MobileMe: Is it worth it?

68 Comments

If you believe the marketing hype, you aren’t really a true Mac user unless you have MobileMe. MobileMe is pushed heavily in the Mac and iPhone UI as well as the Apple (s aapl) retail environment. Fancy terms like “beyond the box sales” are a clever way of saying “high profit” for Apple.

Let’s break down the features of MobileMe see if it’s worth it. The retail price of MobileMe is $99, though discounts abound, but for this article, let’s stick with the $99 price. My calculator app says this comes to $8.25 a month, or a little more than a quarter a day. Pretty cheap, but can you cut it out and save some money? What if Apple sold the features a la carte, like we wish our cable companies would do with channels? With a bit of research, here are what I think are the market rates for each of these features (or at least what I would pay for them).

Ring my iPhone/Display a message (Free)

The ability to force your phone to ring, even when it’s in vibrate mode is nice. However, we all got along OK before that feature was implemented. It’s nice, but I wouldn’t pay for it.

Remote Lock and Remote Wipe ($4.99 per month)

We all know Liz Lemon’s ordeal with her iPhone. While I don’t have adult photos on my iPhone, I do have information I’d rather not fall into the wrong hands. Being able to remotely lock and then possibly wipe my iPhone is really of great value to me. It’s peace of mind insurance and I’ll price it like AT&T’s (s att) insurance for other phones. Those who are not as concerned with having their phone fall into others’ hands may not value this as much as I do.

Find my Phone on the Map ($5.00 or combine with Remote Lock/Wipe for $7.50)

AT&T has a GPS service for other phones called “AT&T Family Map” and charges $9.99 to track up to two people. Since this is for just one phone, I divided the cost in half. Being able to find your phone when you lose it is awesome. I value this feature the same as the Remote Lock and Wipe: peace of mind if the phone gets lost. One without the other would be helpful and have pretty much the same value. Combine the two and I expect a bit of a discount.

iDisk (Free for 2 GB, .25 for each additional GB)

Yawn. 20 GB of storage in the cloud. Who doesn’t store data in the cloud these days? Standard pricing seems to be to give two GB away for free and charge about 25 cents for each additional GB (See DropBox or SugarSync). Given the fact that the iDisk tends to be rather slow, I’m not sure I’d want to pay much at all. The “seamless” desktop synchronization of the iDisk can’t match the true automatic synchronization of DropBox and SugarSync

Back To My Mac (Free)

Being able to remotely get files off your Mac? There’s an app for that and it was first developed in late 1980s and was named Timbuktu. In addition to Timbuktu (which still exists), these days there are free products such as LogMeIn Free and VNC (See my review of iPhone remote apps). Additionally, Back To My Mac isn’t 100% reliable, and if you can better rely on other free products, then how much is it really worth?

MobileMe Gallery (Free)

Online photo gallery? Who doesn’t have one these days? Flickr and Facebook fit the bill nicely and if you don’t like those social networking sites pretty much anyone who develops film today will give you a free online gallery, with occasional minor restrictions.

Me.com Email (Free)

Would anyone actually pay for web-based email? Really? With offerings from Google (s goog), Yahoo (s yhoo), and Microsoft (s msft), someone has to be really out of the loop to be paying for web based email. Granted, Me.com makes it pretty and easy, but it’s more a matter of personal preference than any true value. Sending large files and sharing them are easy, but countless services exist to help with just that. The average user rarely needs to send a large file that one of these services doesn’t support.

iWeb Publishing (Free)

For those of us who use iWeb, MobileMe makes publishing delightfully simple. You can publish to other sites with a bit of a workaround, and those workarounds are easy to find on the web, so paying for this feature is for people who don’t know how to Google.

Over the Air Syncing ($2.00)

The value of this is based on Verizon’s Backup Assistant program that will back up your contacts for almost any Verizon phone. When we look at the T-Mobile Sidekick it’s included with the service. For syncing files between computers, see Dropbox and SugarSync. Contacts and calendars can be synced using Google as a conduit (See BusySync). Having your keychains and widgets synced is nice, but workarounds with other syncing software allow you to do that as well.

Personally, this is the killer feature of MobileMe for me. I work with a large number of clients and all my contacts and appointments are on my iPhone. Before I can get to a desktop to sync, I’ll often have made a few appointments and might accidentally double book myself if I didn’t have this feature. Sure, I could use Google to do it exclusively but that’s a few extra steps and time is often of the essence for me.

All of it working together as one package (Free or Priceless)

Seamless integration is nice, don’t get me wrong. Would I be willing to pay for it? Not really. I’d rather save money buying the features I need and make them work together myself, manually. For some people, the very reason they bought an iPhone instead of another mobile device is due to the ease of use factor, so for these folks, the more everything works together without thinking about it, the better.

So what’s my personal decision? When I add the Remote wipe/lock/find/ring feature ($7.50) with the Over the Air Syncing ($2.00), MobileMe justifies itself. Other features really aren’t worth paying for. So again, how much would you pay and what features are most valuable for you? Operators are standing by.

68 Comments

rwahrens

I agree with those that say your “analysis” is a bit flawed. Leaving out the integration of MM is like reviewing a BMW for a car mag and not taking it for a test drive. You miss out on the major reason why people buy the product.

No other webmail service pushes my mail to my iPhone.
No other third party app syncs my calendar and contacts and integrates them into emailed reminders that automatically push themselves to my phone when the event is due.

The iDisk app on my iPhone gives me instant access to view and email any document on my iDisk from my iPhone, anywhere, while giving me the secure knowledge that my Mac is still safely behind my firewall and protected from intrusion. my iDisk is automatically updated, instantly, every time I change or create a new document and save it to my iDisk on the desktop on my Mac.

This function kept both my Macs synced perfectly until I sold the second Mac. when I buy a new one, I expect it to keep those synced too.

Seamlessly, effortlessly.

Locking my iPhone protects all of these avenues of access from an intruder that may steal my phone.

I rarely have to even think about how all this works. And the experience just gets better with every OS update Apple puts out.

I’ll stick with the Apple experience, thankyouverymuch.

JuanGuapo

@rwahrens

You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

>No other webmail service pushes my mail to my iPhone.

Yahoo has offered this since ’07
AOL since ’08
Gmail since the Summer ’09

>No other third party app syncs my calendar and contacts and integrates them into emailed reminders that automatically push themselves to my phone when the event is due.

Gmail does this (via ActiveSync)

rwahrens

Well, my yahoo account may “push” email, but it doesn’t SYNC my email like MM does.

If I look at my Yahoo account on a computer, I still have to go “read” it on my iPhone so it doesn’t show up as unread. My .Mac account doesn’t make me do that.

And no, Gmail doesn’t send out an email when an event in my calendar is due. That’s because I refuse to give anymore information to Google than they already have. Why use Google

The point is that my MM account is a link between all my Mac apps that keeps things synced and working together, which also links my iPhone and my Mac.

Seamlessly and effortlessly.

adam

I think u miss the point. it is about cost but it is more about capabilities and reliability and apple doesn’t seem to get it. this, for them, is a peripheral when, rather, it should be at the core of their services. another hobby?

Syd

I use Mobile Me just because of the OTA Sync unfortunately for some reason I am having trouble syncing Contacts and Calendars from MM to The Iphone and Vice versa. Apple normally has great customer service but in this case dealing with Mobile Me support has been extremely frustrating and has been going on for nearly two months without the problem being resolved. i love the apple experience but the Mobile Me support experience has really soured me – get your act together Mobile Me support..

rwahrens

Don’t fool around with the ichat help for MM, just take your phone to a Genius Bar at an Apple store. There are answers to what you are experiencing, and the techs there should know them.

iHing

Keeping my Macs in sync is the reason I use the MobileMe service. I can log onto my iMac or MacBook Pro even my PC at the office to a certain extent and have mail, calendar, contact and bookmarks in sync. The MobileMe service is a centralized server for my Macs, iPhone and PC and the Internet is the computer network. See http://www.icrazee.com/2009/12/why-mobileme.html

Tom Reestman

I have three Macs, three iPhones, and some work PCs. There’s nothing that’ll tie them together — at multiple levels — as seamlessly and easy as MobileMe. Nothing. That’s the power MobileMe possesses, and it’s hardly ever written about.

I don’t understand why people want to cobble together some pseudo-solution from various vendors and then maintain them all. Geek cred? Isn’t that what Windows users like to do?

From Amazon.com, MobileMe comes to about six bucks a month. What’s your time worth?

gpmaynes

The comment about tying multiple devices together is exactly right. I tie 3 iphones and 8 macs together. There is a shared body of information kept in sync on the idisk. I would pay twice the price for an increase in data speed on syncing the idisk.

vanni

I use MobileMe and love it. But i think the price should be reduced to $49.00.

The total cost my my latest renewal was $133.0cdn.

Gazoobee

I like MobileMe and find it completely worth it. The things it provides can be got mostly for free here and there, but in reality “free” with advertisements, service interruptions etc. is not the same as plain old “free.”

It’s the same old Linux vs. paid OS’s argument. Sure it’s free, but there is a cost to maintaining it, fiddling with it, ensuring the integration is working etc. whereas an end to end solution like Apple provides, “just works.”

I find talking about paying for it versus free, when the cost is so low to begin with is a bit disingenuous also. We are talking about the cost of a couple of extra coffees a month here, not cable or cellphone bills. It’s worth it to me to have the security and ease of MobileMe.

PS – this article is so poorly written as to kind of imply that MobileMe only has 2Gigs of storage per account. It actually has 20 GBs.

John

For me my requirement were to get mail, calendar and contact sync as accurately and uptodate as possible accross all my clients. For this, mobile.me is not up to the job. It requires desktop software so won’t work with my ubuntu netbook, won’t work wig a proxy so I can’t use it at work and won’t synch with outlook when connected to exchange.
So at home I use gmail with imap clients and calender acess with iCal. Contacts sync to my iPhone and then sync over the wire when docked. At work I use the google outlook sync agent. For remote access I use vnc. For VPN I use an ssh VPN to home and IPSec to work.
As you say, mobile.me is for those who can’t google.

Jocca

I have three computers and an iPhone and an iPod touch and everything is kept in sync. It is worth the price not to mention the peace of mind in case I loose any one of these gadgets.

Ted Cranmore

I use Google for all my sync’ing and it has proven to be fast and 100% reliable. I would like to have the remote wipe/lock/ring/find features but think the service is a little overpriced because I know I won’t used the rest of it. I may one day regret not paying for it, but if they offered the set as a separate service for 50% of the cost I would sign-up immediately.

Jason Philo

Though my subscription with MM was current,when I got rid of my 1st Gen iPhone I decided to try to move away from it to see how I fared.

• iWeb was replaced with WordPress. I don’t need local storage for my site and WP has some nice built-in features.
• Mail, contacts, and cal went to Google. I don’t like the way Google handles my contacts, and I found Exchange syncing to be spotty–especially pushing mail (used an iPod and iPhone)
• Cloud went to Dropbox, but now it’s just another app that I can do natively with another login. I don’t use this enough to be an issue to need faster service.
• Finding is not available with another service.
• Photo sharing through Facebook and Posterous.

Last month I bought a new iPhone and found 3rd party solutions to be tedious. I’ll find MM on Amazon or eBay and keep renewing. It’s easy and seemless, it makes for a consistent Mac experience. Especially important to me is the mail, contacts, and calendar. If this weren’t an issue I wouldn’t do MobileMe, but having an iPhone no other options work quite as well.

Dave

I use MobileMe and love it. I have bought a family pack for the last two years and have gotten it off amazon for under $90 both times. So that’s less than $20 a user a year. I love having my contacts synced and push email ( I can’t use googles exchange because I already have a business exchange account on my iPhone). iDisk and web hosting are also nice too, may not be the best in the industry but they do the job.

Anon

I wouldnt buy mobile me, unless, my iphone costs me a lot of money, find-my-iphone would be very usefull for those times needed. The sync is a bonus feature with whatever else comes in, its mainly the find-my-iphone that i would pay for, and the remote wipe/notice sign. I wish someone else would do this.

hmurchison

I’m on the MM trial and I gotta say the OTA sync is going to seal the deal for me. The minute a person gets an iPod Touch/iPhone the power of MM increases by magnitudes. Since I keep my Address Book and iCal as current as possible other 3rd party apps build off of this data and it makes my experience what I expect coming from Apple.

Some of you use Google apps and that’s fine but I’m not whoring out my computer usage stats to save $7 a month. Plus I find the fit and finish of Google’s tools to be pedestrian. I’m computing on Mac for the superlative experience.

Christian

You leave out the integration with Apple apps in your evaluation. I’m sure it works well with iLife, etc… but I use it with Aperture and for me that’s a killer feature.

Not saying it’s a steal, but I’ll renew next year.

dave herring

i have mobile me, but only have it for the remote lock/wipe and find my phone features. i never use the email, gallery, or contacts. why? because i use google sync for all of this. i have gmail, my contacts, and calendars all pushed through google sync, and its instant push both ways. enable sync to your computer too, and you’re in business. contacts, email, and calendars all sync with google, your mac apps, and your phone.

i won’t be renewing mobile me. i tried it, and google offers what i would use for free. i’ll stick with google.

dryan

My account expired this week. First time in at least five years I haven’t had .mac or MobileMe. Once Google rolled out exchange sync I never used it. Dropbox handles iDisk functionality with more features.

RK

If you have more than one mac as I do, you would come to appreciate mobileme’s capability to keep all the settings the same on all the macs. With mobileme synching, I can walk up to any one of my macs and have pretty much the same experience.

I am resisting putting my mail/contact/calendar in the Google cloud for it to search. It is getting creepy.

Rocky Liu

I pay for the $149/year family pack of Mobile Me. I can get a lot of the same services for free from Google etc. But since my wife, parents, and brother all use iphones, the mobile me helps me setup push mail and over the air sync for them easily. Have any of you try helping your parents or wife/gf setup their iphones with google sync, gmail, gcal cync, logmein etc? Mobile me comes in a package that works seamlessly with everyone’s mac and iphone in my family.

bonesb

@RL, if you check in on your message, be sure to check out Amazon when you renew. I get the Family Pack for MM for $99, generally with free shipping. Don’t pay $150 again!

Galley

A decent web hosting service will run you $5-7 per month. MobileMe can be had for less than $6 per month (when purchased at a discount).

Hunt Henning

MobileMe for me is a nice combination of features that “just work”. While other solutions are cheaper I enjoy having a service that flawlessly syncs my information between my various Macs and PCs (Especially multiple calendar and contact sync). While iDisk is not as quick as Dropbox it is generally reliable and has pretty much the most idiot-proof way to share files with others. While the service retails for $99 a year you can always buy MobileMe from vendors like Amazon for as low as $60 sometimes; the average is about $70. So, adding all these nice features together it actually ends up being cheaper than Dropbox’s syncing if you don’t need more than 15GB worth of day. Plus, there is nothing stopping you from using all of these other free services in tandum with MobileMe. :)

Dan

Ad-free web hosting. $6.95 a month with Bluehost (or about anyone else). I understand MobileMe isn’t as advanced a host, but…

I’d pay an extra $1.30 a month for all the other features.

Beth

Don’t forget the great feature of Photo Galleries to be downloaded from and uploaded to, all in one easy click. There are no other features on free (ad ridden, horribly interfaced) sites to download an entire album in an easy zip file so quickly and easily. MobileMe has saved my life and data many times and just makes sharing so much easier, with features like Photo Gallery, iDisk private file sharing, and the Public folder.

Joeypk07

I believe you’re undervaluing the me.com mail service just a bit since it does push mail to your iPhone.

e

agreed – the killer feature IS over the air sync. that’s the only reason i use it as well…

Oliver Bouchard

I do pay for MobileMe and will probably continue to do so, just because I’m curious. But I’m syncing with Google services and I’m pretty happy with that.

Jon

You forgot to mention hosting :) Hosting with a reputable company typically starts around $70-80 a year.

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