capsule review

DataVault Password Manager for iPhone and iPad

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder DataVault Password Manager

Your personal data can never be too secure, especially when it’s on a device that’s with you everywhere you go. DataVault Password Manager is a $10 app for both the iPhone and iPad that stores all of your bank account, credit card and log-in data, encrypting it using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). DataVault has Mac and Windows clients, too, which it syncs with using MobileMe, WebDAV, WiFi and file sharing.

With so many different websites, web applications, and services, it’s difficult to create strong passwords for each, remember them, and enter them on an iPhone or iPad keyboard. DataVault tries to make this easy by storing all of your passwords, and generating secure ones, too. DataVault allows you to store almost any kind of data you want, but accessing the app from Ascendo requires entering a password to keep out anyone who might be using your phone.

Filed Away: To make it easy to manage your secure data, DataVault Password Manager features a number of folders and sub-folders to illustrate all the things you cans store in the app.

DataVault tries to make managing and finding your data easy by organizing it into hierarchical folders (such as “Business,” which contains “Inventory” and “Credit Cards”). DataVault comes pre-populated with a a number of folders and sub-folders, which helps show what people can do with the app, but it’s also a bit overwhelming when you use it for the first time. Nevertheless, the folders work well enough for organizing and finding data. One minor complaint with the search feature, though, is it only searches data titles, rather than within the item itself.

The app includes a large selection of templates for data, such as a checking account, credit card, login, and insurance information. That helps make entering data a bit quicker.

Because DataVault has Mac and Windows clients, the iOS app can sync with them. (Note that I didn’t test the desktop clients for this review.) The app can sync over a Wi-Fi network or a WebDAV server, if you use services like Box.net. This is a bit limiting, especially because the similar 1Password app will sync over-the-air using a free Dropbox account.

I did encounter what I consider a security risk with DataVault. If I was using DataVault, switched to another app, and then switched back to it using iOS’s multitasking tray, the app shows whatever view was last on screen for a split-second before bringing up the password field. This is even worse on the iPad version because the screen lingers for so much larger. For an app whose entire point is securing data, that’s not good.

I found DataVault’s user interface frustrating, too, with some faults more glaring than others. The app appears to follow iOS convention, but it deviates in maddening ways. For example, when you tap on a data item on an iPhone, the item’s detail view doesn’t slide in from the right—it simply appears, without any animation. The detail view has what appears to be a navigation bar at the top, but the back button—which should be an arrow-shaped button with a label that says what you’ll be brought back to when you tap it—is a normal button that says “Back.” Oddly, when you do tap the back button, the previous view does slide into place.

There are other oddities, too: after moving to an item’s detail view, then moving back, its row stays highlighted. Especially annoying for iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S users is the fact that DataVault’s icons are blurry on the Retina display.

While DataVault certainly works for its intended purpose—the odd bug aside—I didn’t find the app especially enjoyable to use. Other alternatives—the aforementioned 1Password—may be worth your consideration instead.

[Kyle Baxter writes and publishes the Mac weblog TightWind.]

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder DataVault Password Manager

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