MobileMe Receives Minor Refresh

15 Comments

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After a short period of downtime in the early hours of the morning, MobileMe has emerged with a slight refresh to the interface, numerous speed improvements, and changes to the interface for the Mail, Calendar and Contact apps.

The login page has also undergone a minor re-design, aiming to provide more information and delegating less space to the display of the various application icons. The changes will be well-received, particularly to regular users of the online applications.

Mail

A few changes to the Mail app center around the composition of new messages. Notably:

  • The compose window address selector shows all email addresses for contacts, not just home and work addresses.
  • Newly added email addresses to Contacts appear in the compose window selector without having to log out and log in.

These are both welcome improvements, fixing oversights which have been niggling users since the launch of the service. However, rather than being impressive new features, these are simply adjustments to functionality which should really have been in place at the outset.

In addition to composition changes, the fix brings improved printing of HTML formatted messages.

Contacts

The MobileMe contacts app is fairly simple, doing its job in an effective and straightforward way. As with the Mail alterations, these are simple fixes focusing on improved results when searching with both first and last names and improved Japanese name ordering.

In addition, vCard export now supports all text fields rather than the limited previous selection — good for those wanting to move away from MobileMe!

Calendar

The Calendar application has undergone the most notable overhaul, with speed improvements across the board. Users now benefit from a faster start time when accessing the Calendar for the first time along with much faster performance when switching between day/week/month views. Speed has occasionally been a limiting factor for me when using the online calendar, and I may well be more tempted to view it more often now.

A few changes to view settings have also been integrated, with the calendar now retaining your last view settings, such as day, week, or month view, as well as whether you’ve set the To Do panel to show or hide. This is great news for regular users, who won’t need to re-set their display preferences every time they log in.

Login Page Changes

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The original MobileMe login page received a great deal of acclaim as an attractive interface that gave a good overview of the functionality available. Apple has managed to implement a re-design which retains these original positive aspects, also integrating a brief written overview of MobileMe’s features. It looks good to me!

A full list of changes can be seen in the accompanying Apple support document.

Is it Enough?

MobileMe has come under fire from critics since its launch, on account of the service speed, synchronization not working as initially advertised, and patchy periods of downtime. Reliability has undoubtedly improved dramatically in recent months, but are the recent changes enough to create a better impression of the service overall?

Personally, I’ve always found the online applications at me.com to be satisfactory. The main sticking point has been the sometimes-questionable synchronization between Mac, Me.com and my iPhone. I must admit that I’ve found this to have improved in recent months and my level of praise for the service is gradually increasing. Rarely do I open my iPhone to find that I’m missing a contact or appointment previously added on my laptop.

I’d be very interested to hear your opinion on whether the recent interface and speed changes make any difference to you. Is your opinion of MobileMe being affected by the minor issues you have with usability, or the fact that it’s lacking major features which haven’t yet been implemented?

15 Comments

Don

MobileMe email web interface is beyond slow. It is, “click the mailbox and get a cup of coffee” slow because the response time is nearly 60 seconds. How can anyone be expected to respond to business needs when you have to stare at your screen at the loss of productivity? Does anyone know if this is going to improve? I am at a loss at what to do. There doesn’t seem to be an effective application that syncs to the iPhone and combines events, email, and contacts all in one package. I’ve used NowContact – but they have a new product in beta called ‘X’ (x me out of that for now). Entourage has most everything, but my last experience with it I lost all my data through its buggy innerworkings despite multiple ‘help’ from support to ‘recover and rebuild’ my lost database. There’s got to be something that works and, ideally, links your contacts/emails/events with each other so each can be tagged with related data. Help!!

James

MobileMe is the SLOWEST e-mail service I have. SLOW. SLOW. SLOW. Also, the hyperlink function does not work at all. I am moving to Gmail. Dear Steve Jobs: everything else you do is high quality, and I’m proud to be an Apple Customer. Why are you allowing this particular service to tarnish your reputation as a high-quality provider of modern technology????

rickbnyc

The webmail interface has been unbearably slow and buggy since the transition to mobileme, and this has not improved since it’s launch. The old .mac webmail interface wasn’t perfect either, but it was much more stable and feature rich than even the current mobileme interface.

I am a freelancer and am often at a different computer day to day, and rely on the webmail interface to get to my email, and it is torturous: the mailbox takes up to 30 seconds to load; individual messages take 10-30 seconds to load once you click on them (if they load at all); if you don’t click on anything for more than a few minutes, then return, the whole interface must reload (which takes forever, as stated above); and several other similar problems.

I’m a huge apple fan, but the mobileme webmail is a atrocious embarrassment and nigh un-useable, especially for a service that costs $99/year!

Jessica

IT IS SO SLOW. I can’t bear it. I love my new iPhone. I use Entourage on my MacBook Pro. But if I ever need to access MobileMe from a browser, on ANY machine or connection, it is AWFUL.

I don’t want to pay 100 bucks a year for this, but I have a year’s worth of email and folders all nicely filed, and don’t want to change my email address.

What on earth is the problem?

Thiago

I think it lacks HTML composing in its webmail interface, as well as filters and actions like Yahoo! does.

tsly

It’s slow as all hell getting mail from the server. It takes forever to load mail.

.mac was so much better…..

This is an embarrassment for Apple.

Timo Reitnauer

I’m still waiting for custom domain support for email… Without the possibility of using my email address under my own .com domain, MobileMe doesn’t make any sense to me personally.

frd75

I read the blurb from my daughter’s account And i notice that the improvements depend on updating to Leopard. I quit mobile me because i was tired losing contacts and parts of my key chain. I am certainly not going to buy leopard for the privilege of spending $99 on mobile me when i can do almost every thing for free at other sites.

David

The critical missing feature in me.com and the related Apple product suite is push calendar syncing of published/subscribed (shared) calendars. When push syncing was introduced for me.com and the iPhone, it worked for all features but subscribed calendars — which still can only be synced by USB, defeating the purpose of live push calendar syncing for the iPhone and forcing those who rely on published/subscribed calendars to live without push syncing, or to use Google or other products, which is a pity. Apple should fix this important remaining bug ASAP.

Xairbusdriver

I think it may be hard to differentiate problems with MobileMe and what might be problems with our own hardware or that which we might be connecting to the interweb on. For example, I don’t have many unique ringtones for people but I’ve never lost any of them after six months of service. Is it because I’m using the built-in ringtones or because of problems on another iPhone? I dunno. If you need/want a calendar that syncs with more than iCal does, it’s rather hard to fault MobileMe for that. :-)

Rob D

I pretty happy with the MobileMe web site except the “Keep me logged on for two weeks”. That still didn’t work up until a few days ago. It seems to be working now, but that is what I though when they said they fixed it last time.
My biggest issue is that my iPhone re-syncs all the contacts every once in a while and I lose all my custom ring tones. It seems to do it when I make a few edits on the iPhone to set custom ring tones for a few people. All of a sudden contacts disappear and about a minute later they are all back without the changes.
I have given up on custom ring tones.
I did have some other syncing issues, but those were fixed when I reinstalled the iPhone software. I rebuilt all my settings and apps manually instead of restoring from the backup.

Gazoobee

I like the new interface and changes, but I detect no speed improvement and no speed improvement was apparent to me when I started using Safari 4 either, which surprised me a bit. I had been assuming that speeding up the javascript would be the magic pill that made MobileMe mail just that little bit faster and thus more solidly in the “usable” camp. I suppose in retrospect that I had no evidence that should have led me to believe that, but it was very disappointing nonetheless.

The MobileMe calendars don’t integrate with anything that anyone actually uses so I never even use them, they sound all well and good from your description though so I guess they are fine. My problem has always been with the email and the majority of the email problems stem from IMAP itself and the poor implementation of it on the iPhone. The fact that the iPhone doesn’t even check with the server for mail changes until you actually open the mail.app and dig around in the folders on the phone is just lame IMO.

As for MobileMe webmail, I use it only when I have to as it’s still just too slow. Even on my rocket like connection at work, opening MobileMe mail is slower than gmail, slower than our Universities Zimbra based web-suite, etc. I know it’s only a few seconds, but it’s still annoying and others still are faster, so I’m not sure what the problem is.

I have to wait a second or so for it to open, then it never highlights the last mail so I click on something to see if it’s working, then it’s a second or so for the mail to appear in the lower pane. If I click on the next email, it’s another second or half-second. Whereas for months the mail was so slow that it would show you emails that you deleted two or three seconds ago and cause all kinds of erroneous deletions, it’s now “sort-of” usable but still feels slow and annoying to me.

I don’t know how people deal with this when the alternatives are faster. I assume that perhaps it’s way faster if you live in California and no one else has complained much yet. It also still has no junk mail filtering and I have to leave my desktop client open 24/7 on my machine at home not to be bothered by spam all day long.

The MobileMe mail component is still a definite 4.5 out of 10 for me.

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