Free alternatives to MobileMe

Posted on Mar 17, 2009 in Featured, Opinions, The web

Continuing in the series of posts hating on MobileMe, today we’re going to look at free alternatives to Mobileme. This article will focus on the core Mobileme features and take a look at the pros and cons of the alternatives.

Mail alternative: Gmail

gmailI’ve never been willing to lock myself into a $99 / year e-mail service, simply because my main e-mail address is something I’d like to be able to keep indefinitely. Gmail can collect (and send) e-mails from a variety of providers and addresses, offers free IMAP support (a must-have for iPhone owners!) and doesn’t include advertising in the messages you send. The storage is basically unlimited and nothing is ever deleted.

Pros: No ads in mails, best-of-breed webmail interface, IMAP support, works great with Mail and iPhone once configured

Cons: IMAP mailbox configuration a bit tricky

Calender Alternative: Google Calendar

Surprise surprise, another Google app! Google Calendar offers basically the same range of features and can be configured to sync with iCal (Google actually provides a handy tool called ‘Calaboration‘ to set things up for you automatically). Perks include free SMS appointment reminders, simple calendar sharing and fast natural language scheduling (e.g typing “Dinner tomorrow at 9pm” will schedule the appointment accordingly).

The web interface is a little less pretty than MobileMe’s, but it gets the job done.

Pros: SMS notifications, iCal integration, CalDAV support, natural language entry, useful “Agenda” list view of upcoming events

Cons: –

iDisk Alternative: Dropbox

dropboxI’ve raved about Dropbox in a number of other posts, so I won’t rehash to much of the details here. Suffice to say that Dropbox has the best cloud-based document syncing and storage service I’ve come across. It’s integration with the Finder is perfect, it offers seamless version control and makes sharing with Windows & Linux users a breeze as well.

The only real difference is the storage size – but it’s a big one: While free Dropbox accounts can sync up to 2GB of files, Mobileme offers 20GB of storage. Beyond the free plan, Dropbox also offers a 50GB package, but that costs as much as Mobileme does.

If you don’t need to sync and store large amounts of data in the cloud, Dropbox is perfect. If you do need more storage, then Mobileme is worth reconsidering.

Pros: Seamless cross-platform OS integration, easy sharing, version control & “undelete”

Cons: Only 2 pricing tiers, web-interface a bit tricky at first

Photo Gallery Alternative

flickr_logoMobileme’s iPhoto Gallery feature is probably my favorite aspect of the entire package. The galleries are a little slow to load, but are very nicely presented. The ability to download an entire Zip file of an album is also a nice touch and the iPhone presentation is the icing on the cake.

But there’s a plethora of picture sharing websites out there that offer similar functionality: I’m just going to name a few that stand out for their decent iPhoto integration:

  • Facebook Photo Gallery
    • Pros: built-in iPhoto support, support for Faces, fast & simple web presentation
    • Cons: no album downloading, requires Facebook account
  • Picasa Web Albums
    • Pros: Dedicated upload tool, album downloading, 3rd party application support
    • Cons: less storage space, uglier web interface
  • Flickr
    • Pros: Community-features, built-in iPhoto support, nice web presentation
    • Cons: Limited monthly uploads and image downloads for free accounts

Overall this might the dealbreaker if you really need to share a lot of images with friends online. Sure, you could always just throw a zip file of your images on your Dropbox account (see above), but if there’s one standout feature of Mobileme, this is it.

Conclusion

There are lots of great alternatives for Mobileme’s individual services worth checking out. Whilst they may not offer the integration that Mobileme does, they sure give the service a run for its money and are worth a look if you’re on the fence about signing up or renewing your account.

Oh, but if you do decide to stick with Mobileme, you can save a bundle if you buy it through Amazon.

3 Comments

  1. It would be a good idea if there is just one web based program/thing to do all the things like photo gallery,email and a calendar

  2. Ah, This is exactly what I was looking for! Clears up
    many contradictions I’ve read

  3. Vale Mobile Me… the best features of MM ie Gallery and iWeb are being discontinued. I use the Gallery to deliver photographs to my customers. It looks great and is easy to use. Uploads in the backgound… I am now having to look for a new gallery. Don’t mind paying either. I just need it to work, without ADS!!!

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