iPhone Life magazine

Spb Wallet for iPhone and Touch Review

 Spb Software, true to form as always, includes a strong feature set and a variety of sync options in this exceptional e-wallet program. If you must store critical information like passwords, credit card and personal data on your iPhone or Touch, this one offers AES 256bit encryption and many more goodies.

 

We have reviewed a few wallet and list manager apps in the past here on the WinMo side of our site, and I have always been frustrated at the limitations imposed by the mobile-side applications. The desktop apps were usually pretty good, but the mobile versions often fell short in comparison. For the most part, that isn't the case with Spb Wallet (outside the additional browser plug-ins and a few features). I'll review the desktop (briefly) and iPhone version.

 

Setup

 

Go here in the app store and select buy/install (or go here to learn more or get the Windows desktop version). The iPhone app is about 7MB in size. In my case, I purchased the program using iTunes, but a simpler way of course is to use the App Store program embedded in your device. After you download/install directly to the iPhone or touch, the next time you sync your device, the program will be backed up to iTunes. You simply enter "Spb" under the Search menu to find the app in the App Store ($9.99). Spb separately sells the desktop tool for $9.95, which is required if you want to sync wallets with your PC.

 

Syncing with the PC version also requires bonjour to be installed along with a wireless connection. You can also sync the PC version to a network file share, but I didn't test this. Both PC and iPhone versions allow syncing with a Gmail account, which of course requires an account, and IMAP to be enabled (go to account settings in Gmail to turn on IMAP). Syncing is great, as you can use the PC version to manage your cards centrally, but it's not a requirement to benefit from the great features of Spb Wallet. You can still create cards and wallets, even download new card templates or create your own from the mobile version. The desktop version, however, allows you to capture and create cards directly from IE or Firefox, which is a real time-saver for capturing all your Internet account information.

 

Desktop Version

I won't spend too much time on the desktop app, but want to mention a few of the features that make it worth a little extra investment. For one, you can easily create wallets and cards on your PC, and then automatically populate cards using your web browser. Let's say you just opened a new web-mail account, and you are setting up your login and password. If Spb Wallet is already installed on your desktop, a set of browser toolbars allow you to quickly configure and save the new login info. 

For instance, You can use the password generator feature to create a strong password for the new account, and then save both login and password to a card in your wallet. So, when you need to visit the site in the future, simply tap on the card URL in Spb Wallet--which will launch your browser to the site and auto-fill the account/password fields--or do the same thing using a toolbar from the browser. Auto-fill did not work with every site, however. For instance, my home wi-fi router's login page uses a password masking technique that forces you to manually type in passwords. The auto-filled password field failed to produce a masked conversion, and therefore the login failed. I tried ftp and http sites with Spb, and noted the password also didn't work when using ftp:// (file transfer protocol), which is required for transferring web content, for example. For most http sites, like Gmail, Yahoo, on-line banking sites, E-Bay, etc. there shouldn't be any issues.

Spb Wallet iPhone

Spb Wallet is as simple and easy to use as you would expect of an iPhone app. When you start the app, the Welcome page is displayed (after you either sync or create your first wallet). Here you can create a new wallet, access an existing one, or execute the sync process to pull or push wallet information from your PC.

In my case, I synced my first wallet from the PC, and then created a second one on my device. Here's why. The desktop version has enhanced security features built into it, as well as the automated card creation and centralized management I mentioned earlier. It also provides an on-screen keypad to thwart keyloggers, and includes anti-phishing measures. So my important account information is entered in this fashion with a strong password. Then on my device, I create a second wallet for less critical files and info with only a single letter password to protect it. 

The Apple devices do not allow apps to run in the background (as in WinMo), so every time you exit (to open another app), you must log in again. The program also has a feature that will autolock your current session. This gets a bit annoying, so I set the single letter password on the second wallet on my device to provide easy access. You can set the autolock to as high as 30 minutes. When you first set a new wallet up, you have to specify a password, and a strength meter at the bottom will indicate the relative strength of the one you have created.

 

Cards and Templates

When you create a wallet, a set of categorized folders for your information are also created. Templates for various cards are included (account login, passport, credit card, etc). 

You can add folders, and create new cards from templates, edit the existing default cards, import on-line templates, or even create a new custom template with fields/view of your choosing. 

You can also add your own custom template graphics and tweak the fonts, and field placement of your new card.

In my original wallet, I went on-line to the Spb template site and found suitable templates, and downloaded them (I'm too lazy to create my own). When I first set them up, the auto-login fields didn't work right, but after a quick tweak of the fields, everything was fine. The folks at Spb told me a few of the templates got banged up at the site. If it happens to you, simply go in and un-select/select them again. The main application only works in portrait mode, unfortunately, so you are forced to use the cramped soft keyboard.

 

 

Using Cards

After you have your cards created, you can view them by selecting them, or if you navigate to a folder that contains cards, you can also view them by simply rotating the device to landscape mode. 

You can then navigate through the cards by swiping left/right between them in typical iPhone animated fashion. Several field types are termed "smart card fields", which means that you can do more than simply view static information in them. Web urls, email address, and phone number fields add functions like send e-mail/SMS, open web-sites, and make phone calls. Spb Wallet will, for instance in the case of AutoFill, open a browser window and pre-fill the data without launching Safari (the full version), essentially keeping your wallet open. When you select done, you can return to the app. When I did this using a URL pointed at gmail's mobile page (in landscape mode), it somehow kept displaying the site in portrait mode. 

 

It also produced a glitch where only the top row of soft-keys would display when the keyboard was active. A restart fixed the problem with the keys but not the landscape display problem. When I navigated there using full Safari, I had no such issues, so not sure what the problem is? Maybe it's only related to the mobile gmail site, as the Yahoo mobile beta site worked fine. Anyway, if you use the pop service of gmail, you might consider switching to the online web version (Spb's auto-fill makes access even quicker). The mobile version of gmail will allow you to view threaded e-mail messages, archive, and search e-mail.

 

Conclusion:

This is an all-round excellent tool, and the desktop version truly completes it, in my opinion. I really think Spb ought to simply offer a free lite version of the desktop tool for iPhone users. The more important consideration is how safe is this data really? I couldn't test the wallet's level of security beyond trying to open it in Linux or hex editor and looking for strings, which is pretty lame. I'll have to take Spb's word for it that their wallet program is very secure. If a vulnerability is discovered on the iPhone after you have all this information there... and then you are syncing it remotely as well...yikes!

Consider that you are syncing critical information with a Google beta web service, from a device that is still relatively new from a technology standpoint. A program with strong security encryption that allows too easy access or subversion of the password routine can end up giving up your highly encrypted data easier than you think. A hacker can reverse engineer the program that generated the encrypted file, and if a weakness is found, possibly de-crypt some or all of your critical data. 

If you are going to use an e-wallet program, my advice is to pick a strong password for your wallet and don't write it down. If you sync your personal data with a web service, pick a strong password to protect your gmail account as well. Password protect your phone/device and keep it updated at all times. Sorry for the security speech... I'm not surprised that Spb has designed another well-done mobile application that builds on the strengths of Apple's devices, but I'm a little leery of syncing my files with Google. Go check out Spb Wallet here.

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Nate Adcock's picture

Nate Adcock is a system and integration engineer with experience managing and administering a variety of computing environments. He has worked extensively with mobile gadgets of all shapes and sizes for many years. He is also a former military weather forecaster. Nate is a regular contributor for the iphonelife.com and smartphonemag.com blogs and helps manage both websites. Read more from Nate at natestera.drupalgardens.com or e-mail him at nate@iphonelife.com.