MobileMe, Apple’s successor to .Mac, launched alongside the App Store in 2008 to… widespread disappointment and problems, such as users not being able to access their email for days at a time. Over time, MobileMe was able to evolve into a much more elegant and stable solution. Today, it contains Apple’s usual touch of simplicity, with services that are genuinely useful for nearly all users–until, you look a little deeper, see the price point, and realize that there are free (or cheaper) solutions, which do the same things equally well, or in some cases better than MobileMe.
- Image courtesy of Appman and rofl.
MobileMe is designed to take everything you do on the internet, simplify it, and charge you for it. The idea is that what you do on your Mac, the cloud sends to your iPad. Pictures that you take on your iPhone and upload to iDisk, will be tossed over to your PC. Of course, after two years of being able to mature, MobileMe has become a great service. Since it is made by Apple, it works extremely well with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and of course the Mac (it supports the PC as well). But then you look at the price. $99.00 for a service that basically does Web e-mail, contact syncing, photo hosting, and file storage. For everything MobileMe offers, there’s a dozen alternatives. So I’ll outline the best of those (some of which you may already be using), and let you decide.
This article is in response to Abcmsaj’s pro-MobileMe post. After reading both, we hope that you can make a decision whether or not this product is for you. He offers scenarios and arguments as to why you need it, and I offer alternatives to what MobileMe gives you. Read on after the break!
For Email/ Calendar/ Contacts- Google’s solution
While Google and Apple may not be on the best of terms, that doesn’t stop their online email, calendar, and contacts from being great. Whether you are on the iPhone sending an email to your friend, or planning out the day on the Mac, Google can help. The web view for the desktop is fast and clean, offering features like labelling and starring emails, and excellent support for other Google services like Google Calendar and Google Contacts.
In order to sync Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts to your iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad:
1. Open the Settings application on your device’s home screen.
2. Open Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
3. Tap Add Account….
4. Select Microsoft Exchange. OS 4.0+ now allows multiple Exchange accounts. However, if you’re on a device that doesn’t let you add a second account, you could also use CalDAV to sync Google Calendar and IMAP to sync Gmail.
5. In the Email field, enter your full Google Account email address. If you use an @googlemail.com address, you may see an “Unable to verify certificate” warning when you proceed to the next step.
6. Leave the Domain field blank.
7. Enter your full Google Account email address as the Username.
8. Enter your Google Account password as the Password.
9. Tap Next at the top of your screen.
9a. Choose Cancel if the Unable to Verify Certificate dialog appears.
10. When the new Server field appears, enter m.google.com.
11. Press Next at the top of your screen again.
12. Select the Google services (Mail, Calendar, and Contacts) you want to sync.
13. Unless you want to delete all the existing Contacts and Calendars on your phone, select the Keep on my iPhone option when prompted. This will also allow you to keep syncing with your computer via iTunes.
[Instructions via Google]
If you already have a Gmail account set up on the device, be sure to not select ‘Mail’ for services you want to sync. This will ensure that you do not receive duplicates for every email that is sent to your Gmail account.
For web storage- Dropbox
Ah Dropbox. Has syncing files between my laptop, desktop, iPod touch, and Android phone ever been so easy? No. And that’s what makes this a no-brainer. For a free account, you get 2GB of data. For $9.99 a month (or $99.00 a year) you get 50GB of storage, and there are plans available with higher capacity. Where Dropbox shines, in my mind, is that it gives you the choice. There are times when I’ll gladly pay the $9.99 for 50GB. For example, when I was moving computers and had more files than usual to move around, that option was great. However, after the files were transferred, I was below the 2GB limit. On the computer, Dropbox acts as a regular folder. The trick is that it syncs anything and everything you store in it to the cloud, and then to any device that is registered under your account.
Dropbox’s $99.00 a year plan gives you 50GB of storage. On the flipside, Apple gives you 20GB of storage, for the same amount of money. That means for MobileMe, you pay $4.95 per gigabyte of storage. For Dropbox, you pay $1.98. You decide on this one.
Once again, this area has no lack of competition. However, in my mind Dropbox is the simplest, and –dare I say it– most Apple-esque solution outside of MobileMe. The fact that it is available on literally every platform with more users than, say, ten only adds to the value for me.
For photo uploading and sharing, Flickr remains one of the best (and most popular) tools. Flickr boasts plenty of plug-ins and clients, such as FlickrExport, which allows you to upload pictures to Flickr directly from iPhoto.
Flickr’s free account includes:
- 100 MB monthly photo upload limit (10MB per photo)
- 2 video uploads each month (90 seconds max, 150MB per video)
- Photostream views limited to the 200 most recent images
- Post any of your photos in up to 10 group pools
- Only smaller (resized) images accessible (though the originals are saved in case you upgrade later)
The Pro account (US$24.95 a year) includes:
- Unlimited photo uploads (20MB per photo)
- Unlimited video uploads (90 seconds max, 500MB per video)
- The ability to show HD Video
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Archiving of high-resolution original images
- The ability to replace a photo
- Post any of your photos or videos in up to 60 group pools
- Ad-free browsing and sharing
- View count and referrer statistics
If you are adamant on staying to one corporation for most of your tools and services online, Picasa is another great alternative. Picasa is an online image editing tool that also offers Picasa Web Albums, which is like Flickr in that it stores pictures you upload on the internet. Now under Google’s care, Picasa has clients for Mac, PC, and Linux. To log in, all you have to have is a Google account (like the one you have for Gmail). Picasa offers 1GB of photo and video storage for free, you can buy substantially–and I mean substantially as in up to 16TB–more storage for a relatively cheap price.
Another contender is Facebook. While a booming social networking and media site (with an astounding 2 million photo uploads per month), the resolution and quality of pictures uploaded is cut down, to save space. So while it is great for uploading a snapshot of you and your friends, it probably isn’t the best solution for indefinitely storing your life’s memories.
I’ve given you three of what I consider to be the best, although they are by no means alone. I guarantee that a Google — or Bing, if that’s your style — search will give you hundreds of other options. Some of those cater to the serious photographer, some to the casual snapshoter. and some to everything in between. Either way, this is a part where doing some more research may give you what you need, since there is no such thing as the ‘one size fits all’ photo site.
For ‘Find My iPhone’ – …
This is one place where MobileMe is genuinely useful. If you are concerned enough to pay $99 for this one feature, then you probably do need MobileMe.
Basically, this feature will allow you to log onto your MobileMe account on a Mac or PC, and post a message on a lost iPhone or iPad saying, “Please return me to 1 Infinite Loop; I was lost in a bar,” (or something like that) and hopefully a good citizen will return it. Now, on the chance that it was stolen, you can also remotely wipe the phone with a simple Mission Impossible-like command. These are two features where I admit that MobileMe is useful, and that this particular service is unique. So if you are dead-set on getting this, get to it. I can definitely see some Enterprise users signing up right about now, just for the remote wipe feature. Either way, just be sure you’re willing to fork over $99.00. =)
So it all sounds great. But in the end, will it actually cost less than MobileMe’s $99 yearly fee? Well, let’s do the math. First off, Gmail, Google Calendars, and Google Contacts are all free. Dropbox is free as well, as long as you are OK with the 2GB cap. For our testing purposes, let’s say that we want 50GB of storage for four months. If you upgrade for one month, you’ll pay $9.99. So, 4 multiplied by $9.99 is $39.96. And let’s say we go for Flickr’s Pro account, which is $24.95 for unlimited space. So, $39.96 plus $24.95 is $64.91.
That’s a third off of what you would pay for the MobileMe individual pack. For photos, you would have unlimited uploads compared to MobileMe’s comparatively cramped 20GB cap. For four months of the year, you would have 50GB of space in your Dropbox. Plus, you have Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts all for free.
I’ve given you the features MobileMe offers, and at least one alternative (‘Find My iPhone’ being the exception). Some of the alternatives you may already be using, like Gmail or Dropbox. Others you may not. Either way, it is easy to enjoy roughly the same amount of features MobileMe users get to bask in, for much less. If you are only interested in keeping to one company as much as possible, then MobileMe is probably your only solution. Although it does offer a one-stop approach to the internet and all of your gadgets, it definitely isn’t the best value when put under scrutiny. Also, as illustrated by Abcmsaj’s pro-MobileMe post, there are a handful of exclusive features that can be considered irreplaceable for some Mac users (such as Back to My Mac).
In my opinion, there are two reasons you would pick MobileMe over what I have listed above. First, you want to stick with one corporation. You want to be able to login with one I.D., and access everything. Secondly, you want the exclusive features MobileMe offers. You want Find My iPhone, you want Back to My Mac. And that’s great. If you feel that you need those, plus the simplicity of one login for everything, MobileMe is your friend. However, if you can live without those, say hello to Google, Dropbox, and Flickr, all for the great price of free. Or, if you want more storage, then you can pay for it. The best thing about the alternatives I’ve listed is that the choice is yours. Think Differently.