Posted by PH on September 25, 2008

Well, having wisely invested in an iPhone 3G, I signed up for MobileMe as well. As I already had 2 Macs at home—my ancient G4 Powerbook in the living room and my iMac in my office in the loft—some way of syncing these 3 devices together just seemed too good to pass up.

A couple of months in and things don’t look so good. There has been the well-documented climb-down over Apple’s misrepresentation of the service, the loss of emails and subscribers’ general unhappiness with the service (with Apple giving away another two months free usage in mid-August). So: is MobileMe any good or not?

The bad news: there’s just no avoiding the fact that, no, it isn’t very good. Firstly, it’s painfully slow. Secondly, the buttons don’t work properly: last night I looked at an email in one of my folders and when I tried to go back to my inbox all the navigation buttons were dead. And there’s the widely reported problem with the greyed out buttons when you open a new email: Apple do suggest a kludge for this but really they need to get it working properly in the first place. Thirdly, loading sets of images into the Gallery can be painful: they suggest you can’t load more than 1Gb at once—which is fair enough—but last night I left it loading only 23Mb and it still wasn’t finished by this morning! Truly pitiful.

[There we go, a perfect example. I was going to write something about not being able to create groups on the contacts page: better check I haven’t overlooked a big ‘Groups’ button methinks. Go to MobileMe (already open on the Mail page) and click Contacts. Wait about two minutes for them to appear!]

Other gripes: no, you definitely can’t create groups of contacts. It handles images attached to emails very poorly. And no matter what service you use, it’s always losing contact with the server. These types of message come up all the time:

Good points? It’s a great idea. It looks good (compared to Gmail for example, which is butt-ugly). And, so far, it’s cheap.

Am I going to carry on paying for it? I would really like to, simply because of the functionality it allows me. But the biggest problem with MobileMe is that it is really, really, flaky. Unacceptably flaky, because unfortunately services like this need to be rock solid (which is something Google do very well).

Heaven only what Apple think they’re doing with MobileMe. They need to really sort the whole thing out once and for all: as it stands it’s a bit of an embarrassment. From a business point of view there is the short-term loss of revenue, but, in the long term, it will have serious implications for Apple’s standing as a web service provider and it will go on to harm iPhone sales as well (insofar as the compelling USP of the iPhone is its function as a web platform).

One can only hope that the relative lack of news on this front is a sign that, behind the scenes, they’re working frantically on a major upgrade to the service.

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