MobileMe makes Mac setup easy, why can't it do the same for iPhone, iPad?

MobileMe makes Mac setup easy, why can't it do the same for iPhone, iPad?

MobileMe makes it incredibly easy to setup a new Mac, why can't Apple do the same for iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad? This week I picked up an 11-inch MacBook Air so TiPb could see how it compared (and competed) with the iPad, and literally as soon as it boots up, you're asked for a MobileMe or Apple ID. Once booted, you can go into System Preferences and turn on MobileMe sync. Then, unlike iOS where all you get is Mail, Contacts, and Calendars, you can start syncing down all your preferences, keychains (passwords), dock and dashboard setups, and iDisk files straight from the Apple Cloud.

Imagine the same happened on iPhone or iPad. Get a new device, enter your MobileMe login, and all your Settings, passwords, Home Screen and Folder layouts (including installed apps at the time of last sync!), and iDisk files just worked. You would only have to restore from iTunes if you chose to, and you could do a clean install without half the hassle it takes now.

Re-installing apps is still a pain on Mac, even though sync means you usually don't have to go looking for licenses any more (which is an incredible pain). With a Mac App Store, Apple could easily do the same kind of app sync on the desktop as well.

There would still be a few hurdles, however.

The first is universal login. I currently have my MobileMe ID, my iTunes ID, my Apple Store ID, my Apple Discussions ID, my Game Center ID, etc. There are hints in iOS 4.2 that Apple is taking steps towards unifying at least Apple ID and MobileMe ID. True unification and single login would be fantastic. Android already does this via Gmail, so does webOS via Palm ID. If I'm prompted for my MobileMe/Apple ID when booting a new Mac, why not when booting a new iOS device?

The second is the pay wall. That excludes a lot of users. Given how successful Google has been with their free-as-in-ad-supported services, and given Apple now has iAds and a huge data center spinning up, the idea of free -- or at least a free tier of -- MobileMe services must have been kicked around by Apple. There would still be room for a premium service, either similar to how Google Accounts is a paid version of the free services like Gmail, how DropBox offers extra capacity if you offer cash, or by actually having extra services.

Find my iPhone, which ironically Apple is currently -- and confusingly -- listing above the Paid Subscription services on for iOS devices, is an example of a premium service people would pay for. And there's lots of room for others as well.

For now, however, I'd just like to be able to sign into MobileMe on my iPhone or iPad and download my environment the way I can on Mac. Apple, you've just given a lot from iOS back to the Mac. How about giving iOS that in return?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

MobileMe makes Mac setup easy, why can't it do the same for iPhone, iPad?


I wonder if this might be part of the purpose of the new datacenter in North Carolina. If Apple really is serious about the cloud playing a role in Apple user's computing future, simplifying all of these logins would be a big step in that direction.

IS ANYONE AWARE OF THIS?: If you use mobileme to sync more than one computer, you cannot sync a third party device like a Blackberry to the calendar since their last upgrade (new calendar) which only allows an iPhone to sync because it no longer syncs with the 'ON MY MAC' calendar. Apple is trying to force users of other devices to use the iPhone.

@Trev Jay - I don't know anything about a conspiracy you're suggesting. But, yes, I keep seeing that notice from MobileMe to "upgrade" to the new calendar. However, I keep ignoring it because it requires all computers to have 10.6.4 and, in fact, none of my computers are running 10.6.4. (I've got one running 10.5.8 and the others are running 10.4.11.) And, I don't see a real benefit. So, I'll stick with the "old" calendar for a while longer.

@Trev Jay
It isn't a conspiracy. Apple supports PC users that use MobileMe but why should they support other device platforms that are competitors? They certainly are not obligated. I don't see BES integration for iPhones, do you?