This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Apple’s most popular product.

What’s happening

Apple’s iPhone 14 models come with login technology called passkeys designed to be as easy to use as passwords but much more secure. They work on all iPhones with iOS 16, and Google is building passkeys into Android and Chrome, too.

Why it matters

Passwords have long been plagued with problems, but starting with iPhones, tech giants have cooperated to design a practical alternative that reduces vulnerabilities and hacking risks.

What’s next

Passkeys will arrive on Macs with MacOS Ventura later in 2022, but support on websites and apps will be more gradual.

With iOS 16 and iPhone 14 smartphones now available, you can try out new login technology called passkeys that Apple, Google and Microsoft believe are superior to passwords. Passkeys are more secure than passwords at guarding access to websites, email and other online services, but still easy enough to use that they’ll become mainstream, they say.

Apple demonstrated passkeys at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. After their debut in iOS 16, they’ll arrive on MacOS Ventura this fall. They’re coming to Google’s Android and to its Chrome web browser later this year, too.

Passkeys replace the riot of keystrokes needed for passwords with a biometric check on our phones or computers. They also stop phishing attacks and banish the complications of two-factor authentication, like SMS codes, that are tied to the password system’s weaknesses.

Once you set up a passkey for a site or app, it’s stored on the phone or personal computer you used to set it up. Services like Apple’s iCloud Keychain or Google’s Chrome password manager can synchronize passkeys across your devices. Dozens of tech companies developed the open standards behind passkeys in a group called the FIDO Alliance, which announced passkeys in May.

“Now is the time to adopt them,” Garrett Davidson, an authentication technology engineer at Apple, said in a WWDC talk about passkeys. “With passkeys, not only is the user experience better than with passwords, but entire categories of security — like weak and reused credentials, credential leaks, and phishing — are just not possible anymore.”

You’ll have to spend a little time on the learning curve before passkeys meet their potential. You’ll also have to decide whether Apple, Microsoft or Google is the best option for you.

Here’s a look at the technology.

What’s a passkey?

It’s a new type of login credential consisting of a little bit of digital data your PC or phone uses when logging onto a server. You approve each use of that data with an authentication step, such as fingerprint check, face recognition, a PIN code or the login swipe pattern familiar to Android phone owners.

Here’s the catch: You’ll have to have your phone or computer with you to use passkeys. You can’t log onto a passkey-secured account from a friend’s computer without a device of your own.

Passkeys are synchronized and backed up. If you get a new Android phone or iPhone, Google and Apple can restore your passkeys. With end-to-end encryption, Google and Apple can’t see or alter the passkeys. Apple has designed its system to keep passkeys secure even if an attacker or Apple employee compromises your iCloud account.

How does setting up a passkey work?

It’s pretty simple. Use your fingerprint, face or another mechanism to authenticate a passkey when a website or app prompts you to set one up. That’s it.

These steps show how to log on with passkeys on an Android phone: Choose the passkey option, choose the appropriate passkey, and authenticate with a fingerprint ID. Face recognition also is an option on compatible phones. Google

How do I use a passkey to log in?

When using a phone, a passkey authentication option will appear when you try to log on to an app. Tap that option, use the authentication technique you’ve chosen, and you’re in.

For websites, you should see a passkey option by the username field. After that, the process is the same.

Once you have a passkey on your phone, you can use it to facilitate a login on another nearby device, like your laptop. Once you’re logged in, that website can offer to create a new passkey linked to the new device.

What if I need to log in to a website while using someone else’s computer?

You can use a passkey stored on your phone to log onto another nearby device, like a laptop you’re borrowing. The login screen on the borrowed laptop will have an option to present a QR code you can scan with your phone. You’ll use Bluetooth to ensure your phone and the computer are close by, then let you use a fingerprint or face ID check on your own phone. Your phone then will communicate with the computer over a secure connection to complete the authentication process.

Why are passkeys more secure than passwords?

Passkeys employ a time-tested security foundation called public key cryptography for login operation. That’s the same technology that protects your credit card number when you type it into a website. The beauty of the system is that a website only has to base its passkey record on your public key, data that’s designed to be openly visible. The private key used to set up a passkey is stored only on your own device. There’s no database of password data that a hacker can steal.

Another big benefit is that passkeys block phishing attempts. “Passkeys are intrinsically linked to the website or app they were set up for, so users can never be tricked into using their passkey on the wrong website,” Ricky Mondello, who oversees authentication technology at Apple, said in a WWDC video.

Using passkeys requires that you have your device handy and be able to unlock it, a combination that offers the protection of two-factor authentication but with less bother than SMS codes. And with passkeys, nobody can snoop over your shoulder to watch you type your password.

When will I see passkeys?

Passkeys have begun emerging this year.

Passkeys are in iOS 16 now and will arrive in iPadOS 16 and MacOS Ventura when Apple releases that software this fall. Google will bring passkey support to Android software by the end of 2022 for developer testing, Google authentication leader Mark Risher said in May, and the company has begun testing passkeys in the Canary version of Chrome for those willing to try that unstable test version of the browser. Passkey support should arrive in Chrome and Chrome OS at the same time. Microsoft plans support in Windows in 2022.

That’s just enabling technology, though. Apps and websites also must be updated to support passkeys. Some developers will be eager to take advantage of the security benefits, but many will move more slowly. Even if passkeys catch on fast, don’t expect passwords to disappear.

One company that’s already added passkey support, travel booking service Kayak, added passkey support to its app and website this week. Expect to see lots more gradually adopt it.

Will websites and apps require me to use passkeys?

It’s unlikely you’ll be forced to use passkeys while the technology is new and unfamiliar. Websites and apps you already use will likely add passkey support alongside existing password methods.

If you need to log in to a friend’s computer that doesn’t have your passkey, scanning a QR code will let your phone handle the authentication process. Apple

When you sign up for a new service, passkeys may be presented as the preferred option. Eventually, they may become the only option.

Will passkeys lock me into Apple or Google ecosystems?

Not exactly. Although passkeys are anchored to one company’s technology suite, you’ll be able to bridge out of, say, Apple’s world to use passkeys with Microsoft’s or Google’s.

“Users can sign in on a Google Chrome browser that’s running on Microsoft Windows, using a passkey on an Apple device,” Vasu Jakkal, a Microsoft leader of security and identity technology, said in a May blog post.

Passkey advocates also are working on technology to let people migrate their passkeys from one tech domain to another, Apple and Google said.

How are password managers involved with passkeys?

Password managers play an increasingly important role in generating, storing and synchronizing passwords. But passkeys will likely be anchored to your phone or personal computer, not your password manager, at least in the eyes of tech giants like Google and Apple.

That could change, though.

“We expect a natural evolution to an architecture that allows third-party passkey managers to plug in, and for portability among ecosystems,” Google’s Risher said.

He anticipates that passkeys will evolve to lower barriers between ecosystems and to accommodate third-party passkey managers. “This has been a discussion point since early in this industry push.”

Indeed, password manager Dashlane is testing passkey support and plans to release it broadly in coming weeks. “Users can store their passkeys for multiple sites and benefit from the same convenience and security they already have with their passwords,” the company said in an Aug. 31 blog post. 

1Password maker AgileBits just joined the FIDO Alliance, and DashLane, Bitwarden and LastPass already are members.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Cyber Week deals: $799 MacBook Air, up to $900 off MacBook Pro, $1,799 Mac Studio, more

Save up to $900 on Apple products. AppleInsider may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made through links on our site. Top Apple deals remain in effect after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with savings of up to $1,700 off and discounts on nearly every Apple product line, plus home ...

View more: Cyber Week deals: $799 MacBook Air, up to $900 off MacBook Pro, $1,799 Mac Studio, more

Apex Legends Mobile Wins iPhone Game Of The Year Ahead Of Underworld Update

The award-winning mobile game's latest update is bringing fan-favorite Revenant into the fray alongside a chilling new battle pass.

View more: Apex Legends Mobile Wins iPhone Game Of The Year Ahead Of Underworld Update

Linux on Apple Silicon Macs Is Now Good Enough for Gaming

Justin Duino / How-To Geek Even though the M1 and M2 chips in modern Macs are based on ARM processor designs, they aren’t like any other ARM designs. That has made porting Linux to new Macs a difficult challenge, but there has been some impressive progress recently. Much of ...

View more: Linux on Apple Silicon Macs Is Now Good Enough for Gaming

Why this new Apple Watch Ultra app made me want to go diving

The Apple Watch Ultra is an adventure smartwatch, with special features aimed at hikers, trekkers, outdoors enthusiasts, and divers. Apple collaborated with Huish Outdoors to create the newly released Oceanic+ app, which in combination with the sensors on the Apple Watch Ultra, turns it into a fully functioning, certified dive ...

View more: Why this new Apple Watch Ultra app made me want to go diving

iPhone 15’s Image Sensor Would Get Major Upgrades From Sony

Apple seems to bring numerous upgrades to the iPhone 15 series all models, and the latest report from a reliable source suggests some massive advancements to the image sensor. According to a report from Nikkei, Next iPhone from Apple is going to retain the newest image sensors from Sony, which ...

View more: iPhone 15’s Image Sensor Would Get Major Upgrades From Sony

Finding System Preferences & Using System Settings in MacOS Ventura

System Preferences has been replaced by System Settings in MacOS Ventura, and it’s quite a change not only in name but in how the system control panels are navigated, and also where many preferences, settings, and toggles are located. You can access the new System Settings from the  ...

View more: Finding System Preferences & Using System Settings in MacOS Ventura

The Best iPhone Apps of 2022, According to Apple

Apple Today, Apple announced the 2022 App Store Award winners. The company highlighted 16 apps that “inspired users to engage more deeply with the world, expand their imaginations, and stay connected to friends and loved ones.” Award categories include apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. ...

View more: The Best iPhone Apps of 2022, According to Apple

The best Christmas apps for everyone in 2022

The holidays are upon us, and whether you’re decking the halls with fresh holly and ivy, donning an ugly Christmas sweater, singing carols, or just playing up Santa’s visit for your kids, we’ve found a bunch of Christmas apps to get you in the holiday spirit. Most are free, though some ...

View more: The best Christmas apps for everyone in 2022

iPhone 14 Pro shipments to be 15-20 million lower than expected due to supply issues

Apple Music reveals chart toppers for 2022

App Store Awards 2022 Winners: The Best Apps And Games Of the Year

Apple Fears iPhone Supply Bottleneck Following Recent Foxconn Protests

Apple Pay set for South Korean launch on November 30

Kensington's new SlimBlade Pro Trackball is ergonomic & ambidextrous

Here Are the Best iPhone Apps of 2022, According to Apple

Apple Music gets the Spotify Wrapped treatment with Replay

Apple’s MetalFX Technology Is the Start of the Mac Gaming Revolution

Kuo: Apple to ship 15-20 million fewer iPhone 14 Pro models than expected in Q4

Apple iPhone Production Rocked by Chaos at Foxconn China Plant

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Sales Are in Big Trouble Due to Foxconn Factory Protests

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News