If you have a Mobileme account that is about to expire, you can often renew for far less by purchasing a boxed version on Amazon or elsewhere online. But how do you enter the activation code? I recently renewed my account, here’s what you need to do:Read More
In my post Free alternatives to MobileMe earlier this year, I looked at some free alternatives to Apple’s MobileMe service. One crucial piece was still missing though: The seamless over-the-air syncing and push email experience offered by MobileMe on the iPhone.
MobileMe’s biggest advantage to date has been its support for push email and over-the-air syncing, which ensures that emails and changes to calendars and contacts are synced to iPhone users instantly.
But with Google Sync, Google aims to offer GMail and Google Calendar users the same over-the-air syncing feature that MobileMe does. To accomplish this, Google is basically taking advantage of the fact that the iPhone (and most other smartphones) natively support Microsoft Exchange syncing. So Google are offering their own Exchange-compatible service, that acts as an intermediary between your data stored in Google’s services and your iPhone. Configure Google Sync as a new exchange account on your iPhone, enable Push support and Google will Push any new email messages, calendar or contact updates to your phone.
When you consider that iCal, Address Book and Mail on the Mac also natively support syncing with Google’s services, Google Sync starts to look like a very interesting alternative to MobileMe. Change a contact in Address Book or add an appointment to iCal and those changes should be synced right up to your phone, without requiring a slow, USB iTunes sync – just like MobileMe. Emails should also be delivered right away, circumventing the 15 minute fetching interval limit. Or as Google sums it up it a cutesy comic:
But how well does it work in the real world?
Setting up Google Sync on your phone isn’t particularly difficult and Google offers easy step-by-step instructions. Enter your details, ignore a certificate warning, enter some more details and you’re done.
But mysteriously my Gmail inbox would only show 3 messages I had received this morning, with no sign of any messages I had received earlier in the week or later today. The same problem affected my other mailboxes as well. I was able to coax a few more messages off the server by selecting to only sync a week’s worth of email messages, but that does severely limit habitual emails hoarders such as myself. A know current limitation of the service is also the fact that drafts can’t be edited, once synced.
My Google contacts showed up fairly quickly in my Contacts application. But new contacts didn’t seem to sync back up to Gmail, no matter how often I tried to coax Google Sync into action.
Judging by the discussions going on over on the Google Sync messageboards, it looks as though the service has been pretty flaky for users the last few days, so these are most likely serious teething issues. But until these reliability problems are sorted out, it’s hard to realistically see Google Sync as a serious MobileMe alternative anytime soon.
Having said that, it’s promising to see Google taking the initiative and trying to offer an Exchange-like experience for non-corporate / non-MobileMe user – so Google gets a gold star for trying. It’s also worth remembering that MobileMe (a $99 per year service) had its own fair share of teething issues, so let’s hope Google is able to really challenge Apple in this area in the near future.
But for the time being, I’ll be sticking with regular Gmail IMAP syncing for my emails and MobileMe syncing for my contacts and calendars.Read More
Continuing in the series of posts hating on MobileMe, today we’re going to look at free alternatives to Mobileme. This article will focus on the core Mobileme features and take a look at the pros and cons of the alternatives.
I’ve never been willing to lock myself into a $99 / year e-mail service, simply because my main e-mail address is something I’d like to be able to keep indefinitely. Gmail can collect (and send) e-mails from a variety of providers and addresses, offers free IMAP support (a must-have for iPhone owners!) and doesn’t include advertising in the messages you send. The storage is basically unlimited and nothing is ever deleted.
Pros: No ads in mails, best-of-breed webmail interface, IMAP support, works great with Mail and iPhone once configured
Cons: IMAP mailbox configuration a bit tricky
Surprise surprise, another Google app! Google Calendar offers basically the same range of features and can be configured to sync with iCal (Google actually provides a handy tool called ‘Calaboration‘ to set things up for you automatically). Perks include free SMS appointment reminders, simple calendar sharing and fast natural language scheduling (e.g typing “Dinner tomorrow at 9pm” will schedule the appointment accordingly).
The web interface is a little less pretty than MobileMe’s, but it gets the job done.
Pros: SMS notifications, iCal integration, CalDAV support, natural language entry, useful “Agenda” list view of upcoming events
I’ve raved about Dropbox in a number of other posts, so I won’t rehash to much of the details here. Suffice to say that Dropbox has the best cloud-based document syncing and storage service I’ve come across. It’s integration with the Finder is perfect, it offers seamless version control and makes sharing with Windows & Linux users a breeze as well.
The only real difference is the storage size – but it’s a big one: While free Dropbox accounts can sync up to 2GB of files, Mobileme offers 20GB of storage. Beyond the free plan, Dropbox also offers a 50GB package, but that costs as much as Mobileme does.
If you don’t need to sync and store large amounts of data in the cloud, Dropbox is perfect. If you do need more storage, then Mobileme is worth reconsidering.
Pros: Seamless cross-platform OS integration, easy sharing, version control & “undelete”
Cons: Only 2 pricing tiers, web-interface a bit tricky at first
Mobileme’s iPhoto Gallery feature is probably my favorite aspect of the entire package. The galleries are a little slow to load, but are very nicely presented. The ability to download an entire Zip file of an album is also a nice touch and the iPhone presentation is the icing on the cake.
But there’s a plethora of picture sharing websites out there that offer similar functionality: I’m just going to name a few that stand out for their decent iPhoto integration:
Overall this might the dealbreaker if you really need to share a lot of images with friends online. Sure, you could always just throw a zip file of your images on your Dropbox account (see above), but if there’s one standout feature of Mobileme, this is it.
There are lots of great alternatives for Mobileme’s individual services worth checking out. Whilst they may not offer the integration that Mobileme does, they sure give the service a run for its money and are worth a look if you’re on the fence about signing up or renewing your account.
Oh, but if you do decide to stick with Mobileme, you can save a bundle if you buy it through Amazon.Read More
There have been a number of complaints about MobileMe’s Push email speed. Some users seem to be experiencing “push” delays of up to 5 minutes.
I decided to time exactly how long it takes for a Gmail message to be pushed to the iPhone over Wifi and over GPRS / EDGE:
I just received another email from Apple regarding MobileMe. It seems as though they’re giving all users (regardless of whether you experienced trouble or not) an additional free 60 day extension on their subscriptions.
Whilst 60 days might not seem like a huge deal, it does show a certain amount of goodwill on Apple’s part and a willingness to put things right. More importantly this comes at a point when most glitches seem to have been worked out, so this news should be received much more positively than the initial 30 day extension some members were offered previously.Read More