Historically there has always been a trade-off between high security, great usability, and low cost. The YubiKey changes this.

YubiKey
Smart Card
OTP Token
Phone
TPM
FIDO U2F
PIV
PGP
OTP
Security
New passcodes for every login, significantly stronger than static passwords yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
6-32 character one-time password, including time variant code no no no yes no no no no
Public key crypto, hardened against phishing & man-in-the middle attacks yes yes yes no yes no no yes
No cryptographic secrets stored or hosted by vendor* yes yes yes yes no no no no
User presence touch sensor, verifying that the user is human, not malware yes yes yes yes no yes no no
Transparency on server software, open for scrutiny yes yes yes yes no no no no
Hardware protection of keys in secure element yes yes yes yes yes no no yes
Usability
Fast “one touch” authentication process yes yes no yes yes no no yes
No card reader needed yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes
No driver or client software needed yes no no yes no yes yes no
One device to any number of independent services, without federation yes no no no no no no no
No user identity required or shared, to preserve privacy yes no no no no no no no
No time synchronization issues yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes
Portable between all computer platforms yes yes yes yes no no no no
Works with NFC devices, excluding iOS yes yes yes yes no no no no
Works with iOS devices** no no no no no yes yes no
No batteries yes yes yes yes yes no no no
Waterproof and crush-resistant yes yes yes yes no no no no
Integrates seamlessly with computer, yet can still be removed yes yes yes yes no no no no
No need for extra hardware besides your computer and phone no no no no no no yes yes
Authenticator fits nicely both on your keychain and in your wallet yes yes yes yes no no no no
Works for users with limited vision yes yes yes yes yes yes no yes
Multiple affordable backups, minimizes risk of being locked out yes yes yes yes no yes no no
Cost
Offered with free, open source servers and programming tools yes yes yes yes no no no no
Multiple authentication and cryptographic protocols on one device yes yes yes yes no no no no
Easy for customer to program own secrets, at no or low cost yes yes yes yes no no no no
Users can purchase their own authenticators yes yes no yes no no yes yes
Weighs less than a credit card, ships with standard postage yes yes yes yes yes no no no
End-user self-service provisioning yes no no yes no no yes no
Low-cost HSM for securing OTP secrets no no no yes no no no no
Multiple backups minimizes recovery support costs yes yes yes no no yes no no

Read more about why YubiKey beats other methods on our blog post.

* No cryptographic secrets stored or hosted by vendor

Yubico offers an optional authentication service, YubiCloud, for hosting OTP secrets.

** Works with iOS devices

The YubiKey is often used in combination with a phone authenticator, or the computer with YubiKey bootstraps the phone (Gmail, LastPass, etc).

YUBIKEY FOR BUSINESSES, INDIVIDUALS,  DEVELOPERS

YubiKeys are used by businesses to secure G Suite, Windows Login, Dropbox for Business,Salesforce.com, Open PGP encryption, password management, development platforms, and much more, plus YubiHSM secures secrets on servers. Find out more about YubiKey for Businesses.

Individuals use YubiKey to secure their accounts for Google (Gmail, G Suite, YouTube, Blogger), Dropbox, GitHub, password managers, and many other applications that use two-factor authentication. Find out more about YubiKey for Individuals.

Developers can integrate two-factor authentication in minutes using our free open source software. Find out more about YubiKey for Developers.

Find out more and compare YubiKeys.