Thursday, October 8, 2009

Family Productivity with the iPhone

My wife and I just upgraded - she from the iPhone to the 3G, and me from a junky old beat-up Samsung to the 3G. At the AT&T store, they told us about Mobile Me, a Blackberry-like push service that allows you to get e-mails, etc. live - for a $100/year fee. We decided we would put it off - and that turned out to be the best decision.

I am a Google junkie. On any given day, I use Google search, Google voice for all incoming calls and many outgoing calls, Google Chrome, Google calendar, GTalk, sometimes Google Docs, Google Mail, Google Maps, occasionally Google Earth, and more. Hey, when the stuff just works, and it's free, you can't beat it.

So, when I found out that they have Google Sync, I was all over it! With Google Sync, Google set up a Microsoft Exchange server that you can configure your iPhone to receive pushed updates for Mail, Calendars, and Contacts. That's right! Since all of the Google apps use a common Contacts list, and you can sync that with your iPhone, you can have all of your contacts in one place!

Now, here comes the really cool part. If you have ever used Google Calendars, you know that you can have multiple calendars, and you can share them. So I had my own personal calendar. I quickly created one for my family. And Google Sync synchronized them both to my iPhone, so that entries in different calendars show up with different color dots next to them.

OK, now the out-of-this-world cool part. I shared my personal, and the family, calendars with my wife, and added Google Sync to her iPhone. Now she can see hers, mine, and the family calendars merged. Oh, and since she uses Outlook for her calendar, she downloaded the Google Sync app that synchronizes the Outlook calendar with her Google calendar, so everything is only entered in one place. If I ever want to know "can I schedule a business trip next week, what's the family up to?" - one tap on my Calendar app, and I can see at a glance!  Now that is cool.

Steps to set up:
  1. Get a Google GMail account if you don't already have one.
  2. Set up your contacts.
  3. Set up your calendar.  Create new calendars if you wish - use the Share options to determine whom to share with, and what they can do to the calendar.
  4. Follow the Google Sync link to set it up (yes, Google Sync works for more than just the iPhone - but I am a techie geek.  What other kind of phone should I have?).
  5. Lather, Rinse, Repeat - for each family member.
Do you need to have a GMail account for this to work?  Yes.  My wife initially had a Google login using her Comcast e-mail.  She was able to set up the calendar, but the iPhone sync didn't work.  When she created an actual GMail address and put everything under that, it worked great.  Because of the push feature, updates to the calendars show up on all phones in a minute or so.  Awesome!


  1. Just to be fair, there is a lot more to the MobileMe service than the push contacts, email and calendar. It has supposedly wicked cool photo gallery and also has document online file share called idoc and allows you to store documents or send ones to big to email, etc. It also has the function that if your phone is lost or stolen you can find it via GPS and if it is stolen you can wipe all the data and disable the phone remotely so it is useless to whomever stole it. It really is a cool thing, just wish it wasn't $100 a year.

  2. True - MobileMe does have the ability to help locate your phone if lost (and if turned on!), and remotely wipe it to protect your data. That alone may be worth it. $60 a year would be better.