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?