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The impending arrival of iCloud Keychain has thrown a spotlight onto apps used to store sensitive data, including our longtime favorite, 1Password. The folks behind lesser-known contender Passwarden have seized this opportunity to overhaul their own app, but they haven’t gone far enough quite yet. Like 1Password, Passwarden stores login, credit card, and other data with 256-bit AES encryption, with the option to sync it between OS X and iOS. Although the core functionality is largely the same, Passwarden’s freemium business model is a real kick in the teeth.
While the OS X app allows unlimited logins to be imported from Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, to get them onto mobile, users must first purchase "DataRecords" for each entry (10 for $0.99 or $9.99 for 120), then pay again to sync them to a mobile device ($0.99 monthly, $9.99 annually). Each new device the app is installed onto adds 10 free DataRecords to your account; Passwarden deceptively advertises the apps as free for one month, but that only applies to sync, leaving entries above the free allotment unavailable on iOS devices.
Passwarden can’t directly import 1Password databases, but even if it could, it would be equally expensive in the long run. At $14.99 for a year of sync with 500 DataRecords plus $39.96 for additional DataRecords, a database with nearly 1,000 records would cost $55 – and even more down the road. Passwarden is also not a particularly attractive app, painted in a gaudy shade of blue with uninspired typefaces. While 1Password syncs with both Dropbox and iCloud, Passwarden uses a proprietary server, which made us a little uncomfortable about storing our sensitive information.
The built-in web browser in Passwarden 2.0 is a welcome addition, but Darsoft has oddly limited its use to portrait mode only, handicapping an otherwise useful feature. On the plus side, the app offers the ability to use DataRecords for contacts, documents, or photos, although this could get extremely expensive quickly if users aren’t careful.
The bottom line. Dubious microtransaction-centric business model aside, Passwarden pales in comparison to rivals like 1Password, with a UI makeover that doesn’t go nearly far enough.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Free to install for iOS or OS X. Built-in web browser with automatic login. Universal build for iPad. Stores contacts, documents, or photos (requires sufficient DataRecords).
In-app sync and DataRecords make this more expensive in the long run than competing apps. Built-in web browser locked in portrait mode. Unattractive user interface. Requires user login every time app is opened. Notification reminder spam to purchase DataRecords.