Why I’ll be canceling my MobileMe trial account

If first impressions are everything, then MobileMe never had a chance.

After I bought my iPhone 3G, I signed up for the trial MobileMe account. Back then, it was only a 60-day free trial, but Apple soon added 30 days onto that, and then 30 days onto that, after MobileMe’s launch arrived like a lead balloon.

The idea seemed swell enough: sync your Address Book, iCal, and Mail settings and entries with the ever-present Cloud, and your iPhone. But since July, I’ve run into more problems than solutions, and MobileMe has been a frustrating mess.

My free trial is up on Monday, Dec. 8. I’m going to cancel my account.

Looking back, I never really needed MobileMe to begin with. trashmobilemeBecause I plug my iPhone into my Mac almost every night, any new entries in either iCal or Address Book get synced each way – from the iPhone to my Mac, and from my Mac to my iPhone. I don’t need the “push” capabilities MobileMe claimed to offer because my syncing schedule was fast enough.

It’s too bad. Apple had a big uphill effort replacing the .Mac service. MobileMe seemed like a decent-enough resolution to everyone’s complaints against .Mac: not much storage, lackluster syncing, no star features that made it seem worth the $99 annual subscription. With it’s modern browser interface and over-the-air syncing, MobileMe looked great on paper. In practice, however, it failed to live up to my expectations.

Maybe it was a lack of habit, but I never found myself missing MobileMe when I wasn’t using it (which was often). If I used my iPhone and Mac for business, the cloud syncing might seem like a bigger deal. But I had a system down, and it worked just fine for me.

The one feature that did catch my eye was the photo sharing galleries. My friend’s wedding photographer put together a beautiful presentation (the subjects helped) using MobileMe’s slideshow capabilities. But again: I don’t really need it. Flickr works just fine as a photo-sharing environment for me. I can make slideshows with Flickr that look fine for my needs. I’m not a wedding photographer. I don’t need anything fancy.

Another thing that bothered me? The fact that iDisk iDisk Sync [thanks commenters!] takes up the 10 GB of space from my hard drive. Maybe I’m a rare case, but when I launch iDisk, it takes away whatever space is available away from my Mac’s “available” space. Why store things on a fragile cloud when my hard drive works just fine? I love the idea behind iDisk, but my iBook is cramped enough without taking that additional 10 GB away.

Apple’s solution? Don’t use iDisk Sync.

The launch didn’t help things. We all remember that, right? The big outage that first weekend. How it took weeks and weeks of Apple tinkering to get even basic services like e-mail up and running for all MobileMe users. For a while there, MobileMe seemed like a big embarrassing misshap for Apple – right up there with the big system outage for the iPhone 3G’s launch. That kind of thing can leave a bad taste in the mouth. I guess it’s never gone away for me.

Part of me is skeptical about this “cloud computing” stuff. I understand that Google seems to have it down, barring Gmail outages, and – lord bless them – Microsoft is working on their own cloud syncing projects. But Google apps like Gmail are hooked up to my Mail.app, which runs from my desktop, and I don’t often make appointments or add contacts through a web browser. That stuff lives on my Mac. I like that I can edit a contact’s information on my iPhone and the change gets logged in Address Book in OS X. There’s no extra log-in-to-the-web-service involved.

If I had several Macs strung out over several locations, with only my iPhone in common, the idea behind MobileMe could come in handy. Backing up my data to the cloud? Sure. Do it all the time. But easy and reliable syncage still seems to be a giant Work In Progress. I’m not yet impressed.

So thanks for the couple of free months, Apple, but I’m saying “no thanks” to MobileMe. Maybe some day I’ll find a use for it – one where I can justify renewing my subscription. Right now, though, I can’t see any good reason to keep MobileMe around. It’s either been a thorn in my side or a non-starter, and life’s too short for either of those.

10 comments.

  1. I originally was a dot mac user mainly so I could sync my laptop and desktop together. I am not thrilled about mobile me, but I will keep my subscription going because I don’t want to loose my .mac email address. I think Apple should return it to free like in the iTools days.

  2. iDisk takes up 10 GB of disk space? That’s because you had iDisk Sync turned on, which is not the same as using iDisk. You can always mount iDisk as any WebDav based volume. This only requires a network connection and uses no space. iDisk Syncing copies and syncs all your iDisk info from the remote server to your local drive by creating a local disk image the same size as your iDisk space. Useful when offline but It is not necessary.

    I don’t mean to be an apologist. I admit that I once tried using iDisk Sync and had trouble with it. I do not use it now. I also don’t buy into all the Push hoopla of MobileMe. However, I’ve never had trouble with iDisk itself, and what I do use handily justifies the cost. So please be accurate when talking about it. Makes it hard to distinguish MobileMe’s value from your own inability to configure the software.

  3. Hay, if you don’t get value from MobileMe, don’t renew. But if you want to make a case against mobileme, understand the product better first.

    iDisk is a webDav online storage system and it’s use requires no local storage. I DiskSync does require local storage.

    Other sync services and even online backup can all be done without iDiskSync. This allows you to recover critical data if other backup systems fail or even access your data remotely if you don’t have access to your personal device.

    FYI: You absolutely do not have to spend $99/year for Mobile me. Best pricing I can find with a quick search is $ 53.80 shipped to my door and even amazon sells it for $69. I just purchased the 5 user family pack for $85 and even amazon is only $90.

    So, what I’m saying (mostly to your readers) is MobileMe is a great service for many users.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up on the iDisk Sync issue, guys. My bad. Maybe I didn’t remember .Mac’s iDisks behaving that way, or maybe I had enough hard drive space not to notice. The point still stands: my hard drive is more cramped, and can’t take the 10 GB hit.

    The larger issue, and this is a personal one (so I’m making my own “case against MobileMe”) is the fact that I can’t seem to fit MobileMe into my life well enough to justify the subscription price – no matter how cheap Amazon.com offers it. All the rest (like the iDisk syncing one) are little complaints compared to that big one.

    @Erik – I appreciate your feedback, but it’s rude to write off my “inability” to do something. It’s not about ability – it’s about ignorance. I didn’t know. Now I do, thanks to you. Other sites may tolerate insults, but I won’t.

    @Vince – I had a .Mac account, too, and I used it mainly for the e-mail address. I didn’t keep it long enough to play around with Mail.app or the iPhone, and eventually I lost my username. Luckily, when MobileMe came around, I got an even better one: davelawrence@me.com!

  5. I too am horribly disappointed with Mobil Me.

    I’ve been a very happy .mac user for several years. Since they went live as a matter of fact. NO, Dot Mac didn’t do as much. But it did a lot. And what it did it was rock solid doing must of the time.

    My email was never down for days at a time. They didn’t intro features and tell me “you can’t use them” as a solution to a problem. All in all Dot Mac was great.

    Enter this Mobile Me: it’s a bad joke. Costs more. Does more – so they say. But it’s never all worked at once so who knows? My mail goes out for days. Servers get overloaded and crash, and their “cloud computing” and sync thru the cloud will sometimes work and sometimes not. For it to be meaningful as a feature -it must be reliable. And the whole ..ME is NOT RELIABLE nor is it worth paying for. Maybe someday, but not at these rates in a shitty economy and not with features and functions implemented in some half-thought out way. Five years with .Mac and Apple has finally managed to run me off as a customer.

  6. @Markin – wow, you sound pretty passionate about the change. I’m another .Mac user who was more “meh” about the whole thing. Any other .Mac users who are upset, or who are happy, about the changes?

  7. MobileMe works fine for me. Nice interface. Easy to use. I haven’t had problems with email. I use iWeb to publish a website directly to MobileMe. Works slick for $8.25 a month.

  8. Hi, David1 Nice to see another Newton fan out there. Mobile Me – well, I hate the name, for one thing, but still have the account because of my .mac email address. That’s something I do use occasionally. Otherwise, I haven’t used mobile me at all.

    I used to use .mac.com for hosting movies I wanted to link to on the library website (these would be short iMovies of library events.) It was easy to do and worked very well. I also have other creative work up there, but the ‘push” function doesn’t matter to me at all. As for idisk as a backup site, it never really worked for me. I am using dropbox instead – easy, intuitive, secure so far and *I can get my data back*!

    So I can see why you’re not enamoured of mobile me. Great blog, btw.

  9. Thanks Mary. I keep hearing good things about Dropbox – I’ll have to check it out.

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