Monday, October 17, 2011

iCloud transition off to a rocky start for MobileMe, family users

Apple's transition from MobileMe to iCloud brings the promise of centralized, cloud-based storage for all your important data. Unfortunately, the transition hasn't been smooth for all users. Aside from Apple's servers being overloaded with MobileMe account transitions, some are having issues reconciling Apple's assumption that every user has a unique Apple ID and that every Apple ID is used for just one person.

People who never used MobileMe and only ever used one Apple ID for iTunes purchases appear to be experiencing a completely smooth transition to iCloud. We haven't heard of any serious complaints from users in this scenario. It's the users with more than one Apple ID, users who have shared an Apple ID with family members, and users transitioning from MobileMe, however, who have reported a variety of problems making the jump to the cloud.

Though rumors popped up in the weeks running up to the iCloud launch that Apple was working on a way to merge multiple Apple IDs, such a process still is not publicly available. People who have used more than one Apple ID in the past may have a variety of iTunes song, video, app, and other purchases associated with more than one of them. While a Mac or PC can be authorized with more than one Apple ID at a time, only one can be associated with an iOS device in any 90 day period. Being able to sync past purchases from more than one account just isn't possible.

Other users are having the opposite problem. Some families have used a single Apple ID for iTunes purchases for mom, dad, brother, and sister (or various other combinations). While such a strategy may have made sense for a particular family's needs—especially if younger children were using iPod touches with parental approval—if that ID is used for iCloud, it could create headaches. Unless all devices are going to be synced to the same data store—with everyone sharing contacts, calendars, and other information—other users who were previously dependent on that account may have to re-purchase apps or music.

Thankfully, there's a partial solution to this. Apple allows for a separate Apple ID for the iTunes Store and iCloud; if everyone in a family creates and uses a unique Apple ID for iCloud, they could still share an Apple ID for iTunes. Even if the shared account has been used to set up iCloud for one family member, the rest could still use that Apple ID for iTunes only. Users will just have to be very careful that everything is set up properly; since everyone in the family will know the password, if another member inadvertently uses that Apple ID for iCloud during setup it could cause data syncing problems.

But wait, there's more:

Still, users transitioning from MobileMe may experience one or more of several other reported issues. Apple's servers were inundated with MobileMe to iCloud transfer requests after iCloud became available last Wednesday. Apple had to throttle account transitions in order to keep up, and some users reported as late as Saturday that they had not yet been able to move an account over.

Even those who were able to successfully move a MobileMe account to iCloud found that e-mail servers would no longer recognize valid passwords. Apple did acknowledge the password issue on Friday, and as of late Sunday, Apple updated its iCloud system status  to say that mail accounts and account transfers are now working as expected. If you still have a problem with mail servers recognizing your password, however, deleting the account from Mail and re-adding it is a known workaround.

People who originally used .Mac or were early adopters of MobileMe are likely to have both and Apple IDs. As far as Apple is concerned, these Apple IDs are interchangeable, but we've heard a handful of reports of display anomalies for some users. Logging in using might show the Apple ID as on one or more devices, or vice versa. After consulting with MobileMe support staff, we are confident that the issue does not affect functionality, whatever the bug may be that causes the Apple ID to display differently on different devices.

Some users, however, may experience an error saying that a or e-mail address cannot be verified and used with iMessage or FaceTime. The known cause for this problem is that a user's MobileMe account may have been added as an alternate e-mail address for a separate Apple ID account. (I personally experienced this problem; I had previously added a account to a separate Apple ID to use FaceTime.) The fix for this problem is to remove the MobileMe e-mail address from the other Apple ID by going to . Once removed, you may have to wait up to 24 hours before activating iMessage or FaceTime using the account.

Given the numerous problems Apple saw while launching MobileMe, it's unfortunate that iCloud has gone through these transition hiccups. Despite the annoyance, some careful planning and a little patience can solve the problems for many users. It's definitely best to keep in mind that iCloud works best when each user has a unique Apple ID. There is still no fix for those who would like to merge multiple Apple IDs into one, but after talking with support staff, it looks like Apple might still be working on a solution.

1 comment:

  1. I guess the iCloud doesn't have a silver lining. Sucks for them.