Have you yearned for far better integration between your beloved iPhone and Google account? Fear not, because Google has rescued us Google addicts today by releasing one of the most highly sought after features to cure those of us obsessed with both the iPhone and Google products – over-the-air synchronization for both Google Contacts and Google Calendar.
Google announced the immediate availability of the capability to synchronize your Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar with your iPhone, as well as just about any mobile device supporting Microsoft Exchange or SyncML synchronization. Over-the-air sync has been a longstanding feature of the wildly popular BlackBerry devices and was introduced on the iPhone with the release of MobileMe late last year.
To offer this functionality, Google apparently used Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology. ActiveSync allows for data synchronization using Microsoft Exchange-like connection whereby data is pushed to the device as necessary. Updates are almost instantaneous and require no manual intervention.
Google has this to say about the Google Sync Beta for iPhone, WinMo and SyncML Phones:
For iPhone and Windows Mobile devices, Google Sync allows you to get your Gmail Contacts and Google Calendar events to your phone. Once you set up Sync on your phone, it will automatically begin synchronizing your address book and calendar in the background, over-the-air, so you can attend to other tasks. Sync uses push technology so any changes or additions to your calendar or contacts are reflected on your device in minutes. The connection is always on so you don’t have to manually sync your phone after Sync has been set up. This means that when your colleague changes the time of the TPS report cover sheets meeting, you’ll know about it right away.
This is exactly what we were discussing in a recent article about MobileMe and whether or not the service is worthwhile if you only desire to sync your iPhone. Over-the-air synchronization is the holy grail of mobile computing because it allows you to work on the same item in multiple locations without ever having to physically connect the disparate devices together to keep the data in-sync. The necessity to plug the iPhone in to a computer to sync data periodically is negated.
Is Google’s implementation of Google Contacts and Google Calendar over-the-air synchronization on par with the competition?
The first, and most important thing to be aware of when attempting to add Google Sync to your iPhone is that there is a limitation of only a single Exchange account. If you already sync with Exchange then you will need to disable or remove that account. Additionally, as with MobileMe, the first time you configure your iPhone for Google Sync, you can kiss all your contacts and calendars goodbye!
Make sure you backup your contacts and calendars before you take on Google Sync otherwise you may be quite upset with the results!
Adding the Google Sync account was quite straightforward. The directions provided by Google are spot-on and worked flawlessly. I did encounter some unwanted data but was quickly able to reconcile those contacts without issue.
One glaringly obvious difference between MobileMe and Google Sync is the simple, integrated support for synchronization in both Address Book and iCal. Although Address Book and iCal are capable of direct sync with Google, setting things up is not as straightforward as MobileMe. Unfortunately, according to Google, if you enable Google Sync with your iPhone you then lose the ability to sync the OS X Address Book with Google. It is either one or the other, which is a major drawback for many people. Spanning Sync to the rescue for those who require their Address Book to remain in sync.
There are some further limitations with this entire setup because Google Sync is, as with all Google offerings, currently in beta and not fully functional. One of the more problematic is that by default you will only sync with your default Google Calendar. If you wish to sync up to the limit of 5 calendars then you must surf to m.google.com/sync and perform a simple configuration change. In addition to the calendar limitations, Google Sync will not synchronize every piece of data you can put on a contact in either the iPhone or Address Book. Google is kind enough to enumerate the current deficiencies.
If you are looking for more than mere address book and calendaring synchronization, and are interested in the file and preferences synchronization MobileMe offers, then Google Sync is definitely not what you are looking for. It is not worth canceling a MobileMe subscription just for the sake of synchronizing contacts and calendars with Google if you are using the additional MobileMe features.
All in all, Google’s latest offering is pure genius for us Google and iPhone junkies. I know I’ve been waiting for quite some time to see if Google would offer such a service before deciding whether MobileMe would be a sufficient solution. Ultimately I am glad I did not invest in MobileMe, opting to wait and hold on to my cards for just a little longer. That gamble paid itself off today!
Do you plan to use Google Sync? Is this something you have been waiting for and plan to engage? Or, are you a MobileMe subscriber who is happy with the product and will continue to use what you’ve gladly paid for?