Article updated at 5:00 pm to correct mIQ media sharing details.
Microsoft introduced its My Phone service last week, an online dashboard for managing and sharing the contents of your mobile phone. We liked some aspects, and critiqued some others. Ultimately, we wished that Microsoft had teamed up with its Seattle neighbor, connected services startup Dashwire, whose legacy dashboard did much of the same thing as My Phone does now, but did it better. Dashwire has since turned its standalone product into a platform. Best Buy Mobile snapped up a license and is now offering its own sync-and-share service, called mIQ (short for mobile IQ).
I know what you're thinking: The T-Mobile Sidekick backup service just failed, and the blame is Microsoft's. Why trust its My Phone service at all? But backup isn't the point of these services. They're about management. Moreover, comfortably managing the contents of your smartphone from a screen and keypad that's larger than anything you can get on your smartphone. And if you delete a number or photo from the Web or phone, it's gone. Neither of these services intends to save it, but they do intend to make it available online.
So now that that's clear, it's time for a throwdown.
My Phone and mIQ both download small clients to the mobile phone. From there, they bidirectionally sync the phone's contents to an online dashboard. My Phone is limited to Windows phones, but mIQ is free for anyone with a BlackBerry, Symbian, or Windows phone.
We'll say right off the bat that Microsoft's My Phone is richer in feature types overall compared with Best Buy Mobile's mIQ. Where mIQ syncs contacts, calendar, messages, calls, photos, and videos, My Phone also adds music, documents, favorites, tasks, and notes (it never found our music, though.) You can add new contacts, calendar items, and tasks with My Phone, and upload music, photos, and videos to transfer directly to the phone on your next sync.
My Phone also supports multiple phones on a single dashboard and can share your photos on Facebook, Flickr, and MySpace (but why can't it e-mail them to a friend?) A premium My Phone service, which you can try free until the end of November, can help you find your phone in various ways, as long as it's turned on, and the service can also lock it down or erase it if lost.
mIQ lacks My Phone's multiple phone support and phone location features. It does, however, let you update your status on Twitter and Facebook and can share pictures on Twitter, Facebook, Friend Finder, and Flickr. mIQ also integrates Skype and CallWave visual voice mail, so that registered members of those services can place calls and listen to voice mail in any order from their PCs. You can also generate text messages from mIQ, as long as the cell phone and the mIQ app are up and running. mIQ stores outgoing messages until you turn the service on. You can also add new calendar items and can download photos and videos to the computer.
From the standpoint of user experience, Microsoft's My Phone is the pits. It's not the in-box theme and ads that bother us most, but more how the small type and boring layout make it forgettable, and easy to overlook tools. Best Buy Mobile's mIQ is better, with both navigational icons and snippets of each feature on the main page, so they're easier to find. But mIQ's interface is a tad cluttered and misses some of the visual edge of Dashwire's original.
Winner: My Phone, sort of
If you've got a Windows Mobile phone, go with Microsoft's My Phone service. Do it for the find-my-phone feature, if not for genuine engagement. BlackBerry and Symbian users will gain a lot of benefit from mIQ's brand of online mobile management, but it, too, has areas of growth. Luckily, both services will develop, keeping the competition alive.