MobileMe Receives Minor Refresh

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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?

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