer, and if you’re considering purchasing LiveSafe it’s definitely a point in the service’s favor. If you’re simply looking for a password manager and aren’t interested in everything else McAfee has to offer, then you’re probably better off with the cheaper Editors’ Choice winners LastPass or Dashlane on your iPhone.


Verdict
McAfee LiveSafe users can enjoy free access to this tool for creating and managing passwords on their iOS devices, but some quirks hold this app back.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc