Passwords are a problem, and they have been for a long time. They’re hard to remember, and if they aren’t, they’re probably easy to guess. Sure, they’re better than nothing, but it isn’t too likely you’ll find anyone who actually enjoys using passwords.
Apple, along with Google and Microsoft, is aiming to address this issue by switching from passwords to passkeys, which are much easier to use and far more secure. It’s not going to be an instant fix, but it’s a step toward keeping your data safer.
What Is Apple Passkey?
We’re not going to get into the weeds here, but Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all committed to supporting the FIDO Standard, with replaces passwords with a safer alternative. Apple Passkey is Apple’s implementation of the standard.
Apple Passkey support debuts in iOS 16 and macOS 13. With Apple Passkey, you no longer need to enter a username and passwords to log into apps and websites that support the standard. The system is easier to use for us, but in the background, it’s much safer.
For each website, the system generates a unique key that is tied to your Apple Passkey. When you log into the site, you can authenticate via Face ID or Touch ID, just as you would for logging into your device. This passkey is stored in iCloud Keychain and is never visible to you, the user, so this prevents malicious websites from stealing your login information.
So, for users, Apple Passkey is much easier than dealing with traditional passwords, since all you need to do is authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID.
How to Set Up Apple Passkey
If you have already set up iCloud Keychain on your device and iCloud account, you’re more or less ready to start using Apple Passkey. Unless you don’t meet the minimum requirements for iCloud, you probably already have iCloud Keychain set up.
To turn on Apple Keychain or to make sure you have it enabled, tap Settings, then tap on your name at the top of the screen. From here, tap on iCloud, then Keychain.
Here, turn on iCloud Keychain if it isn’t already enabled. Prompted for your Apple ID username or password. Once you’ve entered these, iCloud Keychain will be enabled.
Where Can You Use Apple Passkey?
As you’ve seen in the above section, it doesn’t take much to get started with Apple Passkey, at least as a user. This doesn’t mean that you can instantly forget about all your passwords.
App and website developers need to add support for the FIDO Standard before you’re able to use Apple Passkey to log in. This isn’t going to happen right away. While Apple, Google, and Microsoft apps will likely get support for Apple Passkey quickly, third-party apps could take much longer to support this method of login.
What about logging in on other devices that don’t support iCloud Keychain? It’s actually fairly simple: The other device will generate and display a QR code that you scan with your iPhone or iPad. Then you just use Face ID to confirm that it’s actually you logging in.
Support for Apple passkey will grow with time. It won’t happen right away, but like Apple Pay, we’ll see support gradually increase over the coming years.
Recovering Your Apple Passkey
Since Apple Passkey uses iCloud Keychain, it should be very difficult to lose access to your Apple Passkey data. That said, what if something happens, and you lose all of your Apple devices? There are recovery methods available, but you should still be careful to make sure you don’t end up in this situation.
To recover your iCloud Keychain, first you need to authenticate with your iCloud password. Then you need to respond to an SMS message sent to your registered phone number. If you lose all of your devices, this would likely mean getting a replacement phone and SIM from your wireless provider.
To prevent this, you can set up a recovery contact for your iCloud account. This will let you regain access to your data if something goes wrong. If you value your keychain data, this will go a long way toward providing peace of mind.
Kris Wouk is a writer, musician, and whatever it’s called when someone makes videos for the web. He’s an Apple nerd with a fondness for hi-res audio and home theater gear.