Getting Google Authenticator to work on more than one device at a time

I recently got a Motorola Moto G phone to check out Android properly for the first time, although primarily I am an iPhone user.  I was more impressed than I thought I would be and could definitely imagine using it as my only phone.  Having said that, using Android has not been without its challenges – I had trouble redeeming a Google Play store gift card for the first time, something that I thought would be straight-forward.

My biggest problem was that initially I could not set up Google Authenticator for use with my Google email.  This was one thing that would stop me using the Moto G full time.  Authenticator is an application that generates new security codes every minute – these are used as additional security when you access your email.  This additional security is called 2-factor authentication.  You enter your password and then you are asked for a numeric code generated by the Authenticator app; only if both are correct can you get into your email.  This may sound like overkill but it is now used as standard by my employer, so I need this functionality.

Normally Authenticator runs on my iPhone and Google only allows one phone to run it at a time.  However, there is a way to get Authenticator to run on more than one device.

When you set up Authenticator you are shown a QR code.  You scan this and it configures the application without you having to do anything else.  Here are the steps that worked for me. I already had Authenticator set up for Google email on one device (iPhone) and wanted it on more than one device (iPhone and Android):

– delete the entry for your email account in Authenticator on iPhone

– go into your Google 2-factor security settings and switch back to getting codes sent to you via text.  Then choose Authenticator again as your chosen method for receiving codes.

The idea behind this is to get Google to show you a QR code again for the easy setup of Authenticator.

– scan the barcode on the iPhone and on the Android phone

– whilst the QR code is up on the screen, take a screenshot of it in case you have to do this on other phones in future (or if you don’t have one of the devices with you at the time.)

You now have Authenticator configured on both devices.  If you compare the codes generated by the application on both phones they are the same.  They are not completely in sync – they are about one second apart – but I have been using Authenticator on the Moto G to login to my email and had no problems.


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