Let me begin this by saying that I'm a stingy guy. In high school, I bought a hair clipper and adopted a buzz cut largely to save cash by not having to go to the barber. I will also stop dead in my tracks to pick up a penny.
So for me, spending $99 a year on Apple's MobileMe, a service that basically does Web e-mail, contact syncing, photo hosting, and file storage, was a hard sell--especially after its bad start. This week, however, Apple finally got me to take the plunge. Why? It's starting to add genuinely useful tools for Apple hardware owners, with the promise of more to come.
On Monday, the company demoed a new tool for MobileMe subscribers called "Find My iPhone" that lets you both find a lost (or stolen) iPhone, as well as remotely wipe its contents. You can also get it to ring and vibrate for two minutes straight, which can be a huge help if it's stuck between couch cushions or buried deep within a bag. Anyone who's been late to work, or had a near-heart attack from trying to find a lost phone can appreciate how this service alone may be worth a Benjamin.
Then there's the upcoming iDisk iPhone and iPod Touch application that lets you access files you've stored in your MobileMe online storage. This in itself is not groundbreaking, but if you're an iPhone or iPod Touch user who is already using MobileMe's online storage, it's a nice bonus. Apple is advertising this as a way to show off presentations and get at important business documents, but I'd argue that it's a great way to extend the limited storage on the iPhone by keeping some of your music and videos on MobileMe instead. If you've got a Wi-Fi connection, you can stream both.
But let's get back to the basics. Is the rest of the service worth the cash? Not in my mind--and a big, fat no if you're using it for the Web apps alone. Let's break it down:
For Web e-mail: No On the iPhone and iPod Touch, you get messages as soon as they're sent. On the browser, however, it's missing a lot of features that competitors like Yahoo and Google have had for years. Both of those services are free, and between Gmail's labs, and Yahoo's just-introduced apps platform, MobileMe's Web mail feels rudimentary. It also drives me nuts that the service logs you out after 15 minutes of activity. This isn't my bank account, it's my e-mail. (Note: readers wrote in to let me know that you can avoid having this happen if you check off the "keep me logged in for two weeks" option when first signing on).… Read more