This is when you know Apple screwed up iCloud storage for iOS

This is going to be an interesting conversation. (Sorry Mom if you're reading this).

How the hell do I explain what this message means to someone that's not a geek and couldn't care less about understanding geeky stuff. She just wants her iPhone to work.

We'll iCloud storage plans don't "just work".

And replying to my Mom with a "just subscribe to the US0.99 plan per month" is a stupid idea. First of all, she'll ask why. And rightly so. Which will only open a can of worms if I try to explain what it's doing in the background. She just doesn't care and nor she should. Second, she'll probably be pissed off that she has to pay a monthly fee for something that makes no sense to her and she sees absolutely no need for.

Now, I do see the value and pay for a 50gb plan right now. And I know that once I start to really use Photos I'll upgrade to the 200gb. But I'm a geek and she isn't. She's only using iCloud storage to back up her iPhone even though she doesn't know it.

As it is, iCloud storage is only causing my mom angst. And I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of what Apple wants to cause its users.

A good solution is if I could share my plan with her and take care of it all. I'd be happy to pay for a 1tb plan if I could share it with my family and make these emails go away.

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.

Writing apps with iCloud sync

Last week, the developers of iA Writer tweeted that iCloud sync was coming to both the iPad and the Mac apps.

That's great news and I'm sure it'll give them an advantage over competitors that either:

  1. Rely on Dropbox or other methods for syncing.
  2. Have only an iOS or a Mac application, but not both.

My current workflow for writing is iA Writer for iPad and Byword (my review here) on the Mac. I keep the files in sync using Dropbox.

While I really like both apps and the process works fine, I've always felt it's not as elegant and effortless as it could be. For some reason, it just slightly annoys me to have to tap on the sync button in iA Writer to force a manual sync. And to have to open the files in Byword instead of them just being there.

I'd love for them to just sync automatically without me having to do anything.

The combination of iA Writer for Mac and iPad syncing via iCloud might be exactly what I'm after. I would, however, like the ability to make the font in iA Writer for Mac a little bit smaller.

Conversely, I hope the developers of Byword develop an iOS app.

Either way, we're about to see a raft of very cool apps that take full advantage of iCloud sync.

On using MobileMe in Lion

Thomas Brand on how to continue using MobileMe in Lion:

migrating to iCloud from MobileMe means losing the ability to sync Dashboard widgets, Keychains, Dock items, System Preferences, and data from third-party Mac apps that integrate with MobileMe

I never used MobileMe to sync widgets, keychains, dock, or preferences, so that didn't affect me personally. Other than mail, calendars, contacts, and notes, the only thing I synced through MobileMe was my OmniFocus database. And I knew I could switch OmniFocus to sync with the Omni Sync Server is that stopped working, so I jumped in and moved from MobileMe to iCloud.

It was a seamless process and except for a couple of hours of email downtime everything is working fine. OmniFocus sync is working as usual without me doing anything.

However, if you're using MobileMe and use iDisk to sync data (Yojimbo, for example), it might be better to wait until there's an alternative. Same if you have some Macs running on Snow Leopard or earlier.

Interestingly, I updated my main MacBook Pro (Lion 10.7.2, iTunes 10.5) and iPhone/iPad before migrating my MobileMe account over to iCloud. But I didn't update my older backup MacBook. That one was still running Lion 10.7.1. The next day I used it and my email was working fine. It seems a Mac running 10.7.1 logged into a MobileMe account still works normally even though the account has been moved to iCloud.

Apple iCloud - Cannot Load Email

I migrated my MobileMe account to iCloud last week. After the dramas Apple had with the launch of MobileMe a few years ago I seriously expected them to have iCloud fully under control, so I took the plunge.

I should've waited.

All day today I've gotten the error messages when trying to access my iCloud email:

  • From Safari at www.icloud.com I get the below message saying: "Cannot Load Mail. Help Apple improve iCloud by reporting this problem." It looks like an iOS screenshot.

Cannot load email apple icloud

  • From Mail.app I get the Alert symbol (exclamation mark in a triangle). Clicking on it gives me the following Alert message saying: "There may be a problem with the mail server or network. Verify the settings for account "iCloud" or try again. The server returned the error: Failed to connect to the iCloud server."

Apple mail app icloud alert

  • From the iPhone it's working now, but 30 minutes ago I was getting an error message saying my password was incorrect. I just sent a test email to myself and it was sent fine and received within seconds.

My calendar is working fine, so it seems to be related only to email. I'll update this post if I find anything as I test today. In the meantime, if you're thinking of migrating your MobileMe account to iCloud, I recommend you hold off for now.

UPDATE (17 Oct 2011): It all seems to be working fine now on all devices (MacBook Pro, iPhone, iPad, and via Safari at www.icloud.com. It's been about an hour after I posted the above and I haven't done anything.

UPDATE (18 Oct 2011): Everything continues to work as expected now. For a moment it reminded me of the MobileMe launch that, whilst I personally didn't experience any issues at the time, I know many did.

Keep updated with any official issues at Apple's iCloud System Status page.

Apple's answers to questions about MobileMe and iCloud

Apple published an article with Frequently Asked Questions about the MobileMe transition to iCloud in which it answers the two main questions I had regarding Gallery and multiple accounts.

The answer to what happens to the photographs you have in MobileMe Gallery:

You will be able to continue using MobileMe Gallery through June 30, 2012, even after moving to iCloud. You should save copies of all photos published to your Gallery before that date. If you have a Mac, it is likely that most of your Gallery photos are already in iPhoto. If not, you can sync the Gallery photos to your iPhoto library. You can also download your photos and movies from the web.

In other words, it's gone. If you use MobileMe Gallery as an informal photo-sharing site, meaning like you would use Flickr or Facebook, then just move your photos over. But if, like me, you use it to send password protected photo sessions to models or clients and to back up your 5 star full resolution photos, you're out of luck. Time to start thinking about a different solution.

This is a shame. The MobileMe Gallery is a great product that's part of my workflow. It ties in with Aperture perfectly. I would imagine many photographers would feel the same.

The answer to merging multiple Apple ID accounts:

No. You cannot merge two accounts into one. However, you will be able to move your MobileMe account (yourname@me.com) to iCloud and, if you choose, you can continue to use a different iTunes account for store purchases and iTunes in the Cloud.

So, same as I'm doing today. MobileMe will become iCloud and iTunes will stay with an older Apple ID. I'd like to merge them, but this works.

The future of Gallery in the transition from MobileMe to iCloud

Steven Sande on his speculation that Gallery will disappear in the transition from MobileMe to iCloud:

Gallery was Apple's way of creating web-based photo albums of your photos for sharing with friends and relatives. Once again, I can't see a need for it in the post-MobileMe world. Apple has already provided an "out" to those who want to share their photos to the world -- iPhoto supports sharing pictures to both Flickr and Facebook.

Yes, there are much better ways to share your photographs with friends and family than MobileMe's Gallery. Flickr and Facebook certainly serve this purpose well. However, this is not all MobileMe's Gallery was good for.

What about photographers wanting to share photographs with clients, models, art directors, agencies, and others that are part of the project?

I use Gallery this way. After every shoot I import into Apple Aperture, rate the images and upload the selects to a private MobileMe Gallery under user/password to share with the team. The model and anybody else who worked on the project can see them and make their picks. This is not "sharing" in the social media sense, it's actually part of a workflow.

MobileMe provides a great way to do this. Aperture can seamlessly create a gallery and keep it in sync, so any changes in Aperture will be reflected in MobileMe.

Additionally, Gallery serves as a collaboration tool.

The creator can choose to allow download of the original files (ie. the RAW image), or a hi res JPEG so the designers can pull them directly from there. Quick and easy.

The creator can also allow uploads, so others can upload photographs to the gallery and they automatically sync with Aperture. Great to get together all the images after an event or a trip, for example. Or for a project where there are several photographers involved.

Plus, there's an official iPad app to view MobileMe galleries, which makes showing your work on the go easy.

It also looks pretty cool. I really hope Gallery doesn't disappear with iCloud. There's much more to it than just a Flickr or Facebook style photo sharing service.