Plain text input of passwords on mobile

Writing on a mobile device, whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet, sucks. Because of the keyboard size and lack of physical feel, it’s just so easy to get it wrong. The situation gets worse when inputting passwords. By concealing input, one can’t check for typing errors.

I’ve long been a proponent of just showing the password field in plain text on mobile devices. There are multiple ways to go about it. You can have a toggle switch, a button that reveals the input for a limited time or possibly automatically show plain text after first unsuccessful login.

The obvious concern is that of security, but I don’t think this is an insecure way. It is much easier to conceal a display of a mobile device from prying eyes. Furthermore, this approach leads to a higher success rate so there’s no need to type a password multiple times which would present more opportunity to steal it (I’ve seen people who actually whisper their passwords when typing them).

So even though I think it’s good UX I unfortunately haven’t been able to convince anyone whom I’ve been building apps for to do this nor have I seen it in out in the wild. That is, until now.

I recently signed up for Mega. Their iOS client has this exact feature on the login screen:


I have to say the execution of it is not perfect (at first, I was confused with the actual meaning of the switch and since I didn’t write anything to the password field yet, it didn’t), but it could be easily enhanced. I would like to see more apps adopting this pattern for password input, making it more user-friendly, less error prone and also secure.

Flaws in Path

Yes, the new Path app is amazing. Everyone’s been going crazy about all those smart user interface tweaks that make you smile. You can read about that elsewhere. I on the other hand have some critique. So far I’ve found two flaws, both visible on this screenshot:




First, the app does not recognize and hyperlink links. Second, it does not support national characters (the word with question marks on the screenshot should be “prší”). These are relatively cheap to fix, yes, but with the attention to detail that went in, I’m surprised these bugs are present at all.

Attention to detail

I’m not an Apple fanboy, quite the contrary. However I admire the unrivaled attention to detail throughout their products. The magnetic power cord connector, sleep indicator blinking rate that mimics a human’s breathing rate, new mail indication in Mail app on iOS, the Notes app icon (notices the remains of previously tore down notes) or my personal favorite, the iCal/Calendar app icon which changes every day to represent the current date.

This almost fanatic attention to detail is a big part of why people love Apple. And it’s not just Apple. Every time I see something similar, a “nice to have” feature, a small but beautiful design touch, something almost unnecessary that improves how I use the thing, I appreciate it deeply. I instantly feel more in love with the product. It gives the impression of quality because I know someone has thought intensively about how he can improve it and make the product perfect. You wouldn’t spend your time on unnecessary, needless details if your product wasn’t working properly.

These well thought out details persuade me the whole package is worth it. Attention to detail is a sing of quality. Go the extra mile and make your products a tad better. Even little details can make a big impact.