Thinking About Syncing About My iPhone

iPhoneDid you hear that Apple Inc. is planning on releasing a new product that combines the features of an iPod and a mobile telephone in one device? It’s true, and they’re calling it “the iPhone.” Looking at the commercials they created for it, I’m even thinking that I might want to buy one for myself when they’re released at the end of this month. Crazy, right?

We might even see some more news about the iPhone next week when Apple kicks of its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. There’s no telling what announcements if any that the company will make, but if there’s one iPhone-related thing that I can point to as being at the very tippy-top of my list, it would be to improve .Mac.

That product, a collection of Web-based tools and services available to consumers for an annual subscription fee of about US$100, has been long in need of help. In fact, I’ve written about it before, and as many of my friends know, it takes only the barest of conversational provocations to get me to launch into a tirade on my frustrations and disappointments with it. Oh, too late, you got me started!

Signs of Life

Below: I told you so. Apple does too have an iPod/phone combo in the works. Here’s what it looks like.

Luckily, in recent weeks Steve Jobs has acknowledged .Mac’s uncared for state, and has hinted that his company intends to rectify the situation soon. I’m hoping this is good news for soon-to-be iPhone owners like myself. What’s .Mac got to do with the iPhone, you ask? Right now, nothing that I know of, but my point is that it should have everything to do with it.


When it’s finally released, the iPhone will be Apple’s first device that is carried with consumers virtually everywhere, to more places and in more situations than even the iPod. More than that, it’s going to be a device that’s almost always going to be on the network. As a cellular device, as a Wi-Fi device, it will mark a new phase for Apple; it’s their first device that loses the vast majority of its value when it’s disconnected from the network.

That’s why it should synchronize with my desktop Macintosh through the .Mac service. That’s all I’m saying here.


Right now, with my Palm Treo 650, I’m forced into an awkward and inefficient ritual. Before I leave the office at the end of the day, I have to remember to synchronize my Address Book and iCal information with .Mac so that it’s available to my home computer. (Automatic synchronization has caused me problems in the past, so I do this manually now.) When I get home, I then sync my desktop Macintosh there with .Mac. When that’s done, the data on that machine reflects the data on my work computer. Only then I can then sync my Treo 650 to the home desktop.

That’s the only way I can get data from work to my Treo. Alternatively, I could sync my Treo with my work computer, but it’s impractical to sync a Treo with more than one computer, and I don’t want to lose the ability to sync phone and computer while I’m at home. Essentially, my Treo must be effectively tethered to a single computer in order to benefit from the main store for my information, bound within range of my desktop’s Bluetooth signal.

Why synchronize my phone with a computer at all, though? The iPhone, when it’s released, is going to be very much like a compact computer, if it lives up to the advanced billing. What’s more, with its network connectivity and the fact that it will be almost always online, it can be seen as much more of a peer to my other Macintoshes. My Treo, by contrast, is treated much like a peripheral.

Using this logic, it only makes sense to let the iPhone synchronize over the network instead of using .Mac, cutting out the desktop computer as a middleman. I already sync all of my computer’s information to the .Mac servers, so the iPhone should just be able to reach out through the network, grab that data from .Mac, and perform the synchronization directly. Then I could repeat that process anywhere, at any time, so long as I’ve got three bars on the AT&T cellular network. In a very real sense, it would work just the way it works when I sync my home or work computers with the service.

Wouldn’t that be great? It would almost make my annual, US$100 subscription fee seem like it’s money well-spent.

  1. Yep, that makes sense. Given Steve Jobs comments about .Mac getting revamped it’s possibly the iPhone that is giving it this renewed momentum. I’ve never been a .Mac subscriber but if they get some interesting features I might be tempted.

    On another note Khoi, what’s your take on the whole London 2012 Olympics logo debate? Are you for or against? 😉

  2. Rumor: .Mac will be reworked with particular focus on iPhone. Web-based services (e-mail etc.) will be “optimized for iPhone” and a set of productivity web apps will be rolled into it. Probably not available right at launch.

    (Undisclosed source. Make of it what you will.)

  3. On the other hand, if .Mac is required to synch phone and computer I will not purchase an iPhone. Period. Synching my phone and my computer is one of the primary reasons I want an Apple-branded phone. But if I have to shell out an additional $100 bucks for .Mac — which I simply don’t want and never have — forget it. I’ll live with separate phone and computer data. That’s just too much to ask.


  4. Ah the iPhone…
    Only 3 weeks left until everyone on the planet will be talking about it.
    The one thing I am most looking forward to, is how the iPhone will change the mobile phone industry, even though it still has some shortcomings, the iPhone is revolutionizing the way people look at a cell phone, and hopefully will change this stale market.

    Personally i would love an iPhone, but not as much as just having a widescreen iPod.

  5. I was a subscriber to the .Mac service from day one up until Dec 2005. For all those years, I periodically wrestled to get my annual investment to be of some use to me.

    Quite frustrated with the service and the lame updates, which Jobs himself promised every now and then, saying they would breathe usefulness into the service, I gave up. I canceled the service and haven’t looked back.

    I have been using Macintosh since the Mac Plus, and the .Mac service is one of the few Apple products/services that have truly disappointed me. If iPhone requires .Mac for any of its functions, I will be upset–unless of course .Mac is rolled free into the service contract/purchase somehow.

    I doubt it just as I doubt Apple will make good on making its web service useful in a Mac like why.

  6. Interesting that they partnered with Yahoo for mail when they had their own mail service.

    .Mac – I’d reinvent it on the basic free service + pay more for more model used by Google, Flickr, etc.

    What would be better still is actually making it easier for Mac users to choose their photo hosting, online disk, bookmarking, etc services, rather than forcing us through one.

    As for a widescreen iPod – yeah me too, I want ALL the functionality of the iPhone except the phone bit. Which is exactly how Apple are going to drag me into buying one, while probably still keeping my Razr -a phone I can afford to take out in the evening.

  7. That would indeed be awesome. I subscribe to .Mac solely for the computer-to-computer syncing it does. There’s a lot of things to be dissapointed with about .Mac, but hte syncing is not one of them. It works wonderfuly, and always ensures that when I go to the office and add calendar events, bookmarks, and contacts, they exist on my Imac at home, as well. I love that.

    It makes perfect sense for the same thing to apply to the iPhone, and given that the iPhone runs OS X, you’d think it would be pretty simple to allow it. I’d never thought of it before, but you’re right, Khoi — this now seems like a must-have feature. It’s just too perfect not to include.

  8. To be honest, synching is really just about the only reason I continue to subscribe to .Mac, too. Unlike you, Jeff, I’ve had problems synching in the past, though recently I haven’t experienced any. But you’re right, it’s one of the really, really great features of the service.

  9. I ran into a few problems with syncing in the past but lately everything has been syncing great and it’s the reason I like .Mac. It’s about all I use it for now.

    Yeah, I agree it would be awesome to have the iPhone sync directly to the service though after the keynote it doesn’t look like that dream is happening anytime soon.

  10. The moment i saw iPhone on their website i have madeup my mind thats going to be my next phone. Mac products always have great look & feel.

    But i really dont have any clue when it will be launched in india. Anxiously awaiting…

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