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Never stop Grokking

Friday, June 29, 2012

iOS, Google WiFi and 2 factor auth -- clearly untested UX

So after WebPerfDays today, a bunch of us ended up at a Pizza place in Mountain View. Naturally the first thing we all did was search for wifi in the area and try to get on to a network from our mobile devices.

Now Mountain View has Google Wifi, and it appears as if they now require you to sign in with your Gmail account, and that's where the problem comes in... for me at least. I have two factor auth turned on for my google accounts, which means that after I type in my username and password, I get to a second screen to enter my second authentication token. This token comes from an app on my iOS device... the same device I was trying to log in with.

I switched to the app to get the token number, but as soon as I did that, iOS decided that I didn't actually want to sign in to the wireless network, and disassociated itself from the Access Point (AP).

Once I'd got the number, I switched back to the settings app and it initiated login again, which means I had to enter my username and password again, and by the time I'd reached the token screen, the token had expired.

This is what the token screen looks like:

It was rather annoying.

It then hit me that I could copy the token to the clipboard, and then paste it into the token text field, which should shave a few seconds off and maybe let me through.

That worked, but it was still annoying.

We started talking about how this interface could be improved. There are a few reasons why this is a problem, and I think they're mostly Apple's fault.

When you connect to a wireless network, iOS attempts to connect to www.apple.com. If it gets redirected somewhere else, it assumes that it's being asked to authenticate, and displays whatever page it gets redirected to in a browser like window.

The problem is that if you do anything other than interact with the content in this window, iOS treats it exactly the same as hitting the "Cancel" button (top right of the screenshot), terminates the login and dissociates from the AP.

This means that you cannot switch to the Authenticator App (second app at the bottom of the screenshot) to get your token.

Can Apple fix this?

Yes, just don't cancel sign in unless I explicitly click cancel

Can Google fix this?

Maybe, if they could provide a link or something that would open the Authenticator app right from that page and let me pull the number out of it (I don't know enough about iOS to know if this is possible).

Do any Apple/Google engineers want to take this up?


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