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LastPass to limit fans of free password manager to one device type only – computer or mobile – from next month

Cough up if you want to use it with your laptop and phone

Password manager LastPass has changed its terms and conditions to limit the free version of its code work on a single device type only per user, seemingly in an effort to force free folks into paying for its service.

In a blog post, the developer's vice president of product management, Dan DeMichele, said the biz needed to “adapt our offerings to keep up with the constantly evolving digital world,” and so from next month will require users of its free service to decide whether to use it on their mobile device, or their computer, but not both.

The free version of LastPass – which people use to store passwords, notes, credit card details and so on – currently works across devices; a single login will give you access to all the associated data. The same is true for almost all password managers from Bitwarden to 1Password to Dashlane.

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But from March 16, users will be required to choose which “active device type” they want to use for the free service. Whichever type of device they log into the service first will be set as the default and users will be able to change their decision three times before it’s locked down. The device types are really two categories: computers, and mobile. So if you go with the computer type, you can continue to use the free version of LastPass with macOS, Windows, Linux, etc, machines, and if you opt for mobile you can use it on iOS, Android, etc.

Thankfully, LastPass hasn’t tried to argue that this split is necessary for technical reasons. It has clearly calculated that free users who access their passwords on both a laptop and their mobile phone are the ones most invested in the service, and so most likely to be willing to pay $3 a month (or $4 a month for the six-user family option).

Market differentiation

The security biz will also be pulling email support from its free service, giving access only to a self-help library, as a way to prod users onto its “premium” service. While the decision is likely to frustrate LastPass users, it makes good business sense: the service is the best on the market for free users and there aren’t a lot of good reasons to shift to the paid-for product. Competitors tend to limit free accounts either by time or number of passwords that can be saved.

The hope, presumably, is that existing users with a large amount of data already stored with LastPass will pay the $36 a year rather than shift it all to a competitor that charges slightly less – BitWarden, for example, is just $10 a year though it has fewer features. The $36 fee matches the current market leader, 1Password, although LastPass is offering a discounted price as part of the transition “for a limited time.” The device-split approach will also allow the company to prod customers in future to “upgrade” their account to have their data accessible across all devices.

But that is likely to be of little consolation to LastPass users who will have to decide whether to work exclusively off one device type, cough up for a password service, and rebuild their password database with a different service. ®

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