MobileMe - Apple’s Bastard Child

Apple does a lot of amazing things as a company. They've developed some amazing products in the past decade, and their customer service is usually second-to-none.

However, MobileMe is a special kind of product for Apple -- the kind that sucks.

Now, it you may be surprised to read that on a site that is currently published to MobileMe, but understand that I have stuck with this service more out of necessity than desire. After seven years, the e-mail address has become my primary one, and my entire website (along with and the podcast) are all MobileMe hosted.

To understand my most recent frustrations with the service, let’s go back three days. My account was set to expire, so I logged into my MobileMe account online and updated my credit card information to make sure it would auto-renew. Sure, I wasn’t happy with the service itself (particularly the slowness of iWeb publishing and the incompatibility of the MobileMe photo galleries with multiple third-party browsers), but I didn’t feel like transitioning all my stuff to another host.

On Saturday, I went to publish an iWeb update, but for some reason, iWeb was treating me like I wasn’t logged into MobileMe. I checked my account in System Preferences, and saw that I was logged in, but my account status said “Your account will renew in 0 days.” Well, that’s strange.

I decided to just wait a day to see if the renewal would go through. And, of course, it didn’t. So yesterday, I spent multiple hours online chatting with support agents, who attempted all kinds of fixes for my account, but never resolved the problem.

(And while we’re on this topic, the fact that MobileMe has no phone support is absurd. If you have any problem that may require a restart to resolve, you’re completely screwed, because you’ll lose your active chat. Yesterday one of the chat agents had me perform a Safari reset as a troubleshooting step, and, of course, that disconnected the chat. When I connected to a new agent, I had to go through many of the same basic troubleshooting steps again, since apparently MobileMe support reps don’t enter their notes into the same system as Apple’s phone or in-person support agents.)

At the end of the day, the last agent indicated that my account was set to renew, and should do so on Monday -- a weekday. Yes, this person was convinced that the problem was we were attempting to place a charge on a Sunday. Ignoring the stupidity of that explanation, I decided to give up for the day and wait until Monday. Well, Monday came, and my MobileMe account summary still indicated “Your account will renew on Oct. 23, 2009.” Amazing how it was using future tense for a past date.

I went through the chat wringer again today. At one point, I was in a chat with “Laura M.” for an hour, and at the end, I got the online equivalent of a hang-up. Literally, one minute, she sent me a possible solution. When I indicated that I’d done that and I hadn’t worked, I got a message that “Laura M.” was no longer connected to the chat session. Finally, someone at Apple was able to fix my account. How’d they do it? They canceled it, and made me go in and manually reactivate it. That’s not a solution, that’s half-assery.

Now, if this were the only problem I’d ever had with MobileMe, I might be able to let it slide, but it’s not. Not even close. The most basic problem I have with MobileMe, on a regular basis, is that iWeb takes about 30 minutes to publish a single blog update to Now, this is an iWeb problem as much as it’s a MobileMe problem, but I can publish to a folder and upload to an FTP site MUCH faster than that (and when you publish to a folder, you have to re-publish the entire site every time).

The other annoying problem I have with MobileMe is iPhoto related. You can publish these great galleries from iPhoto (though people using anything but the absolute latest browsers are going to have trouble using them). I have my iPhoto library on my Mac Mini and use that computer for all my publishing. But when I launch iPhoto on my MacBook Pro it connects to MobileMe and tries to update my galleries, with pictures that don’t exist in that library. It’s a mess. I finally got around this issue by turning my internet update settings to “manual” in iPhoto, but  that’s not how it should work.

OK, enough ranting for now. I could go on and on about the issues MobileMe has, but the fact is, for $99-a-year, it’s still a viable hosting solution, especially when you consider how easy it makes Podcast publishing. I just wish that as a whole it was up to the standards I’ve come to expect from an Apple product, and had a real customer service department to support it.