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iOS 4.2 GM hints at free MobileMe option

updated 12:40 am EST, Sat November 20, 2010

iOS 4.2 GM code references free MobileMe

New code discovered in the iOS 4.2 and 4.2.1 gold master builds tonight has hinted that Apple may finally fulfill promises of free MobileMe services. A finding in a new AppleAccounts.framework section references error messages for a "maximum number of free accounts" for iPads, iPhones and iPods while also mentioning separate paid services. Deeper investigation by MacRumors has also found mention of an error that would allow an account access to syncing and likely most other services but which would prevent using MobileMe mail.

"This Apple ID cannot be used for MobileMe Mail, but you can use it for other MobileMe services," the error said.

Apple has never made mention of switching some MobileMe services to a free model and may not activate it when iOS 4.2.1 is made public. However, the additional evidence beyond earlier interface changes implies that the company is close to if not ready to make a change to a service that lost its free access upon the switch from iTools to .Mac in 2002.

If completed, the switch would most likely be to counter Android. One of Google's key advantages has been its account sync, which with a sign-in can not only restore contacts and e-mail but bring back app downloads and even wallpaper. Cloud sync options have been available on iOS for free but have usually been limited to third-party apps, such as Dropbox storage. Free sync, and possibly extras like Find My iPhone tracking and media hosting, could put the iPhone on par even if a paid tier was necessary for other features.

Apple's North Carolina data center is rumored to be near going live and could potentially play a role by providing the space and bandwidth to manage large-scale calendar, contact and media syncing. Most believe the server cluster could focus on real-time streaming media, but its exact role has never been determined. If not active in days, the data center is known to be going live by the end of the year.

by MacNN Staff



  1. MyRightEye

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Back when...

    Apple announce iTolls, they claimed "free email address for life".

    This is one thing there SHOULD have been a class action over. I only use iTools, then .Mac and now MobileMe for the email account. Apple should reimburse me $800.

    Seriously, is you make a promise, you must keep it.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Apple fans are not used to getting things for free. They Expect to pay through the nose.

    What's going on?

  1. nitewing98

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Meet or beat the competition

    Assuming this is true, Apple's only doing it to compete with Google. It still seems silly to charge for an email address when Gmail is free, though. Especially since AT&T could have provided one to each iPhone buyer. MobileMe was just Apple's way of adding value (and getting some recurring revenue from the iPhone). Besides being reimbursed for the hardware from AT&T, they wanted part of the monthly pie as well.

    I could live without my email address, but the sync services are why I pay for MobileMe. Once they are free, I'll probably go back to using my Comcast email or my Gmail account and drop the paid portion of MobileMe. I also like having an iDisk, though, so that might convince me to continue buying a subscription, if they lower the price.

    Interesting news. Thanks Electronista.

  1. driven

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I like MM

    I like MobileMe. (Had it since iTools). It it were free (and if they can keep the e-mail performance sane) then I'd be thrilled. I have a free GMail account, but it always feels like a kludge to me with the lack of folders, non-standard IMAP, flakey contacts DB, etc. The only thing worth using with GMail is the calendar, but even that's improved on MobileMe that I'm tempted to drop that from Google.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just Apple Synching

    Is this synching just for Apple products such as iCal or will it include other products such as 1Password? I can't imagine Apple building such a huge data center just to synch our calendars and spare us USB synching.

    Apple need to do offer much more than Android to stay on top of the pile. Dropbox-like services would be best, particularly if they include file synching that can handle OS X's packages--the one thing Dropbox can't do.

  1. herojig

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What if?

    What if that code is just to keep from getting more then one trial account, as I have gotten with every new mac I've bought. Could it just be a check and error on that? I think it was possible to just getting new mobileme IDs every 90 days or so.


    Joined: Dec 1969


    Find my Phone

    Of all the mobile me services the only one that really interests me is the Find My Phone service. If Apple made that free that would be great.

  1. rbodgers

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "Apple may finally fulfill promises of free MobileMe services"

    Ah, I see what you did there. You confused the word "rumors" with the word "promises". Ah heck, they're practically synonyms. Forget it.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Please let it be true...

    However, I don't think it's in Apple's DNA to give things away for free. I think Apple would make a lot of consumers happy if they were to do this. At least some small token of storage for free. Surely, with such a huge server farm it couldn't be that big an impact on their revenue. With the iPhone, the Touch and the iPad all part of one ecosystem, why not at least take advantage of cloud syncing.

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ah the beauty of competition...

    With the exception of Find My iPhone and Back to my Mac, Google Sync is $99 MSRP cheaper than MobileMe and arguably more reliable.

    My bet is that if there is a "freeMobileMe," it's going to be...

    a) Find My iPhone
    b) Bookmarks/Contacts/Calendar Sync

    ....and you'll see a price drop to $49 for the paid account (possibly to match to Google Apps Premier).

    Plus, I haven't even mentioned Dropbox yet. For $99/yr MSRP, it's 50GB. $199/yr is 100GB. 2GB it's FREE (18GB with enough referrals). It's encrypted both in-transit and on the server....a boast that iDisk severely lacks.

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