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

charyis

Have been on the free trial for over a month and am sick of trying to get the address book sync correct for my address groups (nevermind smart groups which is a non-starter). Shouldn’t be too difficult – it’s just the cloud, my shiny new iMac and iPhone. “Genius” support has not been exactly genius. If I could get this working right I ouldn’t mind the money but jeesh!

bradleyspurr

For me, the remote wipe was the only feature I wanted. My solution was PhoneWipe (www.phonewipe.com) for way cheaper. Cheers! -Bradley

johanna

I have had .mac now mm for 3 years never really used it but now have iphones for the whole family so upgraded to family pack as I was told that i could share everyones calender but that is not the case i feel really cheated could have got it on google for free!! why cant apple do this also how bizarre!!

iHing

As I said before I am a big fan of the syncing but Apple needs to fix the performance of MobileMe webmail.

Chris

@ Gazoobee:

I take your point – the webmail app ‘appears’ to be well designed. Perhaps the slow speed of the application has influenced my opinion somewhat, but only slightly. I’ve just had a little play around to get some more concrete examples –

1. Pop up dialogues – Is it really necessary to make users launch a new windows and wait 10 seconds for the screen to appear in order to reply to an email?

2. Screen locking – try checking an external email account – it just locked my screen (web screen mind you) for upwards of 2 minutes while it was checking my yahoo account. I’m sure the Apple UI people have a really good reason for designing it that way? Or perhaps it is a technical limitation of the technology used to build the site?

3. Complete lack of asynchronous processing – it seems every action on the web client must block and wait for the teething pullingly slow server to respond. Terrible.

4. Constant time outs with the server –
e.g. “Mail could not complete your action because your session has expired or the selected message was moved or deleted” – no the session has not expired the server response is just that slow.

Anyone else care to chime in? Apple? Steve?

vanni

I have been an iTools then MM user since day one. i would have thought that this would have been enough tiem to have fixed the slowness of the iDisk issues. This and the fact that webmail is slow are the main reasons for my earlier comment that this service should be priced at $50.00.

Gazoobee

@ Chris:

Both MobileMe webmail and the iDisk *are* slow, but the rest of your beefs about them differ from almost all users and reviewers. On balance I find MobileMe, and specifically the webmail, to be very well designed indeed (as does almost every user I’ve ever talked to and every review I’ve ever read on the subject.)

I’ve never heard anyone call it “poorly designed.” Your experiences are unique.

Chris

Hasn’t anyone here used the web mail client for MobileMe. It is blindingly terrible. It is very slow, and has a poorly designed (what’s with the random full screen refreshes all the time?) and clunky user interface.

I’ve been a MobileMe/.mac user for 5 years, but every time I have to use the web client I feel like cancelling my account immediately, but so far I have been too lazy. Momentum is building however, as there are just so many great alternatives out there.

I actually can’t believe that Apple would allow it’s brand to be tarnished in this way by having such a terrible product in the market. I’ve been waiting in vain now for 2 years for them to fix it, but as yet no luck.

And don’t get me started on iDisk! Apple must have tried really hard to engineer a product that slow.

Eric

I’m fairly new to the iPhone world (was on winmo phones for a long time but now that exchange works great on the iPhone I’m not going back) but did not find mobileme at all compelling…mainly due to the price and that I’m not using a mac at home so the mac based enhancements are not useful to me. For cloud I’m using dropbox which works flawlessly. Exchange sync works great and once I jailbroke the phone (an essential step in my opinion) and really opened it up I installed the enhanced version of iLocalis which covers all the remote wiping/backup/location needs at a far lower price than mobile me and works quite well and is very configurable.

The other features of mobileme are of no interest to me so between dropbox (free), exchange sync (free on my work pc), and iLocalis (15 euros) I feel quite secure for a far lower cost.

I guess because of the Apple restrictions you can’t use a service like dashwire (free) which I used on my winmo phones…that was a pretty handy service and supplied about 75% of what mobileme does for no cost.

As an aside, it is my understanding that if you use the OTA sync with mobileme and you also use exchange, you get duplication of contacts which would be a real PITA (I know they are separately stored but it just seems messy and winmo never had this issue). I did discover that I got duplication if I sync via exchange and also on outlook at home so I’m just using exchange as my “master” contact database and all is well.

Christian

Sync of my addressbook, iCals, Yojimbo items plus pushing them to my iPhone and vice versa is value enough.
I hardly use the online sharing features, rather than putting files onto my iDisk dropbox is used here to automate some stuff with regards to files (torrents and autoprint pdfs @home anyone?).

The totally reliable push service alone is enough for me and my family.

david

I agree with most of this. The syncing phone/web/computer is the thing that makes it worth it. I’ve contemplated going to other alternatives but a few questions still vex me: if I use Google Calendar on the iPHone, I don’t believe it can remind me of an upcoming appointment since it can’t run all the time, right? It’s little details like this that I may not anticipate if I abandon Me.

James

For Remote Lock and Remote Wipe there is a good alternative for the iPhone called Undercover from Orbicuble http://www.orbicule.com/

Tried MobileMe once but find the service in Europe too slow.
All my syncing is arrange via Dropbox (check their blog !)

Johnny G

The only alternative I have not found is one that keeps your same settings across multiple macs. For example if a change something on my laptop like an icon on the dock I would also like the same to happen on my desktop so mobile me allows me to have this option available. I know this is not for everyone but it serves my purpose.

I think the free alternatives are great but as a whole I also like the fact that I can get everything in the one place.

I have had mobile me now for a few years back when I got it it was called .Mac but I cannot see a problem with the price for what I get I think it is worth it.

Charles Martin

The article is rather deceptive in equating free services to similar (but quite distinct) services on MobileMe.

For example, there’s lots of “free” email services about, such as GMail. And GMail is great as long as you don’t mind them a) attaching an ad to every outgoing email you write and b) having Google scan all your emails in order to tailor more ads to you.

MobileMe mail is AD-FREE. To me, that’s important.

Likewise, you have to be joking in equating Flickr and Facebook galleries (not only loaded with ads, but ugly as shit) to the beautiful and elegant MobileMe galleries. Yeah, I know which one *I’d* show a client.

Finally, I should mention that although MobileMe web page serving, podcast serving and so forth probably have a bandwidth limit, I’ve never reached it, and I host a reasonably popular podcast on my iWeb page. Don’t have to think about, never hit with a surprise bill, and the only ads are ones I put there myself. To me, that’s worth something.

Particularly given that one can generally find MobileMe renewals at 20% or more, I think it’s quite worth it (and I cut out a bunch of other reasons why for brevity).

hkiphone

MobileMe’s value increases exponentially when you have more than 1-2 units. With Back To My Mac, I can use a cheap 2nd hand Powerbook G4 12″ to carry to my office, and access the contents of my iMac 24″ back at home. If my wife has a problem finding something, I can either tell her where it is, or even do Screen Sharing and take direct control of the iMac. That is a brilliant piece of software that works great.
I also have a 1st gen iPhone, which is constantly in sync with my macs for email, calendar events, contacts etc. I love being able to read emails on it, and know that it won’t have to click “Mark as read” on the other machines. And also have piece of mind about locking my iPhone if it ever gets lost.

My own overall assessment of MM is, if you wish to spend some time to hunt around and organise your own things together and willing to maintain it, then by all means feel free to do so. Nothing in this world is forced upon you. I know alot of friends who have the greatest joy tinkering with things down to the lowest level. But there’s also alot of people out there, like myself, where time is limited and you just want something that works. It may not give you the full freedom of masses of online storage, or photo management flexibility etc if you drill deeply. But, like alot of others above have said, its the integration and expandability across multiple machines that gives it its greatest strength. You don’t buy a BMW or Merc just because of the engine. You buy it for its overall feel.

Meghann

Me.com Email (Free)
…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.

Have you ever tried to send music files with Hotmail? It’s painful. They have a 10MB limit, which is unsatisfactory for most people I know.

whitedd001

I think it really goood cause whenever i restore my iphone all i do is just to add the acc to my mail app all my contacts are back. it just works great

Hmurchison

You brind up a great point. Because Mobileme is from a single vendor it is easy to replace data. I read a story about a guy that lost his iPhone on a trip. Because of Mobileme he was able to purchase another iPhone and sync his data after activating the new phone. Free tools from other vendors would be more difficult.

odditonic

No. I get better services for free elsewhere and Mac integration is fabulous, though scattered through a few different accounts.

Zac

Honestly, I don’t think mobileme is worth the price anymore. There are too many free alternatives for most of the services to justify the cost – at least at the $99 price point. I’ve only remained with mobileme because all of my family, friends, and classmates have my @mac.com address. It reminds me of cell phone numbers prior to number portability – you stay with a bad carrier just so you don’t have to re-educate the world on how to reach you on a new number.

It’s tough how they replaced iTools with this expensive product. This could be more attractive if they lower the price.

LE Studios

I started with .Mac in 2002. Trust me MobileMe is worth every penny. Syncing Contacts, Calendar and Emails. Also transferring my bookmarks well as Dashboard setup to another Mac kinda blew me away. Now I’m using a 12″ PowerBook G4 I found for $182 at a pawn shop and MobileMe got it looking like my other Mac. 20GB of storage is not bad since I back my photography from my Sandisk 32GB SD Card. It’s worth it. I’ sure Apple is planning on adding more enjoyable features. Possibly with iTunes, but we see.

f haan

“Hosting with a reputable company” is no more than 30 bucks a year, if you pay more you should Google around. I sadly don’t have an iPhone so I didn’t know about the extra fees for remote lock/wipe and find on map. Apple, with their mountains of cash are adding to their coffers once again. I think those services should be included, I actually feel quite disappointed with them. But being an Apple user since 1986, it certainly isn’t the first time…

Ed

since I never succumbed to the iphone, those featureshave no use for me. Idropped MM after it lost ALL my contacts not once but twice. I wouldn’t go back for 99 cents!!

Ictus75

I’ve had MobleMe since it was introduced as a free app (itools) ages ago. I like that I can get all those features in ONE PLACE and not have to get 10 different apps from 10 different vendors. It’s totally worth it for easy web hosting with iweb.

BBCap

Hey i think it’s worth it just for the find my iPhone / remote lock/wipe alone. The rest is hst gravy. AT&Pee charges $5 month for insurance on their other phones, so I view MobileMe as a premium type of insurance that could actually help me find the darn thing if it gets lost or nicked.

download software pc

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?

Jon

I use MobileMe to host our Home Business website which makes it worthwhile. I was paying $80/year with GoDaddy for hosting but I can use my MobileMe hosting and my own domain at no extra charge! :) Totally worth it.

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