No company is perfect and that includes Apple, Inc. Apple has been hitting some good home runs lately. No one can argue the success of the iPod, MacBook, iTunes Store, iPhone and Mac OS X. However, Appleâ€™s MobileMe is still, well, um, letâ€™s just say not quite there yet!
MobileMe was launched in July of 2008 on the same day as the iPhone 3g. It was the revamped replacement to .Mac. The main focus of MobileMe was to allow iPhone, iPod touch, Mac and PC users to sync their data wirelessly with the cloud (MobileMe). Of course on launch day there were nothing but problems. Appleâ€™s servers were overwhelmed by all the simultaneous activations of iPhones and MobileMe accounts.Â
So letâ€™s fast forward 6 months later and take another look at MobileMe. MobileMe provides its subscribers with email, online storage, data syncing and web hosting. Iâ€™ve been a MobileMe user (and before that .Mac and before that iTools) user since day one. So Iâ€™ve got first hand experience on what works and what doesnâ€™t. Iâ€™ll start by saying that I have no issues with email and data storage (other than the slowness of using the iDisk in the Finder). These services work quite well for me. My issues are pretty much all with the data syncing.Â
I love the concept of no matter where you make the changes to your contacts, calendar or email, it will be updated on all your other devices. As an iPhone user this is a really nice thing to have. I was very happy to turn on MobileMe syncing on my iPhone 3g the day I got it. It was like magic to see my phone load up with all my contacts wirelessly. Life was good!Â
Trouble in paradise
It didnâ€™t take long for the problems to surface. My contacts are probably the most important thing to me on my iPhone. Iâ€™m constantly making calls, looking up addresses and looking at contact notes. So if there is the least little problem here itâ€™s going to be magnified for me 10 fold. A couple of days later I went to make a call and my Contacts list was EMPTY! Thatâ€™s right all gone. Poof! Oddly enough they were still on my Mac in Address Book and still on the www.me.com site. A few minutes later, they were all back on my iPhone. Now other than the obvious inconvenience of them not being there when I went to make a call, there was another issue. My custom ringtone settings were gone. Iâ€™m big on assigning ringtones to friends, family members and co-workers so that I have an idea of whoâ€™s calling before I even pickup the phone. Well when the Contacts came back, they came back without the ringtone assignments (Apple doesn’t sync your ringtone assignments with the cloud). I timed it and it takes me about 15-20 minutes to reassign them as it has to be done one-by-one. I figured OK, this is probably a one time thing. A hiccup with the cloud perhaps. So I did all my ringtone assignments over again and moved on. Unfortunately this was not a one time thing. It happened at least a dozen times from July to now. There are a few threads on Appleâ€™s discussion boards of people having the same exact problem, so I’m not alone here. I finally gave up!!!Â That’s right, I just couldn’t take it anymore. One minute they’re there, the next minute they’re not. So I turned off MobileMe syncing of Contacts and went back to syncing them manually via iTunes and the USB cable. I havenâ€™t had a problem since. Now my Contacts are always there and my ringtone assignments stay intact!
Apple still doesnâ€™t seem to get it when it comes toÂ calendars. There are several issues that I donâ€™t have the time to go into here so I’ll stick to the big ones.
The biggest problem is that MobileMe still doesnâ€™t handle subscribed iCals. This means that if you use the automatic Birthdays calendar from Address Book, you wonâ€™t have this important calendar on your iPhone. No birthdays! At least not without some workarounds. Also if you subscribe to anyone elseâ€™s iCal, you wonâ€™t have those calendars on your iPhone either. So much for checking your spouse’s calendar before making plans. Another odd problem is that you canâ€™t even select which of your non-subscribed calendars get syncâ€™d. Itâ€™s either all or nothing if you sync using MobileMe. So if you have some misc. calendars that you donâ€™t care about on your iPhone, they will be there whether you need them or not. Now if you turn off MobileMe calendar syncing and sync manually via iTunes youâ€™ll be able to have just the calendars you want including subscribed ones. Go figure! Unfortunately I canâ€™t turn off MobileMe calendar syncing like I did for Contact syncing because I also use Exchange syncing for my work calendar. If you sync with Exchange, you canâ€™t sync manually with iCal.Â It’s either all manual syncing or all cloud syncing for any given category (contacts, calendars, etc.). You can’t mix the two.
The Bottom Line
MobileMe is $99/year (or less if you find it on sale). If I wasnâ€™t using the other services if offers, it would be really hard for me to justify renewing this! I keep hoping for a silver lining in the cloud, but after 6 months itâ€™s still a storm cloud. If one of my friends walked up to me and asked me if they should use MobileMe, I would be very hard pressed to say yes at this point. Letâ€™s hope that Apple is hard at work fixing these issues and maybe weâ€™ll see a MobileMe that works by its one year anniversary in July 2009. With all the emphasis on software as a service that most companies are moving towards, Apple needs to get this one right in order to be taken seriously in the future.