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MobileMe renewal: Yes or no?

Earlier this week, I noticed that the calendars on my Mac and my iPhone weren't in sync. "More MobileMe nonsense," I thought. However, I soon found the culprit, and it wasn't MobileMe acting wonky. My account had expired, and I was within the 15 day grace period.

I saw the "Renew" button and reached for my wallet like a well-trained Pavlov iDog. Then something stopped me. "Do I really want to do this?" There are so many alternatives that offer nearly the same services. Calling upon my days as a used car salesman (true story), I pulled out a piece of paper and drew a vertical line down the center, labeling one side "Pros" and the other "Cons." Then, I got to work.

Pros

First of all, I should outline what I use MobileMe for. An email account, address book, calendar sync between my Mac and iPhone and iDisk storage. I don't use the photo galleries, though my kids' grandparents wish I did, or the web apps. With that in mind, here are the pros.

Everything is built in. There's nothing to download, install or configure. iCal, Address Book, Mail (OK, I have to set up an account. Nit-pickers) and iDisk are ready to go from the start.

My iDisk is accessible from the Finder, and things like MobileMe Galleries just work. Sounds like an easy choice, eh? Keep reading.

Cons

Honestly, it doesn't always "just work." The synchronization has been flaky in the past, and push notifications have been pokey. Granted, it's light-years beyond where it was after launch, but I don't really trust it 100%.

It's a bit pricey. The standard fee is $99US/year. I've got one additional email address for my wife, so tack on another ten bucks. Before you fly into an iRage, know that I realize that one hundred bucks for push email, contacts and calendar, 10GB online storage, web hosting and so on is not a bad deal. It's just that there are less expensive alternatives.

With Gmail, I can have email, address book and calendar for free. With Spanning Sync, [TUAW Spanning Sync posts here] I can sync Google Calendar and iCal in both directions for $25 per year or $65 as a one-time fee. And I can easily set up my iPhone to send and receive Gmail.

Let's look at the available-anywhere online storage. Here at the TUAW offices, we're big fans of Dropbox [TUAW Dropbox posts here]. Once installed, it's super easy to use. A menu bar item and a Finder window item make access a snap. Additionally, sharing files and folders is just as simple.

The first 2GB of storage are free. After that, you'll pay $9.99US/month or $99US/year for 50GB of storage.

So why not just switch? It's not that easy. My MobileMe email address is in heavy use. Not only among my contacts, but across many places online. Switching would be a hassle. I'm also held back by the "What If Factor."

There's a part of me, deep inside my cynical, self-deprecating heart that's convinced that the very day I cancel my subscription, Apple will release the MobileMe update of my dreams. It's the same certainty that prevents me from buying a DVD player or a Blu-ray player as I watch my VHS tapes.

For now, I've got 14 days to decide. I'll let you know what I chose in a future post.

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