Google Authenticator has been around for about a decade, and as soon as it was available I immediately started using 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) for all accounts that supported it. The Google app has always been my go-to, I had tried some of the alternatives but found myself always returning to the OG.
That is until recently. The funny thing is, I am not entirely sure what made me want to try it – I think it was a YouTube video of some sort – but I finally made the jump to Authy. After years of trusting Google Authenticator, the only issue I had is its lack of updates. It has been what it is for almost the entire decade since it’s release.
The thing is, even if it’s just supposed to be something very simple you want to know that the developer still cares about it enough to add some quality of life updates. It doesn’t have to be major updates, but simple things that can make the app smoother and easier to use. That’s where the third-party apps started rolling in, and one of them that caught me was Authy.
Unlike the other authenticators that are usually baked into another grander security app, Authy is simply what it is: an authenticator. And it does it much better than Google’s version.
A Shallow Past
I’ve actually used Authy before, long enough not to remember when exactly, but I can say it has been several years. I believe I tried it before when Google Authenticator was not all that widespread yet and some online services wanted to use their own apps or a third-party alternative.
Suffice to say, I didn’t stay too long with Authy since I found myself right back to Google Authenticator in a matter of days. However, I cannot remember exactly what made me go back, just the fact that I was turned off by something. Most likely though it was the simplicity of Google Authenticator that called me home.
At the time, Authy was trying to make a name for itself by partnering with certain online services and they even had a whole integration system. Of course, being a relatively unknown, that also felt kind of sketchy. But it’s clear they learned from that somehow and have simplified the app into what it is now.
On the flip side, it is worth noting that Google has recently made an update to the Authenticator app. The update allows for easier account transfer in case you lost or bought a new phone and some Material Design updates. Sadly, it is literally too little too late.
Google Authenticator vs Authy
I have only been using it for a few days since giving it a whirl, and I have already gotten rid of my Google Authenticator app and going as far as installing Authy on my computer as well. I would have preferred a Chrome extension, but it seems that was discontinued – and I’m not complaining since there are a lot of sketchy Chrome extensions in the web store.
As soon as I installed it, the first thing I fell in love with Authy is the user interface. Granted Authenticator does what it’s supposed to, but after awhile the bland design becomes stale. On top of that, I discovered the joys of icons.
Sure, it may seem like such an insignificant thing but as someone married to a Graphic Designer can attest to, the simple details can make a profound impact. The icons actually provide a better visual representation of each account, which is a huge deal when you’re like me and literally have all your accounts on 2FA – that’s a lot of accounts. There have been many times that I’ve entered the wrong code simply because of mixing up Google Authenticator’s text-based descriptions and layout.
Authy, on the other hand, only displays the currently selected account and that is very helpful since it eliminates the potential of entering the wrong codes and getting locked out (it does happen, but thankfully I haven’t).
However, the most important feature of Authy that got me to make the permanent switch is the fact that you can lock it. By default, no one but my wife has access to my phone anyway, but the additional layer of security for those “just in case moments” is a great boost to the peace of mind. Especially if you are security conscious or let other people use your phone from time to time.
Quality of Life
Not enough could be said about giving quality of life features to make daily use that much simpler. Many times, these are easily overlooked but when you’ve been deprived of it for so long, the small details make the biggest impact.
On Google Authenticator, there was an option to time sync the codes. On older devices, I’ve had to do this when entering a code doesn’t seem to work. And sure enough, it will fix the issue.
I do understand they added this to create an independent app that is not reliant on cloud synchronization, but the fact that Authy also runs offline but will automatically attempt to sync when launched is such a simple implementation you’d think Google of all people would’ve figured out by now.
Another thing about cloud syncing is that you can open Authy from multiple devices and get the same codes across the board. So for those times where you misplaced your phone while logging into time-sensitive online banking, it is very helpful that you can get a code from the desktop app instead.
Sure, there are security issues to deal with in cloud syncing, plus the fact that Authy is is gaining in popularity makes it a prime target for those with ill-intentions. But then again, they seem to be keeping good on their security claims. Of course, you can always disable the multiple device feature altogether and rely completely on your phone if you’re that paranoid.
Authy has ticked all the right boxes, the ones I had hopes Google would’ve done years ago. Sadly, the only real advantage the Authenticator app has over Authy is a dark theme. But one could easily look past that considering all the other handy features it boasts against a simple theme switch.
So if you haven’t jumped on the 2FA bandwagon, I suggest you do. Whether Authy, Google Authenticator, Lastpass, or whatever you prefer. There is no second-guessing when it comes to online security.