Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Password management app LastPass has some good news. “Now you can get started on your phone, free!” the company announced in a blog post. But that’s some careful wording right there.
Most of the internet was ready to play along too. Only a few sites called it for what it is: LastPass is free to download and use on your smartphones, but you will be starting from scratch. The phone app won’t be able to sync data with your existing LastPass account on your favorite browser.
If you want to securely sync all your passwords, you’ll need to pony up for a LastPass Premium account, like always.
What The New Feature Really Is
Under the new philosophy, LastPass is categorizing itself according to devices. To this end, it has divided devices into three broad categories: smartphones, tablets, computers.
This is how LastPass has traditionally worked:
- If you had LastPass installed on your PC, it would work with any browser on a computer, whether Windows, Mac or Linux. However, your passwords wouldn’t sync to your mobile devices.
- If you wanted to use LastPass on your smartphone, you got a 15-day trial, after which you had to pay $12/year for LastPass Premium.
Under the new rules, this is how LastPass now works:
- If you have LastPass installed on your PC, it will work with any browser on a computer, whether Windows, Mac or Linux. However, this doesn’t give you password syncing on mobile devices.
- If you create a new account and install LastPass on your smartphone, it will sync passwords across all other smartphones, irrespective of whether you’re on an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone. However, this doesn’t give you password syncing on PCs or tablets.
- If you create a new account and install LastPass on a tablet, it will sync passwords across all other tablets, irrespective of whether you’re on an iPad or Android tablet. However, this doesn’t give you password syncing on PCs or smartphones.
- Importantly, it has to be a new account. You can’t use an existing free LastPass account for this.
- The device category where you get started with your new account is the category in which LastPass will remain free for you.
- If you want to sync LastPass across your PC, smartphone and tablet, you get a 15-day trial, after which you will have to pay $12/year to use it.
Who Benefits From the Changes?
The new LastPass rules make it an ideal, free password manager for mobile-only users. However, it’s important to note that it caters almost exclusively to new LastPass users. If you’ve already set up LastPass on your computer, you’ll need to get LastPass Premium to use it on your phone.
Apart from this specific type of user — a mobile-only non-member — there isn’t anyone who actually benefits from LastPass’s change in rules.
At best, an existing user could set up a second LastPass account for their smartphone, delinked from the existing account, and start saving passwords anew on it. A painful, painful experience. You’d be better off paying the $12/year for LastPass Premium.
Should You Get LastPass?
If you haven’t been using LastPass or another password management system already, then yes! Remembering passwords is a pain, and almost everything requires a new username and password now.
Plus, LastPass is among the more secure options for password managers. Despite its recent hack, experts felt it wasn’t necessary to change your master password because the company’s “hashing with salt” technique kept people secure. Ryan did a great job of explaining how LastPass works and why it’s safe even with a breach.
You can read our interview with LastPass CEO Joe Siegrist to know more about LastPass and password security.
What Should Existing Users Do?
If you’re a free LastPass user on browsers, then nothing has changed for you. Your options remain what they always were: either upgrade to LastPass Premium and get your passwords synced on your phone, or stick with what you have.
LastPass Premium is actually a pretty good deal—at a dollar a month, your passwords will be protected, remembered, and you can automatically change passwords in case of a hack.
Existing users desperate for a free workaround could try exporting your usernames and passwords from your current account, and then importing them into your new account. This way, you can have a copy of your LastPass Vault with you on the go, without actually using it to sign into sites.
However, this just builds your initial database, it won’t keep you synced. Really, at a dollar a month, the Premium plan is a better deal. LastPass is available across all the major platforms and devices, including portable versions. Go to the official site to download LastPass.
What Are The Alternatives?
LastPass isn’t the only password management suite, of course. There are plenty of other options available across multiple platforms.
Probably the most well-known LastPass competitor, 1Password is just as good in almost every way. The only problem is its price. 1Password is far, far more expensive than LastPass, and you have to purchase it for every intended platform.
The Windows and Mac Bundle costs $70 alone; and then you’ll need to spend more on iOS and Android pro licenses. That said, there’s no ongoing subscription to pay for, so it might be suitable if you’d rather pay for your password management solution outright.
One of the newer password managers that gets talked about a lot these days, Dashlane is a slick and cross-platform tool for managing login credentials. Its new automatic password-changing capabilities are impressive, and the interface is generally much easier and user-friendly for newcomers than LastPass. But again, when it comes to price, it pales in comparison. Dashlane costs over thrice as much as LastPass, clocking in at $39.99 per year for the premium cross-platform license.
The only truly free password manager is, unsurprisingly, an open-source one. The interface is clunky, the mobile apps are the work of third parties, and it syncs across devices using third-party cloud storage services like Dropbox.
Sure, KeePass has some compelling features, like the portable app and its many plugins, but for some it just won’t be compelling and refined enough.
Do You Know Many Mobile-Only Users?
The new offer by LastPass brings up an interesting point: Are there enough mobile-only users to warrant a password manager solution just for phones, which doesn’t sync to desktops? Do you know many mobile-only users and would you recommend LastPass?