For the purposes of this article, the term “iPhone” includes “iPod Touch”, and I’m assuming that your operating systems are up to date.
Along with new firmware for existing iPhone owners, and the new iPhone 3G itself, Apple is releasing this week a new service called “MobileMe”, succinctly described as “Exchange for the rest of us.” In short, it automatically syncs your contacts, calendar, e-mail and photos between your home computer and/or work computer and/or iPhone. It stores these items in a 20 GB cloud of data and is smart enough to push updates to you from any of these categories, wherever you are, as long as you have an Internet connection or cell phone signal.
It sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, it costs $99 (US) a year for one person or $149 for a Family Pack. Calendars and contacts don’t take up much hard drive space, but between e-mail attachments and photos, it wouldn’t be that hard to bump up against the 20 GB ceiling, and it’s $49 for another 20 GB (or $99 for another 40 GB). As of this writing, a 500 GB hard drive goes for around $100. I will admit that managed data storage should be more expensive than buying yourself a hard drive, but twelve times as expensive?
I think we should hold off on signing up for MobileMe for a little while, because if the goal is automatic syncing of your contacts, calendar, e-mail and photos, I predict Google and Yahoo! are going to make this possible for free (and probably with “unlimited” data storage) in the near future. Taking each one in turn:
If you use GMail (and I believe everybody should, even if your e-mail address is at a different domain), your e-mail is already syncing with GMail on your iPhone. Having it automatically pushed to your phone isn’t happening, yet, but it will be possible for all applications to take advantage of the “cloud computing” scenario that Apple designed for the iPhone. Do you suspect that Google won’t make a GMail app for the iPhone with push e-mail?
With the update to OS X 10.5.3, you can already sync your contacts between your iCal (and by extension, the iPhone) and Google. See previous comment about future push scenarios, but for the time being, it would be a weird kind of emergency needed to make a lack of push technology a serious problem in this arena.
I actually originate my calendar with Google Calendar, and subscribe to it in iCal, and by extension, my iPhone. See previous comment about future push scenarios, but Google already has a nicely iPhone-formatted version of the Calendar that loads in the Web browser.
This is probably the first thing that made me second-guess my temptation to subscribe to MobileMe, mainly because I love my Flickr account. It’s got a long history, and all my friends are there, etc. I can already e-mail photos from my iPhone to Flickr using a customized e-mail address, so that could hardly be simpler. Even so, it appears that Flickr has every intention of making their site as friendly as possible for the iPhone.
Now, I’m merely speculating that Google will come out with native iPhone apps that mimic most of the functionality of MobileMe, but look at Google’s track record. They try everything, and succeed at most of them. My plan as described may not be as elegant as a MobileMe account, but I think it’ll be just as easy, and it’ll cost 100% less.
This is only a prediction. Don’t blame me if I’m wrong. But unless you know something I don’t about Google’s plans, it’d still be smart to wait a month or so and see what they have to offer.
Updated June 24, 2016 and originally published July 9, 2008.