One of the biggest benefits of today’s smartphones is their ability to synchronize a ton of data between your desktop and phone, it’s available at your fingertips no matter where you are. The ability to access and modify information such as email, contacts and appointments on your calendar from your computer and have them sync automatically with your phone is a feature I can’t imagine living without. iPhone owners have a decision to make as soon as they take their new toy out of the box: What service to utilize for syncing data. There are many choices, but we will focus on two of the most popular, MobileMe offered by Apple for a subscription fee, and Google with their free email, calendars, documents and more. I hope to make this decision easier for you so let’s get to it.
The day I bought my iPhone 3G back in August of 2008 I signed up for Apple’s MobileMe Service, and, if you remember, reliability was spotty at best. I purchased a one year $99 MobileMe subscription for the sole purpose of syncing my mail, calendar, and contacts, but soon found the service provided more. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could access my MobileMe Gallery as well as iDisk from my iPhone, and at that time it was the only way to implement “Find My iPhone”. Apple also provides you with 20GB of data storage and 200GB of monthly data transfer. So with all those features, two years later, I can honestly say, I use most, with the exception of Gallery and iDisk. I find I never use the Gallery application because I sync the last twelve months of photos to my phone from iPhoto so they are stored locally, not to mention I also utilize flickr for photo sharing so Gallery is rendered useless for me. I have completely stopped using iDisk as it is very flaky and I can never be sure my data is synced properly. I find Dropbox more reliable and 2GB of data storage is free. I’ve loved having all my data precisely synced between my desktop and iPhone and it has made my life more efficient.
I soon found out it was just as easy to sync the majority of information utilizing services provided by Google, and it was all free. I could sync my email, contacts, calendar all at no charge. Not to mention, at the time, Google had the ability to share calendars, where the folks at Apple had yet to figure that out (you can now share calendars in MobileMe). Google also gives you the ability to access your documents on your iPhone assuming you are implementing Google Docs, through the free application, something others don’t offer.
We’ve seen a few features that each service provides and the other does not, so let’s summarize these in order to compare apple’s to apple’s (no pun intended). MobileMe offers Gallery and iDisk, which Google has no equivalent, but as discussed can be supplemented with Dropbox and flickr. Google also lacks the Find My iPhone feature, but considering it’s now offered for free through the app store for iPhone 4’s this is no longer a MobileMe benefit. Google offers access to documents amongst other less popular services that will be left for another discussion. Finally MobileMe affords users 20GB of storage and 200GB of data transfer while my Gmail account affords me just over 7GB of storage for email only.
With all that being said, what service should you employ on your iPhone? It really comes down to preference, but if I had to set this up on my iPhone today, I would configure it like this. I would sync email, contacts, calendar and documents with Google while housing photos locally as I do now, as well as utilizing flickr. Lastly, I would download the free “Find My iPhone” application from the app store just in case the phone gets lost, stolen or falls behind the bed. I’ll be sacrificing some storage and bandwidth for my families website, but I can always find a similar service and for a fraction of the price.
When my MobileMe subscription comes up for renewal I will have to make a final decision, but I can think of a few things I’d rather spend that money on rather than paying for a service I can utilize for free.
What are your thoughts, do you use Google or MobileMe? Do you prefer one over the other? If so why?