iPhone owners: Anyone solved the multi-Mac dilemma?

When I’m home, I sync my iPhone with my iMac, and life is good.

But when I’m traveling, I only have my MacBook Pro with me. I use Spanning Sync to keep iCal and Address Book on the laptop in sync with iCal and Address Book on the Mac (and in sync with Google Calendar and Gmail). I use DropBox to make sure I have important files with me (and to hold my 1Password keychain file so my login passwords are automatically synced). LogMeIn (free) if I really do need to “call home.” Foxmarks to sync bookmarks, and now ReadItLater to sync my reading list. Not to mention all the Google, Salesforce and Box I can eat in the cloud.

The one problem I haven’t been able to solve in my dual-Mac life is my iPhone. When I travel, I can’t sync. Sure, I can charge my phone, but I have to be careful not to let iTunes sync, because it insists on only syncing to one iTunes Library at a time. I’m not looking to sync the whole Library. I want to sync address book/calendar from the MBP when I’m traveling, and then go back to the iMac when I’m home. Maybe update podcasts for the flight home if it’s not too much trouble? The parts I choose not to sync from the road (Music, Movies, Photos, etc.) should be left alone.

I see 3 possible solutions here:

  1. Wait for Apple to come up with a new version of iPhone/iTunes that allows for multi-iTunes syncing. I don’t really see this happening, although rumor has it that there will be some over-the-air syncing of podcasts which will solve some of the problem.
  2. Use one of those hacks that let you sync to multiple Macs. Maybe, but not ideal. There’s nothing I want to exclusively sync to the MBP as Jason Snell describes, because I’m not on the MBP every day.
  3. Find over-the-air solutions for syncing address book and calendar. This is something I still miss about the BlackBerry. Google provided an OTA solution for calendar syncing that I’m dying for them to provide for iPhone. On the other hand, I really like Spanning Sync and don’t want to give it up simply because it’s not ideal when I travel, which isn’t all that often.

So for now, I’m heading out this morning for 4 days in San Francisco and this last sync has to hold me for a while. On November 17, I leave for 3 days in Austin, TX followed by 2 days in DC. While I’m gone, no new podcasts. I’ll meet folks on my trip, enter their contact info into my phone and have no way of transferring that info to my laptop until I get home. I’ll read email on my laptop, enter appointments in Google Calendar and have no way of transferring that info to my phone until I get home. Annoying.

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5 thoughts on “iPhone owners: Anyone solved the multi-Mac dilemma?

  1. Curtis Carmack says:

    Judi, you could try nuevasync to get your Google Calendar synced OTA to your iPhone. Doesn't solve all of your problems, but is one step in the right direction.

  2. My wife and I had a similar but different issue: Two iPhones to keep in sync with an iMac and a Windows machine. The answer for us has been a MobileMe account. Yes, it costs money. (Although we purchased it at a discounted price through Amazon.)

    It does exactly what we need done. If my wife is on the road, I can enter a new contact for her into my phone and within moments it will be on hers. We have one calendar per person in the family (six) plus a family calendar plus a couple others. We can update any of these while on the go and the information ends up on all devices that sync with MobileMe.

  3. Thomas R. Hall says:

    I ran into the same issue, Judi. While I haven't found the ideal solution, I am successfully transferring my data back and forth using SpanningSync and MobileMe. I didn't want to pay for an extra service, but it removes the hassle you're talking about. (At least until Google can add a Calendar and Contacts sync function!)

    Basically, I have my desktop Mac as my main iTunes Mac that I sync the iPhone with. It also has SpanningSync and MobileMe installed. On the laptop, I sync with MobileMe only (though I'm sure you could add SpanningSync in the mix as well).

    If I add an item on my iPhone, it syncs over the air to MobileMe. When I open my laptop, the contact/calendar is synced to it via MobileMe while I travel. When I get home, the desktop syncs with MobileMe and gets the updates, and then uses SpanningSync to get everything up to Google. If you added SpanningSync to the mix on the laptop as well, then you'd have your Google Calendar updated fairly quickly as well (if you're on the road for a longer trip, for example).

    Since you have a trip coming up, why not back up your calendar/contacts (just in case) and then sign up for a trial MobileMe account to see if that works for you as well. I haven't experienced any issues, no matter where I add the contact/calendar entry, which has frankly surprised me.

    As an alternative, you could look at SaiSuke for the iPhone. It's a separate calendar (since Apple doesn't have an API to allow third-party developers to add calendar entries), but would still get the job done (again, only for calendar, though). Hope that helps.

  4. Judi Sohn says:

    Thomas, yes, that’s the theory. In reality, I hated it. I have 3 Google Apps accounts that I share the calendar to one Google Account. Spanning Sync has no trouble syncing those calendars to iCal (which then syncs to my phone). Google can only work with one account at a time, and it appears to only sync calendars that are created on the account. That makes it useless to me.

    Plus, I got a whole bunch of garbage characters in my contacts. I turned off the sync and went right back to syncing with Spanning Sync, which I know works. It just means I have to sync in order to get data back and forth. Oh well.

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