Blog Post

Break Away From MobileMe: 7 Free Services to Help You Make the Move

Apple’s replacement for .Mac has had a very rocky start, and has a long way to go before its ready to compete with free alternatives. Many users do not want to move away from MobileMe because of the deep integration with the Mac desktop, while others are reluctant because its hard to find another single service that provides all of the services that MobileMe does. If the latest outage has you ready to jump ship, here’s a guide to making the break.

Mail: Gmail

Making the transition to Gmail is very easy. Gmail allows you to use POP3 to download all of your existing mail from MobileMe into Gmail, and Gmail also allows you to send email as [email protected] allowing you time to migrate slowly. With instant search, integrated chat, nearly infinite storage, and an extremly fast interface, making the switch to Gmail not only replaces MobileMe Mail, it makes your email overwhelmingly more enjoyable.

Calendar: Google Calendar

Using the mail substitution above, its a simple click away to use the excellent Google Calendar. The web interface is excellent, but if you are an iCal user, Google Calendar provides a very simple way to migrate all of your existing calendars off of MobileMe. 

First, create blank calendars on Google Calendar to mirror each MobileMe calendar you use today. Next, simply follow the instructions here to sync your Google Calendar to iCal. Finally, drag and drop your calendar events from the local iCal calendar to the newly added Google Calendar. Once all of the calendar events are moved over, delete each of the iCal calendars. Give Google a second to sync everything up to their servers and then check the web interface. All of your calendars should be available.

Address Book: Plaxo

Plaxo not only syncs your address book contacts to their web service, it also keeps your contact information current with others who use their service. Plaxo includes a plugin for the Mac’s Address Book that makes the sync painless. It can also sync to Gmail’s contacts, Outlook, and a host of other services.

iPhone Bonus! If you’ve got an iPhone, you can sync Address Book directly with Google, bypassing Plaxo. There’s also a clever hack to enable this ability without an iPhone, but, being unsupported, the next Mac OS update will probably wipe it out.

Gallery: Flickr/Picasa

There’s certainly no shortage of photo sharing web sites available.  Crowd favorite Flickr is a great choice, and with the $24 FlickrExport tool from Connected Flow, you can upload directly from iPhoto.  Flickr also has a ton of social media capabilities, and the ability to integrate into other online services.  If you’d like to keep with one provider as much as possible, Google’s Picasa is another great photo sharing site, which also has a free iPhoto plugin to upload photos.

iDisk: Amazon S3

This is another area where there is certainly no shortage of competition but I ultimately chose Amazon S3 + Cyberduck for my online storage needs. is another strong option; however, my initial tests found very poor WebDav capability. Amazon S3 can be a little complicated to set up, but at only 15 cents per gigabyte, the price is hard to beat, and there is an active developer community creating new applications for accessing S3 all the time.

Sync: Mozy

Mozy provides 2 gigabytes free online storage, and their Mac client integrates easily with the desktop. The utility installs as a menu item, and offers pre-configured “Backup Sets” for many common items like Address Book, Apple Mail, Keychains, and Firefox or Safari bookmarks. It also offers to backup your entire Documents, Music, and Movies folders. With the Backup Sets feature I set up a custom Yojimbo set by selecting all of the files in ~/Library/Application Support/Yojimbo. Mozy also allows you to specify a specific file or directory that you would like backed up.

Sync Bonus! If you are using Firefox as your main browser, Foxmarks can sync both your bookmarks and passwords between multiple machines, regardless of operating system. I use it to keep my browsers in sync between my Mac at home, and my Windows XP laptop at work.

iWeb Hosting:  Google Sites

Google Sites gives you a very simple and easy way to setup a web site for sharing stories, photos, and movies with friends and family. While not as all encompassing as an iWeb site, it still gets the job done. If Sites is not really what you are looking for, consider setting up a free blog site with If sticking with iWeb is a necessity, simple, low volume web hosting with a company like 1and1 or Dreamhost is relatively inexpensive, and can give you full control over the content, look, and feel of your site.

Breaking away from MobileMe is not a decision to be taken lightly, but by taking an objective look at exactly what you want out of an online service, the move can be relatively painless, and surprisingly enjoyable.

51 Responses to “Break Away From MobileMe: 7 Free Services to Help You Make the Move”

  1. On Jan 4th i renewed my MobileMe account. Yesterday I downloaded the trial version of iWork09 to check out the new features. I was able to use the feature using my MobileMe Account. I like it. I’m happy with all the features of the MobileMe… and having three machines everything is working just fine and i really like the connivence of syncing between desktops and laptops. Colour me happy.

  2. All I know is that with 2 Desktops, 2 Laptops (one of which is always on the road) and an ipod touch; MobileMe never worked correctly. It never finished a full sync of the iDisk (which only the road laptop uses) during the 3 month trial. Contacts would never sync correctly with any of the computers even after 6-8hrs of working with the supposed “Tech” support to try and fix it.
    Those are the only two services I was definitely after and they could never explain to me why they wouldn’t work.
    I’m leaving Mobile me far behind.

  3. Another possibility for your own web site is to purchase an external ethernet enabled 1TB hard drive, download Joomla, XXAMP for whatever OS you use, Cyberduck, and KompoZer. Be sure to purchase a domain after doing all of that! As far as mobileme-like functions beyond web hosting or your own ftp server, google how to push your own content for free! Just a thought for the cheapskates out there!!!

    Markus McLaughlin
    Hudson, MA, USA

  4. I tried MM in early October. My MB, MBP and Iphone3G were all in sync
    in an hour on a Sunday. I get to work Monday, and mail service is out
    ALL day! I don’t care how much the service costs, I can not afford to
    have my mail down all day.

    Reading updates, I tried it again 10/30. Only to experience another outage.

    So: DISK, 10GB, super fast, $19/yr, can even use your own domain names:
    Used WebDav. Unlimited bandwidth., $9/mo supports it all. webdav Ical, idisk, sync, across multiple paltforms. I have used it for years on windows, and never once had an outage
    that was their fault. I added my MB, MBP and Iphone3G (and yes OmniFocus, 1passed), and
    works like a charm. Of course the MB’s are faster as they use a USB UM150 1 x EVDO Verizon
    broadband connection where I get up to 2.0Mbs down and up to 1Mbs up. Avg is more like 1.1Mbs down and 384-512Kbs up. Compared to my 3G that rarely runs 3G.. it is a blessing. If an
    1 X EVDO rev A verson of the Iphone 3G came out tomorrow for $400, I would toss my newly
    upgraded iphone3G (from an Iphone) in the trash.

    I love my Mac’s, but really I look at them as : A Multicore processor with Debian Linux, running a Gui of Cocco (vs. Xwindows, KDE), and Parallels VM software with WIndows XP on top.
    If another intel dual PC ran Mac OS X 10.5 I would jump in a second. It is hard to run all
    that on an Intel MBP that only supports 4Gbs, like the PC’s in the latte 1980’s. Steve???
    We can put in 8, 16MB these days… we are no longer using 386SX chipsets….

    I have no affiliation with FIlesanywhere, or bingodisk. BTW, I use Bingodisk even though
    an Idisk comes with files anywhere because Bingodisk is notedly faster, and at $19 for 10GB
    how can you go wrong??

    IMHO, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have a lot more in common.

  5. Not to keep bangin the same drum here, but it probably takes me more time to write this that it would take me to setup MM again! Beat that google+DropBox+Fruux+whatever…. !

  6. Yay, time to repeat myself.. again

    @John Smith:
    Its not 7 different services, and it certainly doesn’t take 3 hours to setup. With Google as the SERVICE PROVIDER, they all work in tandem, just like MobileMe does. So in retrospect, your only getting 3, maybe 4 different services tops. Google(GMail, GSites, GCal, Picasa, GContacts, etc) + DropBox is a pretty good substitute. Fruux + DropBox is also interesting, but you’d still need to add a email solution in there (which would put it at 3 different services, but would provide a better Contact-sync solution).

  7. This is sort of the thing, though — using 7 disparate services to replace .Mac is a LOT more work on your part. Sure, you can save $99/year, but if I have to spend 3 hours setting up those accounts, it’s not worth my time.

  8. Here are the things that made MM incredibly useful for me, and convinced me to pay for the subscription:
    1) Realtime push email notification. There’s something really gratifying about getting emails faster on my iPhone than on my work blackberry. If Gmail had Push, this might be a lesser consideration.
    2) address. I envied those who had one, being the smug Apple fan I am. :) Sorry if this is considered flamebait, but I’m being honest… I do value his email address.
    3) Realtime contacts synchronisation. Another comforting thing to know that your contacts are always in sync.
    4) Web interface almost like real application. Love the quick reply feature, and drag n drop calendar changes. Yes there were problems at MM launch, but they’re mostly solved now regarding the interface.
    5) Safari bookmark sync between Mac and PC. I’ve been struggling with this for a long time, and MM washed it away with a simple sync. Lovely. Now, if only it works for Firefox too, which my wife prefers….
    6) Photo Gallery upload via iPhoto and iPhone. The one-click upload functionality is brilliant, click and get a cup of coffee. Also acts as backup for memorable iPhone photo moments.
    7) iDisk as a small file transit. Useful for when work email is limited to 5MB and you need to send something on your desktop back home, and don’t have a USB flash drive.

    What I don’t like about MM:
    1) Incredibly SLOW performance upload photos. It’s really agonising. When I said get a cup of coffee in pt 6 above, that should really mean 6 cups of coffee….
    2) Incredibly slow performance for uploads to iDisk. Same thing… is it related to WebDAV? That protocol really needs an overhaul, it really kills me. Uploading files between 5-50MB seems ok if slow…. any larger seems to time out.
    3) Photo Gallery seems to be slow for viewing photos from HK. Why are the servers not distributed across globally? We’re paying for a well known service, how comes its all centralised in Cupertino only? Does anyone else have these issues, even in the US?

    I haven’t even started to try using iWeb yet, but that’s something interesting to try.
    Overall, the plusses overcome the negatives for me, hence my vote for it.

  9. … let me add another 2Cents worth; With Two Macs and an iPod touch. the MobileMe service has been a god-sent for me. ( I also have use Gmail). MM has worked for me like a charm… I can’t count the times that it has saved my bacon. I have a simple robust way of having crucial information always in sync. Addresses, Email, Calendar, safari bookmarks(not on web but on devices)… and Don’t forget BackToMyMac .. another life saver for us on the move!. No the 27 cents a day is not a cost burden but a pleasure! Even if i don’t bill, the 99$ price is great for me in terms of time saved.

  10. @Edgar, you hit the nail on the head. I have two macs and an iPhone. It took me 10 minutes (and zero pain) to set up MobileMe. Initially I was skeptical and thought to myself, why not just use Google? But the 60 day free trial makes it pretty risk free.

    I use it only for contacts & calendar. Those alone are well worth 27 cents a day for the time and hassle it saves. If you can bill your time for more than 4 cents an hour, it’s a no brainer. I might one day use the file sharing, photos, etc., but I don’t care if never do. It’s still worth it.

  11. I have tow macs, and 3 iphones (family) we all sync with mobile me. I also use Transmit, OmniFocus, 1Password, Entourage, and some others that depend on MobileMe or similar services for synching and others. It feels great when you see that new applications are making use directly of MobileMe and the list keeps growing. I’m not sure I have the time to look for 3-7 different services and hope that all the apps I work with will be able to take advantage of their features. I think, it would take me a a few hours to make sure all is sync’ed, backed up, and shared the way I have it with MobileMe. Those are hours I can invoice by working for my customers….. it is a no brainer for me. Maybe everybody else is still in highschool or college an can afford the time.

  12. I think the author meant 7 services to HELP you move over, as opposed to 7 services you NEED to move over, non?

    I would bet my money that people don’t use all the MobileMe functionality anyway (e.g., Photos and iDisk get much less love from me), meaning that a switch to the Google umbrella of free services would likely solve everything. Then you can even have an integrated (and mobile) RSS reader and bookmarks access too. Just my 2¢.

  13. HobbesDoo

    I agree 100% with Jamie. Although there are issues, if you have several Macs and an iPhone MobileMe still provides the hassle free solution and integration I’m looking for. I tried the alternative services as well, but nothing compared to what MobileMe gives me.

    Don’t get me wrong, if the free services improve to the point of offering me the same functionality I get with MobileMe to integrate my Macs and iPhone I would seriously consider it. Right now it’s more involved than I think it’s worth it and 100 bucks a year doesn’t seem too much right now.

  14. @Jamie: Its more like 3 or 4 services. All of Google’s stuff integrates with each other, much like how MobileMe is now(Picasa, Gmail, GCal, GContacts, GSites). I don’t agree with separating the iDisk/Sync alternatives, one service should be sufficient for both, but I’ll admit I haven’t found a real winner yet (Dropbox was close since it allowed easy sharing and permission systems and syncing, with version control, but its actual sync location paths and its lack of multi-tier plans also make it difficult to adopt).

  15. For sync services there are a couple other options I’d recommend.

    Live Mesh – which just opened a Mac beta it provides 5GB of storage and can sync individual folders. Works with Windows and Mac (beta).

    FolderShare – which is growing stale but has no storage limit because it’s a direct sync from computer to computer. Meaning both computers have to be on in order to sync but at the benefit of no space limit. Works with Windows and Mac.