iCloud vs MobileMe

MobileMe was an important part of my workflow for many years. I guess I was one of the lucky ones that never experienced any major issues, so it became an integral and trusted part of how I work.

So when Steve Jobs announced iCloud, I was excited. It seemed like a great enhancement to the suite of tools I already used. And although I still wish Gallery hadn't gone away, I jumped straight in the day it was available.

Now, after having used iCloud for a while, I've been thinking about how it compares with MobileMe.

iCloud vs MobileMe

Mail, Calendar, Contacts

No difference. Maybe the way iCloud manages these is different than how MobileMe did it, but from a consumer point of view, it works exactly the same as it used to. Everything syncs as expected between 2 MacBook Pros, iPhone, iPad and the web app.

I did experience a short glitch the day I migrated to iCloud, where I couldn't get emails for a few minutes, but it fortunately hasn't happened again. It could've been the heavy load from everyone who got in the first day.

Mail, Calendars, and Contacts work as advertised. Hardly exciting or a reason to think it's better than MobileMe, other than these services are now free.

iTunes in the Cloud

This didn't exist with MobileMe, so it's all new. In the Apple website, they make it look like this applies only to music, and that books, apps, and backup are a separate feature. I find that strange as these are all managed by iTunes. I like to think of them as the same thing. iTunes in the Cloud basically allows you to have your iTunes purchased content available from any device and in sync across them.

iTunes in the Cloud is pretty cool overall, and each feature provides different benefits:

  • Music: It's great if all your music was purchased from iTunes, but most of mine was ripped from CD's ages ago, and I kept buying CD's for a long time as I like the cover art and wasn't a fan of the DRM Apple had. For recent stuff I've mostly bought on Amazon because Apple's international pricing sucks. iTunes Match solved this problem and it's amazing, but that's for another post.

  • Books: Works as advertised. I bought the Steve Jobs biography on the iBookstore from the iPad and it downloaded to my Mac and iPhone seamlessly. I also like that it keeps the pages syncronised, which works even if the book wasn't purchased from Apple.

  • Apps: Also works as advertised, as in it downloads apps you buy from an iOS device in the Mac. It's handy as a backup I guess, but I'm not sure I like this feature given the new over the air backup in iOS 5.

  • Backup: Seems great and both my iPhone and iPad tell me they're backed up. It's pretty cool that it happens over the air without me having to worry about it, but you never know if it's working until you need it. Not sure how to test that it works without having an additional iPhone/iPad to test on.

Photostream

It's very cool, but falls short. I like that I don't have to sync my iPhone manually any more to get my photos into Aperture. But since it doesn't work with videos you can't escape the wired sync. I now have a bunch of videos in my iPhone that haven't made it to the Mac.

I don't use Photostream on my Apple TV as it'll show screenshots, photo reminders, and other random stuff. I really only use it to sync, so not being able to delete a single image from my photostream doesn't bother me that much.

Documents in the Cloud

This also didn't exist in MobileMe, but it's a major dissapointment right now on Apple software.

iWork apps only sync between iOS devices, and not with the Mac. If you create a Keynote presentation on the Mac, you need to manually uploaded to iCloud via the web app. It then creates a new copy which syncs fine between iPhone and iPad, but it's no longer related to the original Mac version anymore. This makes it useless to me. A few weeks ago, I uploaded a Numbers spreadsheet and updated it on the iPad. Then I needed to update one thing on the Mac and now they're out of sync and neither is the master one. Not syncing with Mac is just stupid.

Third-party apps, on the other hand, are starting to use iCloud effectively. iA Writer, for example, now syncs seamlessly between the Mac version and the iPad version via iCloud. I'm writing this in iA Writer right now and have gone back and forth between Mac and iPad multiple times. It's bliss.

Day One also just implemented it and, after a few hiccups setting it up, it's now working flawlessly. The cool thing is that it syncs in the background, so your data is updated all the time.

I'd love for other apps to implement it, like OmniFocus, 1Password, and Yojimbo.

Find my Friends

Also didn't exist in MobleMe. I haven't used it much and honestly find it more creepy than useful. Maybe I just haven't been in the situation where I need this functionality.

Find my iPhone

Now this is cool. As far as I can tell, it's the same as we had in the MobileMe days.

What's gone from MobileMe

MobileMe Gallery

This sucks. Big Time. I used Gallery it a lot and I still haven't found a replacement for this feature. I guess not many people used it, but for those of us who did it's a real loss. Nothing even remotely similar in iCloud.

iDisk

I never really used it for much other than keeping hi-res backups of my photos (via Gallery), and the public folder to share stuff or have people upload. This is a big fail for Apple. They should've done it the way Dropbox did. I won't miss iDisk one bit.

iWeb Publishing

Personally, I only played around with iWeb now and then, so I won't miss it. It never worked consistently across browsers (it was especially bad in Internet Explorer), and web pages built with iWeb were extremely slow to load. However, I'm sure many people will miss this one.

Other syncing

MobileMe could sync Dashboard widgets, keychains, Dock items, and System Prefrences. I never used this, so loosing it doesn't bother me.

It's probably not fair to compare MobileMe vs iCloud. Even though one replaced the other, there are enough differences between them to see them as different products. Overall, I do like iCloud and the only MobileMe feature I'll miss is Gallery.