iPhone Gems: All 22 Wallet Apps, Reviewed
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LockBox (Free) and LockBox Pro ($2) are the same general app in two flavors: a free version that offers a basic level of encryption and is limited to two fields per entry, and a “Pro” version that offers stronger 3DES encryption and unlimited fields per entry. It also appears that the free version will no longer be in active development beyond basic bug-fixes.
LockBox provides PIN-based (numeric) log on security, and a fairly general free-form storage model. Information and notes fields are supported, but fields cannot be named and are all general text-based fields with no validation or field masking capabilities. A category icon can be assigned to each item for easier identification, but serve no other purpose than providing a graphical representation of item types on the main screen.
While LockBox has a relatively nice graphical interface, it provides nothing remarkable in the way of features. The free version is compelling in that it’s the best of the standalone free apps that we’ve reviewed, while the $2 “Pro” version offers little to distinguish it from competing apps. iLounge Ratings: C+ (Free) / C (Pro).
Secret Safe ($10) is another wallet app that is designed for storage of a multitude of different item types, ranging from credit card information and passwords to drivers licenses and emergency number information; it even stores such esoteric items as TV calibration settings. Secret Safe takes a slightly different approach from other applications by actually designating two distinct storage areas: a public area is available, and does not require a password for storing non-sensitive information such as emergency phone numbers, automobile information, general notes, and the like. When starting Secret Safe, you are given a choice of entering either the Private or Public areas.
Entering the private area will prompt you for your password, or to create a password the first time you access it, while the public area does not require a password. One feature of Secret Safe that we found interesting is that the password entry dialog shows a password strength indicator, offering the user some visual feedback as to how strong their password is. This approach is definitely preferable to apps such as Safe which simply force the user into using a minimum-length password, since the user can use a shorter, less secure password, but the application will make it reasonably clear that the password choice is relatively weak.
Beyond the available item types, Secret Safe does not provide any customizable fields or any kind of folder/category structure, although items are grouped and sorted within the main application screen by item type. This is a fixed organization that cannot be changed, although Secret Safe does provide a full-text search, allowing you to quickly find an item based on any of the fields in that item, including hidden fields.
Despite the fixed-field layout, Secret Safe does provide contextually-appropriate fields wherever possible, so numeric fields show a numeric entry, date fields show a date browser, and masked/hidden fields are fully supported for information such as passwords and PINs. Further, field validation and formatting is also provided where appropriate, such that credit numbers, for instance, show as four distinct four-digit groupings rather than a single long number.
For configuration options, Secret Safe provides the ability to adjust the font size and move your items between the private and public areas. Note that as the settings screen indicates, information in the “Public Secrets” area is not encrypted in any way, which is not unreasonable, although the name “Public Secrets” seems to be an oxymoron.
For users looking for a simple, straightforward app in which to store a variety of different information types, Secret Safe would be a great choice but for its $10 asking price, which puts it in the same price category as best-of-breed apps like eWallet. With no desktop synchronization capabilities and very limited customization options, it falls short of being recommendable simply based on the price, but if it was less expensive, it would be worthy of consideration. iLounge Rating: C+.
Firebox ($5) is a wallet application intended to store multiple information types in a more free-form field structure. A top-level folder structure defines the field layout for each type of item, and a few sample folders are provided to get you started. No other folder organization is supported, meaning that these top-level folders basically form categories for each item type, rather than a method for organization classes of items, such as “business” or “personal.” Further, no means is provided to view ALL items in a single listing.
All item fields in Firebox are generic text with no context-specific field types or field validation, and no hidden or masked fields are supported, meaning that secure information is displayed when viewing items alongside other types of info.
Firebox provides a slightly different listing view from other application, in that each item category can have fields assigned to either “list” or “detail” views. Fields assigned to “list” view are displayed in the main item listing screen, while those assigned to “detail” view are only displayed when an item is actually opened. When the layout is customized to add new fields, they are added to the “detail” view by default, and must be dragged up to be added to the list view. We found this to be a bit non-intuitive, as it was not obvious right away that fields could be dragged between the two sections.
Firebox enforces a minimum six-character password length which is not in any way user configurable. Further, no intruder detection functionality is supported. Ultimately, this app provides very little for its $5 price tag compared to some of the alternatives available. iLounge Rating: C.
Like 1Password, SecretBook ($10) is another application that serves as an iPhone extension of a popular Mac desktop app. The Mac version of the SecretBook desktop app is one of the more popular Mac-based choices for data entry and has been on the Mac software scene for a few years now. The iPhone version is simply an extension of this, syncing with your main SecretBook database on your Mac via Wi-Fi.
SecretBook can be run either with or without the desktop companion app. When you first start SecretBook on your iPhone, it asks whether you want to sync with SecretBook on your Mac, or create a standalone database on your iPhone. This choice is somewhat permanent; if you decide to create a local database you will not be able to later sync it up to your Mac should you decide to purchase the SecretBook desktop app without reinstalling the iPhone application and losing all of your data in the process. This is in contrast to 1Password, which does not provide this either-or choice, but merely a sync option for whatever data you actually have in the iPhone version.
Note that if you choose to synchronize with the desktop SecretBook database, you will need to enter your desktop password into the SecretBook for iPhone app, which then becomes the password you will use to access SecretBook on the iPhone. No separate PIN or password is available on the iPhone itself—the desktop password is used and if you decide to change the password on the desktop, you will need to re-enter it on the iPhone the next time you sync, and this will then be the new password used on the iPhone as well. In fact, if you are synchronizing with the desktop version of SecretBook, you cannot change the password on the iPhone version at all—you must change it on the desktop and then sync your database back to your iPhone.
By itself, the SecretBook iPhone app is absolutely nothing special. A basic folder structure is available, and fields are customizable in the sense that each and every new item begins as a blank slate that you have to add your own custom fields to—no templates are provided for different item types, so every new item is a custom item.
Note that the Mac desktop version does provide field templates for basic categories such as banking, credit cards, licenses and web sites, however even if you are syncing with your Mac version, these field templates do not appear anywhere in the iPhone app except for within those existing items that were originally created with them on the desktop.
As a standalone application, SecretBook seems absurdly overpriced at $10, however it should be noted that the Mac version of SecretBook sells separately for $25, bringing the total cost of a two-part solution to $35. By contrast, although the 1Password iPhone app is free, the 1Password desktop application will cost you $40 by itself. That having been said, however, while SecretBook is an excellent app on the Mac desktop, the iPhone version is seriously anemic by comparison. If you’re an existing user of SecretBook looking to carry your data around with you for reference purposes, then it could well be worth the $10 asking price. However, it’s far too limited and feature-poor to be even worth considering as a standalone app. If you’re using the desktop app, it rates a B-, if not, a C-, for an average rating of C. iLounge Rating: C.
SecureNotes ($7) is a free-form application designed to securely store free-form notes, and appears to have been designed as a secure replacement for the iPhone’s built-in “Notes” application, right down to the yellow background and Marker Felt font choice.
Like the iPhone’s own Notes app, this one is relatively straightforward: you assign a password, log in, and create notes. The only additional feature is the ability to categorize your notes, and categories can be added and removed, however existing categories cannot be renamed.
Existing notes can be sent out via e-mail in the same way as the built-in iPhone notes app, and a search feature is available, but this unfortunately only searches note titles and not content—an odd omission when you consider that the layout simply uses the first line of each note as the title, rather than a separate “Title” field.
As a simple secure note-keeping app, this works reasonably well, but seems a bit pricey for what you’re actually getting in the package. iLounge Rating: C.
Cards (Free) is one of only three free wallet applications available on the App Store at this point. For the price tag, it offers reasonable, albeit very basic functionality.
Cards is designed to store credit card, ATM card, and bank account information only, and provides fixed fields for these three item types, with no ability to support customized fields for either these existing item types or any ability to create new item types. Existing fields include information such as standard credit/ATM card or bank account information, PINs, customer service phone numbers and a security question/answer.
Within each item, cards does provide context-appropriate fields, with a numeric entry pad for numeric fields, a date browser for date fields, and hidden/masked fields for information such as CVV (credit card security codes), PIN numbers and security question answer fields. These fields are masked when viewing a record, and you must actually enter “edit” mode to see their content. Note that these fields are also not masked during actual data entry, only after the record is actually saved. Interestingly, multiple PIN numbers are supported.
Cards does not support any kind of intruder detection, meaning that somebody could load up the application and repeatedly try to guess your password. This is further complicated by the fact that the application doesn’t actually provide any means for changing your password—if you decide you want to use a new password, you basically have to uninstall and reinstall the application, losing all of your actual data in the process.
As a free application for storing only bank account and credit card information, Cards would be a reasonable choice for the price were it not for the absence of any kind of password management capabilities. iLounge Rating: C-.
Mecrets Password Manager ($10) is one of the more expensive App Store wallet offerings. The most distinguishing feature of Mecrets is that it offers a choice of using a standard password or a graphical login option in the form of a combination dial that you manipulate via the touch screen.
This combination dial log in seems like more of a gimmick than a practical feature, however, as the dial is quite sensitive and its far too easy to enter the wrong numbers and have to start over again. Although you can switch to a normal text-based password entry, it’s important to note that if you have specified a password using the combination dial, the text-based version of that password is not simply the numbers but actually the numbers and punctuation that is normally displayed when you are dialling in a password. For instance, a combination dial password of 40, 30 and 20 would be entered as “40, 30, 20” and not “403020.” This does not appear to be documented anywhere in the application.
Like other wallet apps, Mecrets offers basic storage of different types of information, although its design appears to be more focused on storing passwords, with basic field categories for login, password, URL and note on most items, and other fields such as credit card numbers simply being added as generic additional fields as required.
Field types themselves are either text, password, or note, and in all cases are text-only, with the only difference being that a “password” field offers the ability to automatically generate a password, and the note field is a multi-line text field. Password fields can also be masked by selecting the “Hide Password” option when using a password-type field.
A basic top-level folder structure is provided to organize items into groups, with some initial defaults provided. These can be renamed or deleted and new groups can be added. Note that deleting a group does not delete any of the items it contains—they will simply revert to the default “Unfiled” group.
Mecrets also offers another somewhat unique feature compared to other apps in the form of a password generator. Tapping “Generate Password” on a password type field will automatically fill it in with a randomly generated password. You can specify the number and type of characters that the password generator will use through the Mecrets configuration panel found in the iPhone’s main “Settings” app.
The settings screen also provides the option to save the Mecrets password so you will not be prompted for it each time you log on. This is a useful feature if you want to store your information without using a password, although perhaps defeating the purpose of a secure app.
Mecrets is a reasonable enough app, but its only distinguishing features are a password generator that only some users will find useful, and a graphical login screen that most users will likely find annoying once the novelty wears off. Neither of these features justify the $10 price tag when compared to other applications that are available for the same price or less, however. iLounge Rating: C-.
My Eyes Only ($9) is another generic information manager with a few distinguishing features compared to the competition. Most notable among these is a slightly more sophisticated password management function, including the ability to set a password hint and a password recovery question in the event that you forget your actual password. The password hint is optional in this case, while the password recovery question is not.
Further, My Eyes Only provides the ability to only prompt for a password when attempting to view your item details, rather than each time you start the app.
Beyond this feature, however, My Eyes Only is actually somewhat more limited in terms of the types of items that it can store and its general interface. No field customization is available and items are limited to logins, credit cards, financial accounts, social security numbers and general note-type items. No folder/category structure is available beyond filtering by item type—such as showing only credit cards or logins. Further, the actual item entry/edit screens attempt to provide a graphical representation of the item type that the user enters the information directly into.
However, while this looked visually appealing at first glance, it quickly becomes cumbersome to work with due to a less-than-optimal use of screen space. While the graphical representation is nice, we greatly preferred eWallet’s approach of simply using it for display purposes and providing a more effective edit screen for actually entering or editing the information. My Eyes Only is another one of these apps which might be a reasonable choice at a lower price tag, but for $9 it falls far short of expectations, particularly when compared to the competition. iLounge Rating: C-.
Safe ($6) is an offering with a reasonably polished user interface and a fixed set of non-customizable item types. Safe can be used to store credit cards, financial accounts, user accounts/passwords and general notes. No field customization is available, and all existing pre-defined fields are generic text with no contextually-appropriate data entry or validation.
Safe attempts to enforce tighter security by insisting that you use a password of at least eight characters, however this is not user-configurable in any way and is a feature that some users will no doubt find annoying, particularly on a portable device such as the iPhone.
A basic single-level folder hierarchy is available to organize your items, and one of four icons may be assigned, which are labeled private, business, favorites and top priority. However in reality these labels do not appear to correspond to anything other than merely being suggestions.
One slightly unique feature that Safe offers is that if you forget your password you can delete all of your data from the main password entry screen and start over without having to actually remove and reinstall the application. But that’s pretty much it. For the $6 asking price, Safe does not offer much more than its appearance; it’s a nice-looking application that is all style and very little substance. iLounge Rating: C-.
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