Tired of typing passwords? Who isn’t? Passtouch is an iOS Web browser thats marquee feature is the ability to sign into multiple password-protected sites with one, simple gesture—your Passtouch—making the app a sort of password manager and web browser combined into one.
Currently, the $1.99 ad-free version of the Browser is being be offered for free on the App Store, so I decided to download it for a looksee.
The Passtouch feature presents a graphic upon which you “draw” a unique sign-in gesture on the touchscreen. I picked an absurdly simple two-stroke gesture (which is about all I trust myself to remember, and it’s not so easy to write oneself a reminder). I suppose you could draw a picture. Your browsing history and bookmarks are stored inside your Passtouch profile and are only accessible by your signature touch. Everyone using the iPad can have his or her own private access to individual webmail, Facebook and other online accounts.
However, the need to sign in, even with the very simple gesture I have configured, is an extra step you have to take every time you switch into Passtouch, even if you’ve just swung away to another app for a moment. That gets old very quickly. The feature is more or less this app’s raison d’être, so I guess it’s a small annoyance for those who share their iPads with multiple users. My iPad usually only gets used by me (as is the case, interestingly, with most iPad users in a poll I saw recently), so the extra hassle would likely be enough to dissuade me from adopting Passtouch as a workaday browser even if there were no other shortcomings.
Unfortunately, there are. For one thing, Passtouch is relatively slow compared with Safari and certain other browser apps like Puffin, Diigo, or Dolphin HD. Another failing I find inconvenient is that pressing and holding on a link only gives you two contextual menu choices: Open and Copy. No option to open the link in another tab. Not cool.
There are some good things about the Passtouch user interface. It’s reasonably attractive-looking, the Bookmarks implementation is as good or better than any other I’ve encountered in iOS browsers, and the layout and controls are functionally arranged.
I’m not a big fan of full-screen, but it can be useful at times, and it toggles on and off nicely in Passtouch with an easily accessible button.
Tabs? No big whoop. It’s been probably more than a decade since I would even consider using a browser that didn’t support tabbed browsing. However, it’s apparently a newly-added feature for Passtouch.
Passtouch is difficult to rate, because the main thing that distinguishes it from the many other good (and free) iOS browsers is the Passtouch feature, and the value respective users place on that is likely to be widely idiosyncratic. For me, subjectively, I would only give it a somewhat unenthusiastic 3 out of 5, and I can think of at least a half-dozen other iOS browsers I like better. However, now that it’s free, a lot more users may try it out. As a general observation, it always puzzles me why when there are so many excellent free Web browsers—both desktop and mobile—anyone would ever bother to pay for browser software. But that’s just me. As always, your mileage may vary.