Saturday, January 31, 2009

MobileMe alternatives – including for iPhone Sync (MacWorld)

Great article by “Joe Kissell ..senior editor of TidBits and author of numerous e-books about OS X” for MacWorld. He’s reviewing alternatives to MobileMe, but I particularly appreciated the iPhone sync options. He doesn’t mention using AOL IM as an alternative to the MobileMe chat directory and doesn’t mention any “Back To My Mac” alternatives to MobileMe. (I don’t think there are any.)

Some excerpts with a focus on sync, emphases mine …

Alternatives to MobileMe | Mobile Mac | Macworld

… Apple’s Address Book application can natively sync your contacts with Exchange, Yahoo, or Gmail Contacts, without requiring MobileMe. To set this up, open Address Book, choose Address Book: Preferences, and click on General. Select the Synchronize With Exchange, Synchronize With Yahoo, or Synchronize With Google option, depending on those you’d like to sync with

Then, to sync, choose Sync Now from the Sync menu in your menu bar. (If the menu isn’t already there, open iSync in your Applications folder, choose iSync: Preferences, select Show Status in Menu Bar, and close the window.) Unfortunately, unless you also have MobileMe sync enabled (and set to occur on a schedule), Address Book doesn’t sync with these other services automatically; you must initiate each sync manually.

Thanks to Google Calendar’s support for the widely used CalDAV standard, iCal can connect directly with a Google-hosted calendar and sync all events automatically… you can’t simply sync an existing iCal calendar with Google Calendar

… Another service, currently in beta testing, is Soocial. Its OS X software will sync your Address Book with a Web-based contact manager as well as (optionally) Gmail Contacts and several other services.

..Plaxo is a social networking Web site that, among many other features, offers a Web-based contact manager and calendar; they can be synched with Address Book and iCal using the company’s free Plaxo for Mac software (available only to members). Plaxo has another handy trick up its sleeve, too: it can update your Address Book automatically when contacts who are also Plaxo members change their contact details…

.. [File sync ] Evenflow’s DropBox (2GB free; 50GB for $99 per year or $10 per month); SpiderOak (2GB free; $10 per month for 100 GB; $10 per month each additional 100GB); and Sharpcast’s SugarSync (prices range from $2.49 per month for 10GB to $25 per month for 250GB).

All three services include software that you can install on your Mac or on a Windows PC (SpiderOak and DropBox also offer Linux versions, while SugarSync is also available for the iPhone and iPod touch). With this software installed, you can easily sync files between your computers and an online storage area.

DropBox sets up a single folder (the eponymous DropBox) whose contents are automatically mirrored between your Mac and the DropBox servers. SpiderOak and SugarSync let you designate one or more existing folders to behave in the same way. In all three cases, new or modified files are uploaded automatically as soon as a change is detected in the folder(s). All three services offer file sharing and synching; SugarSync and DropBox also let you upload or delete files from a Web browser.

Sync iPhone to Mac

… The iPhone fully supports Exchange accounts, which provide push e-mail, contact, and calendar updates. .. you can sign up for an individual account with several providers, including 4iPhone, interWays, mail2web, or SherWeb.

Note that you don’t need to use actual Exchange servers; third-party servers that use Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology—such Kerio MailServer, Zimbra Collaboration Suite, and Communigate Pro—also offer push synchronization of e-mail, contacts, and calendars with your iPhone…

Use NuevaSync NuevaSync is a free online service that offers over-the-air push syncing of contacts and calendars between your iPhone or iPod touch and Google (Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar), Plaxo (for contacts only), or both….

…. Athough NuevaSync can give you over-the-air push synchronization of contacts and calendars, it doesn’t sync directly with iCal or Address Book. To fill in that part of the puzzle, use BusySync, Spanning Sync, or Plaxo to sync data from your online account to your Mac…

Of course all sync services are for use “strictly at your own risk” – my experience is that all are risky and if you combine more than one sync solution you are doomed. Also the iPhone can only sync with a single Exchange server, so if your employer allows Exchange sync then you can’t use it to sync your personal data (the unreleased Palm Pre is more versatile).

I’ll be visiting some of those Exchange/ActiveSync options. I’ve been holding off on NuevaSync until they get out of beta and start to charge money.

Update: I visited some of the Exchange services. I wasn't impressed. I'll wait for NeuvaSync to get out of beta and take a look at what they're going to charge.


Anonymous said...

Take a look at a hosted Kerio Solution... Perfect Sync for iPhone and BlackBerry. Best MobileMe alternative.

Curt Carmack said...


I think you'll like NuevaSync. I only synchronize Google Calendar, but it's been pretty solid for the last several months, except for a couple of days immediately following the change to allow multiple colors/calendars on the iPhone.

And you're right:

1. Synchronization is hell; and
2. Using two sync solutions simultaneously inevitably leads to sorrow.

Thanks for the regular rants and ideas.


JGF said...

I'd been trying to avoid NuevaSync because

1. it's in beta still
2. it forecloses the corporate exchange server
3. I was really hoping MobileMe would be fixed (I've only recently abandoned hope of that).

I think I'm about to go for it -- beta or not!

Anonymous said...

As for me I use SyncMate. This tool does almost the same things as MobileMe offers, but for free (except iPhone sync). This software enables you to sync your Mac with Windows Mobile or Nokia phones, sync and transfer files between your Mac and other Macs or PC computers. You can sync your Mac with Sony PSP, Google account, usb falsh drives and backup Mac data online.

I use SyncMate free Edition(allows syncing contacts and Calendar) and it works great for me. They also have Expert Edition - it is paid but offers more sync options like iTunes, Video, iPhoto, Mail sync and lots more. Details can be found here