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How do mobile cloud sync services stack up?

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Wireless operator sync services are more limited than other options, namely those from smartphone makers and portals, and few mobile sync solutions integrate with social networks, according to a study out yesterday that evaluated 12 mobile cloud sync offerings.

Mobile cloud sync consists of syncing data and content on a mobile phone with a server and portal in the Internet cloud. Data and content can also be synced with e-mail systems, desktop apps, social networks and more. While a variety of companies offer basic mobile cloud sync services, the ease of use, cost and variety of features differs widely from service to service.

The study, conducted by open source mobile cloud sync firm [Funambol](http://www.funambol.com), compares the syncing of mobile data and content, such as contacts, calendars, e-mail, photos and files, against 10 different categories, including cost, usability and performance, wireless desktop integration and social network sync.

It evaluated offerings from Apple MobileMe, AT&T Mobile Backup, BlackBerry IS, Funambol, Google Sync, Microsoft My Phone, Nokia Ovi Sync, Palm Synergy, T-Mobile Mobile Backup, Verizon Wireless Backup Assistant, Vodafone Zyb and Yahoo! Mobile.

(Naturally, it's not surprising Funambol won the top spot in the study, though upon closer inspection the report still offers some insight on the mobile sync space. It's also worth noting that the company didn't evaluate enterprise server solutions such as Blackberry Enterprise Server or Exchange Server, but rather Microsoft My Phone and Blackberry Internet Service.)

"As more solutions come to market, it's opening up mobile cloud sync as a significant new category in terms of mobile services for mobile operators, portals and the device makers. That's why we did the report, to compare the solutions and identify the big areas of opportunities moving forward," Hal Steger, vice president of marketing for Funambol, told InternetNews.com.

The mobile cloud sync evaluation showed that solutions from mobile operators are often more limited than sync solutions from device manufacturers and portals. It also found that major areas of opportunity include wireless desktop integration, social network sync and solution openness.

Each feature was given a score of between 1 and 4. Everything was tallied up and ranked. The best score a service could get was 40. Here's how they rated: Funambol, 38; Nokia Ovi, 28; Apple MobileMe, 27; Palm Synergy, 27; MS My Phone, 26; Vodafone Zyb, 26; Google Sync, 23; Yahoo Mobile, 21; AT&T, 19; T-Mobile, 19; and Verizon, 19.

"Mobile carriers are the worst because mobile cloud sync is relatively new for them. They own the relationship with the customer, they're like the incumbent, so they're not as compelled to be innovative," said Steger. "But if the carriers aren't careful, people will have loyalty to the device overall, so if they like a BlackBerry or an iPhone, they'll use those services and the carrier becomes a dumb pipe."

Other key findings of the report show that 75 percent of the solutions are free, though MobileMe costs $99 a year, 17 percent support one or two devices while 42 percent support a series of devices and close to half only sync a single data type, for instance just contacts, e-mail or photos.

Also noteworthy is that 75 percent do not support wireless desktop integration.

Another area for improvement is in social network integration, with a third syncing data with multiple sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, while 16 percent only support one social network and half do not sync at all with social media.

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