iCloud Is Broken and It Needs to Be Fixed

Many years ago, back before I was a convert to the world of Macs, I wanted to find a way to sync the contacts on my various computers, that way I always had the right phone number on hand. To do that, I used a new online service, which didn’t really work the way I expected it to. I always found myself with doubles or missing contacts, which essentially defeated the purpose.

Today we have iCloud, which is supposed to be an improvement on the problems we had with MobileMe. But with those improvements comes a problem — relying on the system. And when it doesn’t work, then there’s a problem. A big one.

Adventures in MobileMe

I started with MobileMe once I bought my first iPhone, the iPhone 3G, back in the day. I had problems with it right off the bat, and eventually, even escalated the problem to Apple support and an email to Steve Jobs. An hour later I had a phone call from Apple who apologized for the problem and gave me some options for fixing the issue.

And for the most part, things were fixed and even though there were a few outages here and there, I didn’t really have any problems with the service and I started to rely on it. I knew with confidence that anytime I added a contact or put in a calendar listing, it would be synced automatically to my iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro and iPhone, no sweat. That built confidence in the system, and I was very happy with re-upping with the service when it came due. Up until recently, I didn’t worry at all about anything being in sync, because it always worked. No worries at all.

The iCloud Transfer

After various keynote presentations by the big guys at Apple talking about the problems with MobileMe, I figured that the transition to iCloud would be fairly straight forward. After all, it was essentially the same thing — contacts, calendars, mail, etc — just like MobileMe, and that was working just fine for me. Why should I expect this to be anything but easy?

Since the transfer, I’ve had tons of issues. Calendar posts not publishing to the people who share it, contacts only partially updating if they appear at all, and there’s no consistency across platforms.

When it works, it's awesome. When it doesn't, it can be devastating.

When it works, it's awesome. When it doesn't, it can be devastating.

For example, I added an image to one of my contacts on my Mac. I waited a little bit for it to sync to my iPhone, and it never happened. Figuring it was a fluke, I waited a day or two and forgot about it, then checked again today. The image is on my Mac, on my iCloud account on the web, but nowhere to be found on my iPhone. And unlike MobileMe, there’s no Sync button to push to make sure the syncing is actually happen. There’s no way to confirm it’s working — and since it’s obviously not, what do I do?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is no Snow Leopard support for iCloud at all. I have a four-year-old iMac which I use for my iTunes library, and because of some of the older software on that machine, I’m not quite ready to make the leap to Lion. Because of that, my iMac is no longer in sync with any of my stuff, which is yet another strike against the system for me. I know plenty of people still running 10.6, and I know Apple wants everyone on the newest OS — but why not support it at least in the beginning?

Losing The Trust

I figured I was the only person who was having that problem, but it turns out that it’s pretty widespread — and when Dan Frakes, the editor of Macworld is having problems, well that’s a little embarrassing for Apple.

For me, it means that I’m losing my trust in the Apple syncing system, something I’ve relied on heavily for years. If this continues down this path without resolution, then I’m just not going to use it anymore for risk of losing something important. I schedule my work, my home life and everything else on my calendar app, who wants to lose all that? Who wants to have doubled contacts? How can I trust the system if it keeps screwing up on me?

I would love iCloud to work this well.

I would love iCloud to work this well.

But this problem is bigger than just me, it’s potentially a problem for anyone on the iCloud network, which right now is a whole ton of people. If Apple thought that MobileMe was a PR nightmare, iCloud stands to be multiple times bigger. It’s the basis for where Apple wants to be in the future, and if it’s a flawed product, then that’s a big issue.

Where We Go From Here

I don’t know how the technical side of things works, and I don’t pretend to understand how Apple does syncing. Here’s what I do know.

1. MobileMe worked. Maybe not all the time, maybe it wasn’t perfect, but more often than not, it worked — at least for me, your mileage may vary.

2. Something changed. Somewhere in the transition to iCloud, Apple changed the system. Why? Maybe it had to do with iTunes Match, or possibly it was about losing iWeb and iDisk. Whatever it was, it changed.

Now all of these problems could’ve happened because the amount of people on the network swelled substantially, or because of a line of code that’s off just a little bit — again, I don’t know the logistics of how it works, I just know that it doesn’t.

Final Thoughts

Apple is always under the spotlight, and the more people that have problems and publicize it, the more issues that Apple is going to have in the press. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that they don’t want that to happen, so this problem will get resolved. But unless it gets fixed soon, me and many other people are just going to stop trusting the system.

Part of the reason I love Apple products so much is because I trust them. I never trusted my PC. I always expected it to break at one point or another, and more often than not it complied with my fears. With Apple, I know stuff works, so I trust it. ICloud needs to be trusted, and right now, it’s not.

When people lose that trust, they start to stop believing in the other products they have. Why would I sign up for iTunes Match when I can’t trust iCloud? Why would I pay for extra iCloud storage if it doesn’t work anyways? This is not a path Apple wants to go down.

It may seem like I’m blowing this out of proportion, but once you begin to rely on a system, you need it to work. I have full faith that Apple will fix the issue and that it will get resolved quickly, but until it does, I know I don’t feel that my data is secure.

Do you?

  • sKz

    removed from my iphone and mbp after one week. this stupid idea to have two separated accounts has just duplicated everything on my iPhone, and at the same time deleted something else on my mbp without any logic…apple is meant to work straight out of the box? this thing is just broken right now. apple, send me an email again when it’ll work fine, thanks.

  • Matt

    Never liked this feature it always seemed to die when I needed it most. All mail, calendars and contacts have been with google apps for ages now. Syncs perfectly every time. I’m a huge apple fan but it’s cloud technology has always been sub standard. Why is there not a dropbox feature with iCloud? 5gb for nothing. Photostream is pretty neat though.

  • David

    What has worked for me so far has been to ‘fix’ the problem on the iCloud website. More times than not, when something doesn’t sync to another device you’ll find it hasn’t made it to the cloud. Edit your contact, make the reinder, or whatever the online and it will propagate to your devices. Yes, it is just a workaround but it has been working for me when sync inexplicably fails.

  • http://clearcastdigitalmedia.com Matthew Chamberlin

    I have to admit I resisted the urge to switch to iCloud, indeed even Lion, for fear of what you described. MobileMe has pretty much always worked and I use BusyCal, which I love. The thought of upgrading 3 computers to Lion, then to iCloud, then a new version of BusyCal makes my head explode. Everything works as it is, so why mess around. The tyranny of Apple upgrades is bothersome, and not worth the risk. You are correct: trust is everything, and once it’s lost, it’s gone forever.

  • Wurm5150

    Majority of people who are experiencing problems with iCloud are those “migrating” from MobileMe. The only issue I had was the first few days after launch. After that everything worked as advertised.

    • iynque

      Seems that way to me too. I haven’t had much trouble except for duplicated contacts and calendars. I just had to turn off visibility for my non-iCloud ‘accounts’ on my devices. Everything syncs fine, I keep a copy on iCloud and each device, but I only see the iCloud copy.

      I think the biggest problem with iCloud is the lack of good documentation. I helped a lot of people who didn’t know they had to do more than turn it on on their phone. They didn’t know about turning it on on ther PCs or about iCloud.com.

  • Ben

    I get why people are nervous—sync is one of those things that you really need to trust, and when the trust is gone it’s hard to get it back—but for me iCloud has been rock solid. Maybe because I never had a MobileMe account to migrate across.

  • http://www.asanchezda.com Alex

    I’ve been a Mac user from long time and only have used MobileMe to host my website, sync my Safari bookmarks and iDisk, but this last service I try to avoid. Transfering even small files via the Finder is a pain: it tooks forever, makes my finder unresponsive to the point I have to force quit on it. Therefore I use Transmit to upload files to my iDisk. Now regarding iOs 5, don’t know you guys, but my ‘automatic’ iCloud does not work. I have to dig into iCloud setting and manually sync it. Yep, you are right: File sync is not the strongest point for Apple. Not even new Mail system, I have one more free alias ready to setup but i keep getting this annoying pop up message that i have to wait 7 days before I can try again; 3 weeks have passed and nothing is solved. Congrats to the guys of Dropbox ’cause they have figured out how to sync.

  • Imee

    Similar dilemma… I’m actually still running Leopard (gasp!) on my old MacBook 1’1 so only my iPad 2 has iCloud access. Pfft.

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  • Dan

    Same here!
    Never had a MobileMe-Account – now using iCloud without any issues, love it.

    • Dan

      Damn – I actually wanted to reply on Ben’s and Wurm5150’s post.

  • http://www.whippsindustries.com/ Kevin Whipps

    It’s interesting that most of you are saying it’s those of us transferring from MM, because my wife hasn’t had any problems and she’s a new iCloud user. I wonder if starting fresh is the way to go.

  • http://cansurmeli.com [email protected]

    Hey guys.

    I’ve been a MobileMe user before but when google sync announced I switched to it eventually because it was free BUT MobileMe worked for me quite fine.

    Because I migrated from Google, I had no problem with iCloud syncing. And iCloud seems to work just fine for me.

    Just once,not my mail option but my push mail option got problematic but now it seems allright.

    So it’s obvious that Apple struggles a little when it comes to cloud stuff but overall in my opinion it’s solid.

  • JP

    Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed. I thought icloud would fix al the issues with syncing with google (contacts, calendars, etc) but it seems to have made it worse. I would like to sync everything across my platforms not have a set of contacts on google and a set on icloud. I don’t understand why it can’t be one database to sync everything to, who wants contacts on your mac and phone but not email or on your mac and email but not in icould or on my phone. Sometimes Apple is so closed minded and limiting that it’s retarded. No one’s gonna switch to their featureless email service when they could use gmail and google calendar which already do what they promised icould would.

  • http://www.viggiosoft.com Carlo

    I had the same problem at the beginning. Then I found that after transition form MobileMe to iCloud many of my contacts and calendars were split in two groups: the ones in iCloud and the ones in the device, the latter were not sync’d. Wat I did was a simple operation done on both calendars and contacts, explained in an Apple specific TN (I don’t remember the number) which allows you with a simple but not obvious operation to merge all contacts in the iCloud group. And everything is sync’d perfectly as expected. Hope this help to fix some of the reported issues.

  • Autoxave

    Don´t have any issues with iCloud even tough I moved from MobileMe. Syncs satisfactory.

  • http://paulmayne.org Paul

    I’m having problems integrating iCloud into native Mac and iOS apps. In my experience, it feels and functions like a Beta product. Launched prematurely.

  • Terence Hoaglund

    I never used MobileMe, but I have my calendar and contacts syncing just fine with Icloud between my MBP and Iphone. I have not attempted to sync music, photos, or any documents yet. My wife and I also have our calendars synced without any problems.

    I did have some issues with duplications initially, but once I figured that out and fixed it, all was well. Works great for me!

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  • Gus

    Well I read your list of woes & I can only see one glitch, that an address book pic didn’t sync. Then you start generalizing about “all these problems”. How can u expect to be taken seriously when u list one little glitch then launch into paragraphs of generalization? What exactly is wrong with iCloud? What has it done wrong for u? You don’t actually say! MobileMe was a train wreck, an absolute disaster with multiple catalogued issues. If you say u were happy with MobileMe then dis iCloud with no detail, then your argument falls even flatter! U seem happy with MM which u say had probs, then say u hate iCloud but list one tiny thing, I’m sorry, but you have NO credibility to be publishing a lengthy post critiquing a service. How amateurish!

    • James

      DITTO Gus.
      I agree. Look at the length & wordage of this article, then add up the actual facts “supporting” the complaint. They’re not there. Anyone can write a huge complaint against an Apple service like this, and they get proliferated ad nauseous on all the RSS feeds as factual articles, you look at the hundreds of such “articles” out there complainng about Apple, yet every one of the suthors is still usinf Apples wonderful products. and Apple just quietly keeps improving its product, not deigning to reply, because it knows that just adds fuel to the fire, which IS MORE THAN U CAN SAY FOR MICROSOFT, who sit on their hands after a release and do NOTHING to improve the huge gaping flaws In their product.

      Compare the two: Microsoft releases a version of phone or PC software, it stinks & everyone knows it, but because the big companies all use it, the masses are slaved to it. They just battle on, crash after crash & struggling to get work done. Apple releases something marvelous, world changing, & all the squawkers come out with their oh so thoughtful opinions, panning a whole marvelous product because of a few tweaks that Apple fixes soon anyway, and Microsoft has a hundred such tweaks to Apples one, PLUS a hundred huge crashing problems as well!! That never get addressed until YEARS LATER Micmrosoft releases a new version – which it charges huge licensing fes for!!

      Where is the justice here? GET A GRIP KEVIN, you are like a spoilt child!

  • Gus

    Oh I forgot to add, change just one little thing on that contact, even just add a full stop in the notes section, & it will force a sync, taking the pic along with it. Problem solved. Sheesh, u write war & peace on an amateur sync issue 2 minutes on google would give u a fix for, instead of trying to learn how something works!

  • http://internetseoconsulting.com Marie

    Yes, I was also disappointed for all of the same reasons! I can only hope someone really important reads your post and fixes the issues. I was more than disappointed but glad to see I wasn’t the only one!

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  • AndyM

    I’ve stayed away from iCloud, tempting as it looked. I remember the disastrous problems I had with MobileMe sync’ing after that rollout (I was an iTools user before that); so this time around, I waited to see what the verdict was on iCloud. Unfortunately, my suspicion of Apple’s ability to provide a reliable sync service was well founded. I have great respect for Steve Jobs, but I didn’t believe it when he said iCloud “just works”. I currently use GCal, Picasa, Gmail, and GContacts (the latter is pretty lame, but otherwise the services have been reliable).

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