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Summary:

Jealous of MobileMe users but not willing to part with $100 and/or wary of its seemingly persistent problems? Have no fear, Google’s here. Google Sync Beta, that is, which is now available for the iPhone (and Windows Mobile, but c’mon, honestly). With it, you can sync […]

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Jealous of MobileMe users but not willing to part with $100 and/or wary of its seemingly persistent problems? Have no fear, Google’s here.

Google Sync Beta, that is, which is now available for the iPhone (and Windows Mobile, but c’mon, honestly). With it, you can sync your Google Calendar and your Gmail Contacts over the air, and what’s more, changes on either side are automatically pushed. I know I’m sort of regretting that MobileMe subscription right about now, considering I never use the Photos, iDisk, or Bookmarks features anyways, although push Mail syncing is not yet supported.

Setting up Google Sync Beta on your iPhone is easy, but be forewarned: doing so will delete your existing iPhone contacts and calendar data, so don’t do it unless you have that information safely stored somewhere else. And if you’re currently using MobileMe, disable that first, or you’ll run the risk of pushing your deleted contacts/calendars to your other devices.

Once you’ve safely backed everything up, activating the service is easy. There’s no app to install, and nothing to activate on the web-based side of things. Google Beta Sync uses Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol, so you’ll basically be setting up a new Exchange account via the “Add Account…” feature in the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” settings submenu. Google has full instructions on their official help page.

I set this up on my iPod touch, once I’d safely deleted my MobileMe account there, and it worked without a hitch. Since my Gmail account is long neglected, and only briefly used in the first place, I only had about three contacts, but their information was there. My calendar was actually still set up from when I’d used it for work, so it had all the recurring events accounted for. Test events and contacts that I created on either side were automatically synced, so the service does indeed behave as advertised.

Probably too early to say, but if Google builds this out a little more, and manages to add support for any of its other web services, I’d say MobileMe has good reason to shake in its proverbial boots.

  1. “Have no fear, Google’s here.”

    Actually, I tend to get a little more “scared” when Google shows up. Just last week I blew away Picasa beta from my Mac because the fine folks at Google installed an update app, without asking, and if you track it down and blow it away it just reinstalls itself. No, thanks.

    “if Google builds this out a little more, and manages to add support for any of its other web services, I’d say MobileMe has good reason to shake in its proverbial boots.”

    I’m sure it’ll stay “beta” for years, and so absolve Google of any issues it may have. Besides, MMe is so much more than contact, calendar and mail sync that the two are only comparable for those who use only basic mobile syncing.

    Of course, those are just my views. YMMV. :-)

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  2. While i agree with Tom that MobileMe offers so much more, having these kind of services on the cheap or free makes MobileMe’s asking price so much more difficult to swallow. And these cheap/free offerings are only going to get better.

    I know there are lots of people who are already paying for MobileMe. All I’m saying is that the current price doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the sweet spot for most people I know.

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  3. “which is now available for the iPhone (and Windows Mobile, but c’mon, honestly)”

    There are many full Apple users that have Windows mobile phones, me included (htc touch pro). For me, this release was big because it supported windows mobile (and for others Syncml phones for contacts only). I know this is the Apple Blog, but Apple products work/interact with non-apple products as well and it would be nice to have those mentioned for the many of us that use them.

    As far the google sync goes, it seems to work very well. One less thing to worry about.

    Thanks.

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  4. I have been hoping (I thought in vein) for this to come to the iPhone ever since I moved to Google Apps for my personal domain a while ago. It’s not quite as expected however. I found the following issues in testing:

    * No email (this feature is currently not turned on server side)
    * No contact groups syncing to the iPhone
    * No photo sync for contacts from Apple’s Address Book application
    * No multi-calendar syncing support to iPhone (everything is pulled down as one single calendar who’s colour is always red as far as I can tell)
    * No search results appear (iPhone or web) when searching for something from the notes section of Address Book synced contacts

    Some of this (such as the calendar thing) doesn’t compare to MobileMe or true ActiveSync Exchange and appears to be a limitation of NuevaSync which Google is using to get the data back and forth. I don’t expect fixes for this soon.

    I was surprised to find that my Favs (in the Phone app) have remained in tact even though I removed MobileMe syncing. The Google contacts simply took their place which was pretty cool. SSL is also on by default which is nice. Other than that the service seems stable and reliable not to mention fast. Quite impressive but still missing key features.

    Oh, and you can set up MobileMe and then add Exchange or the other way around without issue. I have had this setup with our corporate Exchange at work for months. Email, contacts and calendars all appear separately, though you can show an “all” view for contacts and calendars which integrates all calendars on both services.

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  5. Matt… Multi-calendar syncing is supported. It currently supports up to five Google calendars. You need to visit http://m.google.com/sync on your iPhone to choose which calendars to sync. It works great. You can create new events on your iPhone and choose which calendar it should be added to. Google/Apple is working on overcoming the limitation of five calendars.

    Photo sync for contacts is supported if you upload the photos to your Google contacts. Not bad.

    The lack of synchronizing contact groups is a huge show-stopper for me. Fortunately I can use the calendar functions separately from the contacts.

    Looking forward to future enhancements…

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  6. Thanks for the comments Brian. I had been told earlier today about the 5 calendar thing; I missed that thanks to the poor layout of the Google help/promo. That makes more sense.

    Photos still don’t sync though. I mean, I know they sync from the cloud to the phone, but they don’t sync from Address Book to the cloud. I know this isn’t an issue with the new service, but it didn’t matter before. For me, it’s all about Googles services working with rich local apps. It’s still a fail for me.

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  7. Brian: sorry, but when I click on that link, I end up with a page that says that my phone (iPhone 2G, OS 2.2) isn’t supported. :(

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  8. If you’re a Google Apps user, you’ll need to enable Google Sync in the control panel. If you don’t have an option called “Mobile Settings” under “Service Settings” on the control panel, you need to set your control panel to “Next Generation”.

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  9. [...] like Microsoft Exchange (what you unfortunately probably use at the office). This new service, Google Sync, offers the same seamless integration between your computer and mobile phone. It’s fast, [...]

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  10. Hey Tom!

    Nice post! I’ve been doing this for around 2 months and noticed all those issues Matt mentioned. Just thought I’d say that to get Next-Generation CP you need to set your language to English US. I’m in the U.K., but due to “americanization” everything I say is practically American anyway!

    But hey, nice post! I did a tutorial on howto setup Google Sync on YouTube (see my site for details of my YouTube account!).

    As for the Mail, I know that doesn’t work but you can set it up so your mail comes every 15 mins via Fetch and the Calendars and Contacts push. It’s almost MobileMe. I’m surprised Apple have allowed this! But it’s none the less awesome! Saving me $99 a year!!

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