MobileMe News at Apple
It’s only been a week since the new MobileMe design was made available to all users, with a radical change in the user interface and some performance improvements.
The new look of Apple’s web services is based on the interface we already know from iOS 4, and they have tried to achieve a homogeneous view of all the applications that make up the service. MobileMe now looks more graphically consistent, and applications can be accessed by clicking the cloud button in the upper-left corner, thanks to a simulated application selector.
Redesign is important in a web application of this kind, and Apple has made good use of all the features of HTML5 to present us in a striking way with a completely new look. However, is this redesign enough to justify the price of the service?
The biggest change in the new version of MobileMe is Mail. Apple’s online mail service is changing dramatically and offering a mirror image of the native iOS application, specifically the iPad version. The three-column layout and the way information is presented is really efficient, and the loading speed has been greatly improved.
Even the way we write a new email will remind us a lot of what we’ve already seen on these devices: We can add a contact from among all those we already have in our Address Book (synchronized “in the cloud” from our Mac) or start typing its name to start looking for it instantly:
The entire interface has been redesigned since we’ve been in MobileMe, and even the usual buttons on the browser we’re using aren’t used. Apple wanted to give it the look of a native application, and they’ve really managed to do that effectively and easily.
Another novelty on the Mail side is the new appearance of the rules for mail. This is a very useful option to classify mail intelligently, without having to interact with the user, as is already the case with many other services:
The application of contacts has hardly undergone any more changes than the purely aesthetic ones. The instantaneous search is more agile than in the previous version, although perhaps a better presentation of the data is missing. When you select a contact card with a photo, for example, it should be presented in a larger size and make the most of the window.
The preferences in this section are almost the same as those found in iOS, when it comes to sorting the list by first name, or last name. Exporting and importing vCards is allowed, very useful to add or extract digital business cards. However, and this is a bug that MobileMe has in its entirety, nothing is translated into Spanish.
This, apart from the logical drawbacks that it may present to customers who do not speak English, in this section provides an extra problem, since the way of presenting the information is pre-formatted for the American, German, French or Japanese format, and we can only choose one of these options and not customize or create our own. This is not a big problem since the information in the European languages is similar to that in Spanish, although it would have been somewhat important for Apple to offer it in our language as well.
The calendar application gives an amazing native application look. It is very intuitive, and creating an appointment is as easy as clicking on the calendar and entering the data. And you can move those appointments around by simply moving the colored bar on each one, just like you do in a native application, while maintaining the perfect interface that Apple has built into this MobileMe.
The cloud syncing of this calendar with the one on our Mac, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad is one of the most interesting features of the suite, as it works really well, especially if we use the push features of our iOS devices.
The customization options in this section are more extensive, being able to choose what day the week begins, what time the day ends, time format, support for different time zones… Visually very good, agile and simple and in addition the new interface strengthens even more that sensation of “desktop application” that Apple has looked for so much.
Without a doubt, the part of the gallery is where the effort to present the benefits of HTML5 is most noticeable. The goal of the Gallery within MobileMe is to easily replicate the images you want to share from your iPhoto or Aperture, mimicking their most important features.
In this way, we can enlarge or reduce the images using a slider located at the bottom right of the window, as we have in Mac OS X to make the icons larger or smaller, or as we use it in the iPhoto itself to enlarge the preview of images within the mosaic of each album. We can even rotate, from inside the web interface, any image in real time, giving the complete sensation that we’re in a native application.
We can also put it in full screen, in pass of disapositivas, hide the controls to show the images without distractions… A wonder to present the images to our distant contacts, to good resolution and with good graphical effects.
MobileMe is Apple’s cloud storage service. As such, it’s been around for a few years now, and in this redesign, it’s added convenience for file sharing and the ability to connect to another MobileMe user’s Public folder.
And when you set up MobileMe from SnowLeopard, Finder will assemble a virtual drive with the exact contents of everything on your iDisk. So this online section is the web-based replica of that folder, to which we can add images, videos, or whatever we want.
Anything we add will be private, but we can make any file we have public by simply selecting it and pressing the “Share” button. Immediately the service will give us the direct URL that we can pass on to whoever we want to send it to. We can also set an expiration time, if we don’t want our file to be publicly available for an indefinite time, or even add a password.
By using the “Open a public folder” we can use another MobileMe user’s public folder to share information, all from within the MobileMe user interface. 20GB is available for file storage, but be careful because this amount is also shared with mail and other services.
MobileMe: Find My iPhone
Few new features in this section, since the options are the same as we had in the previous version: The possibility of finding any iOS device we have registered. It will be shown inside the map with the closest possible location that the system can triangulate.
Once located, we can send a message to the device, an audible alert that will be heard even when it is silent, or directly format it remotely in case of loss or theft. All this has been now complemented with the application in the App Store to be able to locate any device from another one, and not necessarily having to use a computer to do so.
In spite of the few new features in this part, the changes in the interface make Find My iPhone look very good, taking full advantage of the window and making it move really fast, even when it comes to finding the device. In addition, the system does not stop trying to limit the device as much as possible while we have this window open.
Spectacular, but little new
The new MobileMe is truly spectacular, from the first screen of registration to the last, most obscure section of configuration. Everything is designed with exquisite taste and maintains a consistent look – very difficult to achieve in a web application – without sacrificing the overall speed of the entire system.
The improvements would include more translations and language localizations so that we can all enjoy it, if we want to, in our native language, and above all to bring something new that is not merely aesthetic: The changes are very good, but they are not enough to consider it something completely new to what already existed before.
The conclusions on whether it is worth registering or not should be drawn by each of us, depending on our needs and the uses to which we are going to put it. The advantages of Apple’s service are the perfect integration between all the company’s products , whether they are devices or Mac OS X, as well as the tremendous ease of use when it comes to creating image passes, hosting websites or the good mail service they have designed. Above all, it should be taken into account whether these elements are so different from those that already exist on the Internet and are offered for free.
If you’re thinking about it, I recommend you take advantage of Apple’s offer and try out the entire service for 60 days. That’s the best way to see if what MobileMe has to offer is worth the price you’re asked for, with the features and services they offer.