Google’s new iOS apps now share accounts

Despite having its own mobile operating system, Google develops a lot of apps for the iPhone and iPad including popular ones like Chrome, Maps, YouTube and Gmail. Most of these apps require you to log in to your Google account on first launch, which is a time consuming task on the touch keyboard, more so if you have two-factor authentication enabled.

Google seems to be addressing this issue in its newly released and recently updated iOS apps by sharing account information and eliminating the need to log in to the same account over and over again.

The feature’s currently added only to AdSense and YouTube 2.0, but it’s likely that the company’s extending the same functionality to other Google apps as well. From the Google System blog:

The latest version of the YouTube app and the new AdSense app bring the following features:

– support for multiple Google accounts

– quickly switching between accounts without entering your password

– the accounts are shared between Google apps.

ios-google-apps-shared-login

Shared logins let Google achieve Android-like integration on iOS, which might seem surprising at first, but is actually a known feature of iOS’ Keychain Services, that lets developers share the same keychain across all their apps. From Apple’s documentation:

In iOS 3.0 and later, it is possible for you to share keychain items among multiple applications you create. Sharing items makes it easier for applications in the same suite to interoperate more smoothly. For example, you could use this feature to share user passwords or other elements that might otherwise require you to prompt the user from each application separately.

Facebook has, in fact, been using this feature since quite sometime for automatically logging in users into its Camera and Messenger apps.

Though there’s a lot to be done when it comes to in-app communication on iOS, URL schemes and shared keychains seem to be good-enough “hacks” to make up for the lack of a system-level sharing framework that apps can plug into.

We hope that once Google is done adding shared login to all its iOS apps, it provides a login service, which can be integrated by third-party developers to authenticate users without going through the hassle of reentering login details for each app. Facebook, Pocket use a similar mechanism, where a user is redirected to the official app for authentication, and upon success is taken back to the first app.