Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Google Authenticator update – good news, bad news

Screenshot of the Google Authenticator 2.0 appAt long last – over a year! – Google has updated its Google Authenticator app for iOS. This is the app that lets you use two-factor authentication with Google and other third party services. The update is mostly good news but there’s one major caveat that I encountered.

The good news

Firstly, the good news. The app has been re-designed to match Google’s other iOS apps, and so it looks nicer and more modern. In particular, the text is much bigger, so it’s easier to see the numbers that the app generates. It also supports the larger screen size on the iPhone 5 so there’s more room to see multiple logins.

You can also rename logins to make them easier to identify, and re-order how they appear so that the ones that you use the most are at the top.

The bad news

And here’s the major caveat. It wiped all of my settings. When I updated, none of the logins that I had added were there and I had to go and re-add each one. I use Google Authenticator to manage 7 logins (Google, WordPress.com, this blog, Dropbox, Evernote, App.net and my Microsoft account) so this took a while.

Some sites were easier to sort out than others. Google had a ‘I have a new phone’ button, for example, which just meant that I had to re-scan the barcode. For others, I had to completely disable and then re-enable two-factor authentication to be able to re-add the authenticator.

Hopefully you will have been sensible and ensured that you have some backup codes stored somewhere, or can fall back to using SMS or another authentication method. Thankfully I did, so I’ve not been locked out of any of my accounts. But it is frustrating.

All in all I like the new version of the Google Authenticator and would recommend the update. But set yourself some time, just in case you get the same problem as me, and have to set all of your accounts up again.

Update: Google have pulled the update and acknowledged the problem. Hopefully a fix will be forthcoming.

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