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Enter Gmail contact syncing and DropBox; exit MobileMe?

Lauren Hirsch

Well, that's that.

I have whittled MobileMe down to two useful functions: Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe. And yes, I use one of those functions quite often, say, when my husband is off on some 80 mile jaunt on his bicycle. I have, thankfully, yet to require the services of the other one. But the rest of it: email, syncing, and online storage? Gone the way of the dodo.

Initially, I moved mostly over to Gmail to take advantage of its more robust email aliasing. I have several email addresses on personal domains, and Gmail gave me the best mix of domain use, plus sophisticated filtering and spam identification. MobileMe just doesn't play nicely with personal domains, and once Google enabled IMAP for gmail and then push email, I basically abandoned my .me address, relegating it to receiving Apple Store retail receipts and my Apple ID for iTunes.

But for a while, MobileMe continued to serve a purpose for calendar and contact syncing, plus iDisk remained somewhat useful for a secondary backup for my Quicken data. Once Google enabled CalDAV subscriptions for true two-way synchronization between my desktop Calendar app, that was the end of calendar syncing with MobileMe, other than to propagate Calendar app server settings among my non-mobile devices for when I wanted to use the desktop app. Later, Exchange-based Google Sync took over calendaring for my mobile devices.

Contacts, however, remained a small thorn in my side. I admit I love the Address Book app. In fact, I love most of Apple's desktop apps, finding their interfaces to be elegant and user-friendly, and don't consider an alternative a success until it can work with these apps through syncing or subscription. So MobileMe continued to serve its purpose by instantly syncing my contacts on the iPhone, the iPad, my MacBook and my iMac. While several workarounds surfaced, all were quite clunky, or required one main computer through which the syncing would occur. That didn't suit me. And then, even when Address Book unveiled Google syncing, there was no way to easily limit which addresses would sync. Because Gmail basically saves every email address you've ever sent or received from, syncing yielded strange, inscrutable entries in my previously meticulously organized Address Book.

That would not do, so I turned it off and returned to MobileMe contact syncing. But Snow Leopard tweaked syncing in Address Book, so now only your My Contacts group syncs. Voila! The syncing is not nearly so seamless and quick as MobileMe contact syncing, but functional. Entries deleted in Address Book still remain in Google Contacts, but are removed from the My Contacts group, which is really all I need.

Leaving....iDisk. DropBox has officially taken over any last remaining function iDisk could offer, plus easy file access on just about any device or computer you might have. 'Nuff said.

So what's left? Well, Find My iPhone and remote wipe. Nothing really comes to mind without jailbreaking, but if you happen to have jailbroken your iPhone, there are quite a few apps that would fit the bill. iLocalis seems to be a useful and well-liked app, but doesn't offer Remote Wipe functionality. An app called Cylay appears to offer almost everything MobileMe does (location, SMS notification, Remote Wipe) but I haven't found a whole lot of non-negative feedback on it. That being said, both are a lot less expensive than MobieMe (US$5 for iLocalis and $20/year for Cylay), so I may have to try one.

Of course, you know the instant I drop MobileMe, they'll make it free. But I'm not holding my breath for a return to the iTools moniker.

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