As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Just Like Apple’s MobileMe, But Free

This article was written by in Software. 7 comments.

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.

mobilemeIt 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.

Email Email Print Print
About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Actually, there’s an app for hacked iphones listed in which will sync your google calendar to your iphone _on the phone_. For Flickr, I use an app called uPoze (also in which automatically uploads every picture I take to my Flickr account, not sized down (like you get using the e-mail app).

Reply to this comment

avatar 2 Anonymous

Yea, I wouldn’t be paying for this. Everything except photos is already on the iphone (itouch). I have all that stuff synced up in my itouch already and my Mac travels everywhere with me. And really….if you already have the internet on your phone/ipod do you really need to pay extra money to have that instantaneously sent to you? Really, just take the extra 10-seconds and open your web browser :-)

Reply to this comment

avatar 3 Anonymous

For a Flickr app, see Exposure:

For calendaring, I use BusySync to sync my Google Calendar to iCal both ways. Makes it possible to use the native calendar on the iphone (add events, etc.) and have it sync back to google calendar when the phone is synced to the Mac. It’s not push, though, but that’s okay.

Reply to this comment

avatar 4 Smithee

Great suggestions! Hopefully these, and more, will all be available for non-hacked iPhones later this week.

Reply to this comment

avatar 5 Anonymous

if mobileme added remote wipe capability, i’d pay the $99 for that alone – i have no desire to have to admin an exchange server just to be able to wipe my data. otherwise, just like .mac, i don’t see it as being anything i can’t already get with flickr, google, etc.

Reply to this comment

avatar 6 Anonymous

While I agree with many of your points, the MobileMe service is a much cleaner way of doing all of the above, being as its one central location. I’m also a .mac user, and the $8.25/monthly fee really is not a big deal when taking into account that you have one central, clean location & backup for everything that I hold (digitally) sacred!

Reply to this comment

avatar 7 Anonymous

anyone who thinks that the frankenstein, mobileme, is a worthwhile operation has either lost his mind, her mind, its mind, (politically correct, you know) and should check in immediately with a preselected psychiatrist. It should have been called walkerme, because when you use it you feel like you need a great deal of help. Another promise down the toilet. This latest from apple may well do in this company.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these terms and conditions.