With newer services and devices making their way into our lives, it becomes difficult to remember every login ID and password. Google’s autofill collaborates well with Chrome password manager, but it doesn’t have much to offer in terms of security, functionality, etc.
This is where an authenticator with 2FA comes into play. It essentially replaces passwords by letting you log into an account by tapping on a mobile or a tablet with a Time-based one-time password (TOTP) on the installed authenticator app. Such passwords are valid for 30 seconds before getting expired and new ones are available from the server.
There are popular third-party authenticators such as Authy, Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator, and LastPass Authenticator. In this post, we compare Microsoft and LastPass’s authenticators from an Android user’s perspective.
Logging in for the first time
Microsoft Authenticator is comparatively easier for people who are using an authenticator for the first time. Log in using a Microsoft account( personal, work, or school) or other accounts such as Google, Facebook, etc.
On the other hand, getting started with LastPass Authenticator as a first-time user of an authenticator is a struggle. You need their password manager to get started, which also falls flat as it attempts to look into the cloud for authenticator data backups (which doesn’t exist for a new account). You will need a desktop to log into the authenticator app on mobile by scanning a QR code via the settings, which we learned through a random YouTube tutorial.
The TOTP will only appear after tapping on the account. Microsoft Authenticator has separate sections for different items apart from the authenticator accounts. They are passwords, payments, addresses, and verified IDs. When you are in a social setting and people are using your phone while the authenticator is open in the background? Microsoft locks the authenticator app if it has not been used in a while.
LastPass offers a straightforward minimal user interface with a single screen and an add button for adding new accounts. You can rearrange the accounts list in different orders, along with the option to customize them which shows selected accounts at the top. And when that doesn’t feel enough, you can use the search button to find a specific account in real-time results.
LastPass did not have any initial prompts but Microsoft Authenticator doesn’t let you log into the app unless you agree to share diagnostic data with them. There is an option to stop sharing usage data but it is different from diagnostic data for which consent was asked on the welcome screen.
The LastPass Authenticator does keep the option enabled by default for sending error reporting data which can be disabled.
Adding new items
Adding new accounts is easy in Microsoft Authenticator as you just have to tap on the plus button. Add your Microsoft accounts directly or get a code from supported services such as Google account, Facebook, etc.
LastPass lets you add accounts through a QR code but they must be from their authenticator apps on any of the platforms. You can also add accounts through screenshots of QR codes that are generated from their app alone.
Microsoft offers a single app lock that can be assigned to your fingerprint or a PIN. It works when you open the app and autofill passwords and other sensitive information on sites and apps. The app lock will prompt for verification every time you switch back to the authenticator from other apps or when you unlock the phone.
LastPass has a two-layer approach to the app lock. Set the biometric sensor (fingerprint or Face ID), and you will have to add a backup PIN as a backup in case the sensors are not working. Both the authenticators let you take screenshots after enabling the feature from the settings. One feature on the LastPass which really stands out for me is the tap to reveal, which comes in handy when in public. As the name suggests, you have to tap on the account to reveal the code.
As it contains passwords and other sensitive information, Microsoft Authenticator has the option to become your default autofill app on the phone. It can pull the passwords saved on Edge and provide auto-fill suggestions on different websites and apps. This saves time and effort when your primary browser is from Microsoft across devices.
Unlike Microsoft Authenticator, auto-fill on LastPass requires its password manager which needs to be installed separately on the phone. Their auto-fill also supports older devices but does not provide a unifying experience under an umbrella like the authenticator from Microsoft.
Apart from authentication, the Microsoft app lets you add passwords and other sensitive information. If you have Edge as your daily driver then the close integration with the authenticator will really help you get the auto-fill going on different devices. Another feature worth talking about is battery optimization which saves your phone battery by stopping certain background processes of the authenticator.
Normally a TOTP is valid for a maximum of 30 seconds which is not enough when you randomly open the app. It may get expired by the time you enter it in the security prompt. LastPass Authenticator has the option to get a new TOTP when the current password expires in 5 seconds. You can directly copy the new code and enter it in the dialog box.
Both authenticators offer cloud backup for the added accounts and the accompanying information. You can enable it through the settings and wait for the cloud backup to finish.
Microsoft Authenticator is free to use with no hidden charges later. LastPass Authenticator is also free to use but using all the connected apps such as password manager, vault, etc, will require a subscription. The plan starts at $3/per month individually and an additional dollar for the family plan.
When you are looking for an authenticator which offers extra features such as passwords and other sensitive information storage, then Microsoft Authenticator is ideal for you. The icing on the cake here is the collaboration with the Edge browser, which syncs passwords and other information worth storing for auto-fill. If you want a standalone authenticator which may require some effort to set up then LastPass Authenticator would be worth trying.