MobileMe wreaks wipey revenge on freetards
Cancelling the trial? Better check yourself
Updated Those who've been enjoying Apple's much-extended MobileMe trial should take care when cancelling accounts, to prevent the cloudy ghost coming back to haunt them and swiping all their contacts and appointments.
MobileMe maintains a copy of all users' data in the cloud, which is then synchronised with the various devices the user owns - when the service is working properly. But when an account is cancelled all the data is removed from the cloud, which is fine - unless the user lets their iPhone synchronise with the newly-created void. In that case they find their calendar unexpectedly clear, and a curious lack of any contacts with whom to make appointments.
Users who don't cancel in time are automatically charged, too - Apple already has your credit card details, which is fair enough as the company warns that this will happen and with the various extensions to the trial punters should have had plenty of time to decide if the service is worth paying for. Those who cancel with care should also be OK, and services such as Funambol are available to anyone who doesn't fancy syncing to Outlook or similar.
It's not really Apple's fault that users are losing data; the MobileMe service is very well integrated with the iPhone, so it's common sense that cancelling the account should be done with care - just be sure to have your data elsewhere before doing so.
MobileMe is getting more stable, but with a number of free services offering similar functionality it's not clear how many people will be prepared to pay for it. Issues like this don't help, but are very minor when compared to, say, the early versions of Microsoft's ActiveSync. That little helper would refuse to restore a device that had been hard-reset on the grounds that it had a different name, while refusing to give it the same name on the grounds it would conflict with an existing device. ®
Update: Reader Phil Blackman suffered from just this problem and was initially told, by Apple support, that to get his data back he would have to hand over a year's subscription, download his data, and then cancel the sub. Unfortunately it seems that Apple is only retaining data for paying subscribers - those on the trial have lost their data forever.