Over-the-Air vs Wi-Fi Syncing: Looking at Things & OmniFocus for iPhone

One of the biggest requirements I also have for iPhone apps is to make sure the app provides some way of Over-the-Air Syncing (OTA). For the past year I have been settled on using OmniFocus for task management because it synced using MobileMe OTA to my Mac. When I found out about SimpleNote that also had OTA syncing I immediately switched from Evernote to it. 1

Recently I made the switch from OmniFocus to Things – the primary reason being that there has been no OmniFocus for the iPad. 2 Things syncs between the Mac and iPhone/iPad clients using Wi-Fi only 3 which had been one of my major points of contention with the app.

I have been using Things now for about 3 weeks and could not be happier. There is maybe one time during the week when I miss OTA syncing – the rest of the time it is never an issue. Especially when I take into account the speed that Things syncs with my Mac, in just a few seconds it is synced – where most OTA syncs take 10-30 seconds each. 4

That Got Me Thinking

This past weekend I began asking myself just how important OTA syncing is compared to Wi-Fi syncing. My conclusion: it depends. 5 What it really depends on is what type of data you are syncing – how you are using that data. For things like task management apps the only reason to want it to sync OTA is so that you can sync if you forgot to before you leave your main computer. Other than the occasional forgetfullness there really is no difference between OTA and Wi-Fi syncing with task management apps.

This line of thinking lead me to the conclusion thatOTA syncing only becomes crucial on stuff that you rarely use – or that you don’t use on one device when you are using it on another. Think about how lame it would be if the Dropbox iPhone/iPad app only did Wi-Fi syncing – that would make it a useless program. 6 Think about notes applications where you type a new note on your Mac and grab your phone to leave our office – rarely do you prefer to type in a note on your iPhone when you have a computer at hand. This is not the case I have with task management apps (perhaps I am in the minority) – I find that I use the device closest to me to enter a new task regardless of where I am.

Given that I spend a lot of time in task management apps on all three of my devices 7 I rarely leave my main computer without an up to date copy of Things on my devices. It also helps that if I just leave Things open on each device they sync automatically, thus staying up to date with little involvement from me.

The Future

This is all inconsequential to most people, but moving forward I would suspect that most app developers use the cloud in some form to make OTA syncing the default – as it should be. For now though don’t be shy to use a program that only offers Wi-Fi syncing, there are a lot of great ones out there – you don’t want to miss out. 8

  1. Evernote does sync OTA, but I hate the look of the app both on the Mac and iPhone
  2. This is something I find to be unacceptable and has really pissed me off. They even missed their tentative ship deadline of this month.
  3. you have to be on the same Wi-Fi network to get this to work. You also can’t sync between iPhone and iPad without a Mac involved.
  4. based on my experience in using OmniFocus and Simplenote on Wi-Fi or 3G networks.
  5. weak I know
  6. No one wants to keep all that data on their mobile device if they don’t have to.
  7. iPad, iPhone, Macbook Pro
  8. Things for example
Originally posted for members on: June 22, 2010
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