ZYB.COM – your mobile life on web

Zyb.Com - Web service for synchronization of your mobile address book and calendarOne of my virtues (or flaws, which many would say 😉 ) is that I am (too) organized; one of the favorite principles is “do it once (and right)” – in programming, work and daily activities like entering new contact data (in phone, Outlook or web application / service) – just want to enter it once, in one place and to avoid duplication, merging, copying, version conflicting – all those things when you have one piece of data scattered all around.

Logical place for reference point is mobile phone – mobile phone is now center of daily activities: you are reachable because of it, you have your contacts, notes, calendars and mails in it. However, no matter how big screen and keyboard are (I am proud owner of Nokia E61), it is useful, for many reasons, to have all those data elsewhere:

  • Safety reasons – having a backup of your data is always a good thing
  • It is easier to transfer all those data to a new phone; replacing a phone is not very often action, but when you need to do that, it is better to be as painless as possible.
  • Easier data manipulation; using “real” keyboard and screen is much more comfortable than using phone
  • Access it from anywhere – you can access those data even when your phone is not with you

For years, I am using Plaxo service, which is rather good in free version. “Rather” because I had objections from start of using it:

  • It is slow; no matter how new versions are published, beta or not beta, web interface is slow and cumbersome. Response from service is generally “wait for it” and user friendliness is not on high level.
  • You need computer, with necessary drivers for cable/bluetooth connection with your mobile phone
  • You need to have Microsoft Outlook installed; in the era of GMAIL that is obsolete – you do not want to be tied up for one computer or to worry about licenses.

To be fair enough, most of other mobile phone synchronization solutions are far from perfect; even “native” choice for Nokia phone owners, Nokia PC Suite is generally unusable w/o Outlook installed – way and quality of work with data (over Windows Explorer shell integration) simply can not support any major data changes (even if I disregard fact that this package installs bunch of not wanted software and installs itself in system tray which bugs me additionally 🙂 ).

I found recently ZYB – perfect “little” web service for mobile phone synchronization. Most of objections above are resolved:

  • Service is free with very simple registration procedure; number of supported phone models is very large
  • Base for synchronization is SyncML technology, supported by major phone vendors
  • Setting up phone (at least for Nokia E61) is trivial – accept and save service SMS sent by site
  • Middleman is cut out – no computer / Outlook is needed; communication phone < - > ZYB is direct, using GPRS / 3G / Wireless, whatever is available

First synchronization went fast and almost error free; “almost” because I lost tasks from my phone – tasks are treated as calendar entries; most of phones set up due date when entering tasks and ZYB was setup not to synchronize any calendar items older than 7 days; (I reported this as a bug).

So, please do full backup of your phone using “old way” before experimenting 🙂

Apart synchronization, ZYB offers other services – import of address book from Gmail, elimination of duplicate contacts and (unavoidable) social component – to connect with people which phones you have and they are also on ZYB (it is unobtrusive option).

Words of warning: service is still in beta and you can expect some unstabillity; also, there is trust issue – do you want to share your private data with some “foreign” site; I decided that I am fine with that, years ago, when I started using Plaxo service. It is up to you to decide for yourself.

Verdict: My recommendation.

IPhone close encounter – don’t like it

IPhone - Good, Bad and UglyI do not like Apple – consider them elitist company, with way too much hype about design and superiority of their products over any other similar products (implied: Microsoft ones) on the market.

However, geek in me have respect for any well crafted gadget / electronic device / software product, no matter who is manufacturer.

In the series of events (primarily caused by my friend Aleck 😉 ) I promised to my wife Maja nice present for her birthday: IPhone.

IPhone arrived couple hours ago; I tried to approach it completely open-minded.

Good – Look and Feel

This symbiotic phone / PDA is beautifully designed – simplicity and combination of materials has stunning effect on anyone who sees it / holds it. Screen is bright and clear; famous multi-touch navigation is intuitive and fast.

Default applications are good, and pleasant to use.

However, IPhone has a long, long way to go in order to be considered (in my opinion) as good business phone for daily usage:

Bad (ITunes)

Primary interface between IPhone and rest of your (mine) Windows based computer is ITunes: multi-mega (57 Mb) bloatware (with nice look of course):

  • It tries to hijack anything remotely close to multimedia on your computer
  • Synchronisation with Outlook (done with bloatware above) is seriously crippled: no Notes synchronisation and no To-Do list synchronisation
  • There is no way to directly access various elements in IPhone (Notes) if needed

Of course, you can find ways around Net to “overcome” obstacles: sending notes as mail to yourself, and reading/copy/paste on IPhone Notes, creating dummy contacts and passing notes in Note field in contacts etc. Would you do that with 50+ notes?

Data entry over screen can be a pain, especially if you have thick fingers; I believe that practice will do, but got annoyed in half hour of trying to enter some Notes.

Ugly – Missing Features

IPhone has NO To-Do lists; To-Do lists are crucial part of my daily GTD process; so, this alone would disqualify IPhone in my eyes; phone is item which is with you most of the time; being unable to enter tasks is big minus.

International support is lousy:

I was unable to enter some Serbian characters (less important) and IPhone itself is unable to recognize phone numbers in international format with country prefix; if you have number in contacts like:

+381 11 1111 1111 ( local format would be 011 1111 1111)

and if that number calls you, you will get just 011 1111 1111 on screen and no name recognised. Suggestions on Net (enter double record for each mobile: one with and one without prefix) are just suggestions 🙂 if you have 500+ contacts; my Nokia E61 does both things perfectly.

I understand that Apple just entered phone business and it is primarily oriented toward biggest, western speaking markets (USA) first; that time passed from launch is short; I also understand that if you want genuine well crafted and designed item and do not care too much for problems mentioned (which most of users don’t), IPhone is your best choice.

I am pretty sure that IPhone on phone market will surpass success of IPod at mp3 player market and that will be (pretty justified) most selling phone in history.

However, if you are like me, and you care about functionality as much (or even more) as for design, just wait; I believe that in year time, IPhone will be unbeatable tool for communication and business, and I am ready to wait that; for now, simply skip it – no good.