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App Review: Safe Wallet
by Adam Marks on Monday, Apr 25, 2011

While many people probably only use just a handful of passwords for all their online sites, most security experts will advice you that this is a bad idea and highly recommend varying your passwords at every opportunity.  Of course, it can be quite a challenge to just keeping up with all those passwords, and the last thing you want to resort to is having to write them down on a piece of paper or keeping them all in an unencrypted file on your phone or computer.  There are already a number of secure password managers in the webOS App Catalog and another just got added in the form on Safe Wallet by SBSH Mobile Software.  For $3.99, you can download the app that promises to be "the most secure password manager designed to help you manage all your passwords and private information in one organized secure solution."  And the app description even boasts that "it is also available for Windows, Mac and all other leading mobile platforms, letting you easily sync your passwords with your home PC or other mobile devices."  Syncing your data to a PC is an important feature for password manager apps and one of major downfalls of the webOS version of old-time PalmOS favorite SplashID.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.  Let's first take a look at the app itself

Upon loading up the app for the first time, you are presented with a blank screen with two buttons on the bottom. The first thing that you realize about the app is that there is a distinct lack of instructions or documentation about how things work.  However, with just a little bit of exploration, it's pretty easy to figure your way around.  Pressing the button on the bottom left will bring you to sync mode, with a link to give you more info on the SafeWallet for Desktop app (but more on the later), while the button on the bottom-right will allow you to create a Wallet.  So what is a wallet?  Well, Safe Wallet is designed to allow you to have multiple groupings of passwords, each as a separate "Wallet" with a separate password.  Within each wallet there are "folders" that allow you to organize the types of passwords, which themselves are stored as "cards".  But the first step is to create a wallet by giving it a name and establishing the password you will use to access all the passwords within that wallet.  

 

Upon creating the Wallet, you will see two default folders called "Business" and "Personal", along with 2 sets of icons along the bottom row.  After some investigating, you realize that the icons on the left let you switch between viewing all your password cards or just your favorites within the wallet, while the set of icons on the right allow you to create either a new Password Card or a new Folder.  When you create a new card, it will put it in the folder you are currently viewing (or the root folder if you haven't selected one yet), so make sure you are in the correct place before creating your new card since it does not seem to allow you to move it to a different folder within the app.  In addition, you are required to select one of 24 existing templates when creating a new Password Card, such as Bank Account, Credit Card or Web Login.  While the template is just a starting point, you do have quite a bit of flexibility in terms of the data you can put in, including deleting unneeded fields in the templates and adding any number of new fields (called properties) to the entry.  You can also select one of almost 300 different icons to attach to that entry. 

Once you view the Password card that you just created, you will see all the information you just inputted along with a variety of field-type specific icons along the right side of the screen.  Tapping on the text itself will copy it to the clipboard, while tapping on the icons will perform the context-specific action, such as launching the web browser for a URL, dialing a phone number, or showing/masking the entered password.  You can also tap the star on the top-right of the header to identify this as a "favorite" in the app.  The app also supports typing-to-search from within the app, so while within an open wallet, just start typing to search for a specific password entry with every folder in the current wallet (not just the folder you may currently be viewing).

At this point, that's the entire app.  We have navigated through everything available to you on the device and it’s a pretty simple interface.  I would have liked to see some display preferences to shrink down the font size or reduce the size of the field rows, but overall it’s a fairly effective and easy to use to app.  But it is definitely missing a number of key features. There is no functionality to import an existing database from another program and seemingly no way to backup or restore your databases directly from the on-device app.  While Safe Wallet will be supported in the next update to the homebrew Save/Restore app (in its encrypted format), there is no other backup functionality in the app.  This is where we need to focus on the Safe Wallet for Desktop app. 

Despite advertising the fact that the app supports desktop sync, nowhere does it point out that the Desktop app is a separate paid application and is not included with the cost of the mobile app.  For $14.99 (although they are running a 50% off limited time sale through May 20), you need to purchase the app for Windows or Mac in order to open up the desktop sync functionality which works over a local Wi-Fi connection (and was extremely easy to set up and synced almost instantaneously).  Yet the desktop app is more than just a front-end to sync your data.  It is actually a pretty fully-featured app that will allow you to view your passwords, edit/add your wallets, move password cards between folders, backup your wallets (in an encrypted format) and import data from other database programs or just from a .csv file.  There is even an option to sync your data to the cloud via Dropbox if you are comfortable having your sensitive data stored in the cloud.  Before you dive in and purchase they desktop app, they will allow you to download a fully-functional version for a 12-day trial. This will allow you to initially set up your passwords on a computer or import from another program, so you don't need to manually enter them all in on the device.

One quick note around importing data from another data source: unlike creating a new password card from a build-in template, imported cards will not keep the field label-properties from the original exporting program.  So, while you may have a label for "username" or "password" or "URL" in your original database, when it gets imported into Safe Wallet, it will be reset just to "Field1", "Field2", etc., and will therefore not provide you the functionality mentioned above with the tappable field-specific icons.  You are able to edit the field types of imported records from within the Desktop app (this is not available from the mobile app), you would need to do it for each field within each password card.  You might be better off just re-entered all your data from the start.

It is also important to note that in addition to webOS, Safe Wallet is supported across multiple platforms, including iPhone, Android, Blackberry, S60, Windows and Mac, so you are able to take your passwords with you if you decide to switch platforms or have multiple devices

Closing Thoughts

On its own, the webOS Safe Wallet app is a competent app that does exactly what it states: it will allow you to store your passwords in a secure manner.  It still needs a lot of polish, but it works.  I hope to see additional features added in the future, including a time-out option that logs you out of your wallet after a certain period of time (this is available on the Desktop version and should be added immediately to the mobile app) or something like SecuStore's ability to load a website and auto-insert your username and password.  And while it appears to be cheaper than almost all of its competitors in the App Catalog, you really need to purchase the Desktop companion to be able to utilize this app in the way that you would expect a Password Manager app to work.  In fact, the company would probably make more money by giving the mobile version of the app away for free to get people to purchase the Desktop App.  But used in conjunction, the Safe Wallet apps for webOS and the desktop provide you with a very satisfying experience of securely managing your passwords.  And with the Desktop app currently 50% off, it's currently just a few dollars more than its competition.