|At a glance|
|Product||Funambol MyFunambol [Website]|
|Summary||MyFunambol is a hosted version of Funambol's open source server that provides mobile cloud synchronization services to people who don't want to (or know how to) set up the full-blown Funambol server.|
|Pros||• Quick set up|
• Completely web based
• Covers most of the large mobile phone clients
|Cons||• Seems unnecessary when other solutions already exist.|
• 50 MB of storage is pitiful when syncing photos.
• No automated photo sharing.
• Open source project = nearly 0 support and documentation.
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Funambol is an interesting app that provides a cloud-based synchronization layer for mobile phones. The “bread and butter” product is Funambol’s open source server that targets Service Providers, ISVs, and Enterprises. The server provides a number of services, like push email, mobile cloud sync, etc.
Funambol recently released a beta website MyFunambol.com that basically exposes the mobile cloud sync feature of the Funambol server. This hosted scenario provides a cloud synchronization option for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. Your data can then be synced to other services like Google or Facebook.
The client feature set varies from platform to platform. I tested the iOS app, which provides contact and photo cloud sync features. MyFunambol also has support for calendar sync, which iOS currently doesn't support.
Funambol, despite being an open source company, has unfortunately not yet released the source code for the iOS client app. I’m hoping this changes, as it would be a great learning platform for many to see how to properly handle data synchronization between iOS devices and cloud-based services.
The recent version 9 update of the iOS app installation adds photo synchronization. Funambol provides options for syncing your photos to Facebook and Google’s Picasa.
Setting up MyFunambol was easy and quick. Registration occurs on http://my.funambol.com and requires entering a lot of information that I have screenshotted in the gallery. I question why some of the information is needed (like my phone number). But since it was required I entered it.
Once my account was set up, I headed over to the App Store on my iPhone and downloaded the app. What is not immediately apparent is you can set up an account on your phone as well, and I accidentally did this. Fixing this required uninstalling and reinstalling the app on the phone to sync up with the correct account, or you can just use the account you accidentally set up.
Once I was squared away, synchronization was quick. However, something Funambol fails to point out is only 50 MB of space is provisioned, with no upgrade path available. I have over 700 photos on my phone, and 50 MB is about 40 photos worth of space, so I quickly filled that. I was then promptly informed by both the web portal and the device that the limit had been hit and I had to clean up my online space.
I decided for the sake of testing I didn’t need to upload every photo, so I moved onto connecting into my Flickr account. Flickr is a very established presence in the photo sharing scene, so connecting to Funambol was easy. I was only required to log into my Flickr account and grant Funambol access.
But I wasn’t exactly sure what would happen then. Flickr showed up as an account, but none of my pictures seemed to be syncing over. I clicked on the “Photos” link in the top area of Funambol, and as it turns out, you have to manually select photos that you want to share with accounts. Thankfully Funambol implemented standard Windows-style controls where you hold Control or Shift to select multiple photos.
Synced contacts show up immediately in the portal and can be edited there. Once edited, contacts can be synced back with the edits in place. I chose not to sync my contacts into any of the services available because I already sync my contacts with Google.
Additionally you can choose to sync mail to a phone that might not provide push Email service. This is especially useful for people with ISP-based email, because the battery life benefit of pushing email versus the device constantly checking an account is huge.
Access, Support, Security, Closing Thoughts
Accessing the service is done mainly via the My.Funambol.com website. The phone apps are really just to manage syncing. Note that on iOS devices, you have to run these syncs manually, as there is no option for backgrounding this kind of service on the platform.
Support is typical of a beta open-source product, which means basically zero. You can, if you want, wade through the server support documents, but you’re probably better off just asking in the forums. Thankfully the forum is rather active, so you stand a good chance of getting your question answered.
Security is unknown as well. I can tell you that your connection to MyFunambol is not encrypted at all, ever. So don’t go using the password you use for your bank account, or the username for that matter. This is a beta site, so I’m hoping this changes, but encryption should be in a beta program.
Overall, the MyFunambol experience was good, but somewhat unnecessary, and the lack of encryption didn't win any points, either. And the amount of management required for photos in the MyFunambol portal will quickly overshadow the “cool factor” of being able to immediately share your photos over your particular favorite service.
I'd like to see automated ways of deleting synced photos. Otherwise, MyFunambol will have to significantly raise the storage cap in order to make the service at least somewhat useful.
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