[Note: I was away the first week, and with the ongoing heat and reported 4+ hour lines at all three NYC Apple Stores, I still don't have my own yet.]
Updating Mike’s first-gen iPhone to 2.0 was no problem. As everyone warns, give yourself an hour or more to complete the update. The firmware and software updates finish in about 20min. But because the update performs a full wipe, all your media needs to be recopied and that’s what takes most of the time.
So far, iPhone 2.0 is 95% awesome. Of all the advertised improvements, the most noticeable are Calendar (color distinctions and general iCal-iness now), Contacts (search is handy), Calculator (flipping to scientific mode is just cool), and of course the App Store.
And by far, the sleeper hit of the App Store is Apple’s “Remote“. Seriously, this could be the best thing about iPhone 2.0 for me. More on that in a later post, I think.
In the fallout of the botched MobileMe launch, it’s been hard to determine what issues were temporary and which were just limitations of MobileMe on iPhone 2.0. I’ve spent a little time testing things, and here is my wishlist:
Allow data sync between MobileMe Family Pack accounts
This one is major, and central to the slightly misleading impression given by the MobileMe tagline “Exchange for the rest of us”. Some have said “It’s MobileMe, not MobileUs,” and that’s true. It functions great as “Exchange For Me”, but a tiny change (to features that feel more like bugs anyway) could turn a MobileMe Family Pack into “MobileUs”.
Family Packs provide 1 primary and up to 4 sub-accounts — each with their own Contacts, Calendars, iDisk space, and Email address. There is no sharing of data between them as far as I can tell (confirmed here) except possibly some way to transfer files thru shared iDisk folders. Family Packs are simply a quantity-discount over buying 5 individual accounts.
But Apple, why not take the “Family” part seriously and make Family Packs “just work” the way a family works? Our desktop and laptop computers sync to one primary MobileMe account, so that we benefit from all the integration goodness .mac has always had to offer. We have our own @mac.com email addresses, but we share common calendars and contacts. It’s even fairly simple for a sub-account holder’s iPhone to participate in this little makeshift family workgroup. You just enable only their sub-account Mail and then enable Contacts, Calendar, and Bookmarks for the primary account.
That works great, but the main problem is this: Push Email is an option for sub-accounts only up until any data sync option (Mail, Contact, Calendar, or Bookmark) from the primary account is enabled. An iPhone can only actively “sync” to one MobileMe account, so sub-account holders (or grandfathered .mac Email-Only accounts) must choose between push email or over-the-air data sync. Once anything from the primary account is turned on, “Push” becomes “Fetch” for the sub-account. I have confirmed this on Mike’s iPhone, and a lengthy Discussion Thread on Apple’s support site details it further.
My hunch is that Apple chose to limit the persistent push connections to just one per iPhone. Allowing multiple push accounts would enable runaway connection demands on their servers.
However, MobileMe has certain quirks that essentially make this Push Email vs. Sync decision for you. The biggest is that calendar colors from iCal are communicated to your iPhone calendars only after an over-the-air sync (feature or bug?). Your initial iTunes USB-sync gives your calendars a confoundingly random color scheme. I’m not about to retrain myself on new iCal colors, so if the only way is thru MobileMe data sync, the push email takes a backseat.
Settling for Fetch email is a small price — but it’s annoyingly second-class. Another drawback is only the primary account has web access to the data synced from the desktop. MobileMe’s online apps are amazing replicas of their desktop equivalents, and giving out the master password so all users in your “Family” can access the Address Book just isn’t always an option. To the “get your own individual account” crowd, that still wouldn’t allow Mike to share calendars and contacts with our desktop apps. And to the “use someone else’s services then” crowd, we’re extremely pleased with (and heavily dependent on) our @mac.com email addresses and the .mac integration way-of-life. Going without Push email is annoying, but not enough reason to forego data sync (except Contacts…for now, see below).
There are two solutions to this that I can think of:
- On an iPhone with multiple MobileMe accounts enabled, allow Push privileges for only one account and force all others to switch to Fetch. (This would retain the one-connection-per-phone limit.)
- Enable the MobileMe Family Pack primary account to sync selected data with its sub-accounts.
I really hope Apple goes the Family Pack route. Email-only’s are being phased out, and having inter-Family-Pack-account sync happen on the server would be tremendous. Imagine a Family Calendar that all the kids can view on their computers, and a Family Contacts group that means the kids’ AIM Buddies don’t clutter up Mom and Dad’s Address Book. Family Pack users should have the option of treating their accounts as either 5 distinct users or as a true mini-workgroup environment “for the rest of us”.
Re-enable selecting a subset of contact groups for over-the-air sync
A major drawback to over-the-air MobileMe contact sync is that you lose the ability to choose which groups to sync.
When a MobileMe account’s Contacts sync is enabled on an iPhone, iTunes then defers management of Address Book sync to the phone. I had hoped that meant you could continue to selectively sync only certain Address Book groups (in the same way iTunes allows). Alas, all contacts and all groups now sync to Contacts on the iPhone. (Thankfully, there is search now.)
+1 for Push Sync, -1 for feature removal.
A simple iPhone Settings screen or an additional config page on MobileMe’s account settings web page could easily replicate the disabled preferences formerly set in iTunes.
And, that’s it for now for my wish-and-a-half-list. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I finally get my own phone. And yes, I’ve written all of this to Apple iPhone Feedback, and I encourage everyone do the same for your own gripes. I do think they listen. And I would like to think I encouraged a few features that appeared in iPhone 1.1.x updates. Let’s hope to see some more in iPhone 2.1 — and beyond!