In today’s world of multiple devices and cloud computing, keeping all your gadgets in constant sync is just about the most important must. During the past couple of years, we have seen a whole range of services spring up to help you to keep your documents and contacts synced across all your devices. It started with Dropbox and other sync services, and now the larger technology companies such as Apple and Microsoft have caught onto the trend.
With platform developers making sync systems, your choice of sync service depends, naturally, on what devices you have. I am a Mac and iOS user, so I naturally use iCloud, as it integrates with iOS so well and works fairly effortlessly (most of the time, anyway). However, there aren’t many cloud services that have addressed the problem of multiple devices. iCloud will only work on iOS devices (you can run some aspects of iCloud off other devices, however the experience will be severly diminished), and even Google’s web services work best on Android devices (just check Android’s Gmail integration).
This was the idea behind Fruux which we’re going to take a look at now in this review. Think of it as Dropbox for your contacts, calendars and tasks, but one that works on a much wider range of devices. Let’s take a look now.
Fruux is the brainchild of German software developer Dominik Tobschall and his team, who are based in the university city of Münster in Germany. The idea behind Fruux was to create a cross-platform approach to calendar and contact syncing, one that will work just as good on any platform or device.
Fruux works on a wide range of mobile devices and operating systems, including iOS, Android and Symbian (on the Nokia N9), along with any client that supports CardDAV and CalDAV (such as Mozilla Thunderbird and Evolution on Linux systems). Currently it is free with no catches – you can sync unlimited contacts, calendars and tasks – and you can add up to three devices on your account.
The Fruux team are also working on a team solution, which aims to simplify sharing calendars and contacts across the office without using a proprietary solution such as Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino. Currently there is no word on a potential release date or pricing plans; however, it should be coming in the next month or so.
After you’ve signed up for Fruux, you are greeted by the Dashboard which, once you’ve set up some devices (which we’ll look at in a second), will display all the devices associated with your Fruux account.
Syncing Your Devices
Fruux features a really nice and simple to use wizard to help you set up all your devices to sync with each other.
The first step is to choose whether you require extra security for your account. By default, the password for the sync will be the same as your Fruux password (i.e. the one you define when you sign up) but if you don’t want to use this one, you can choose a different one instead.
Once you’ve chosen the required level of security, you now have to pick out your device. By default, Fruux offers support for OS X 10.5 and newer’s built-in Address Book and iCal, Thunderbird, Evolution, iOS, Android and the Nokia N9. However, you can set up other devices to sync as long as they offer native CardDAV and CalDAV & ICS support. For this review, I’m going to set it up my Mac, which is running the latest version of OS X Lion, version 10.7.4.
When you choose OS X integration (for versions 10.6 and above), Fruux will ask you whether you want to import the data from your existing Address Book (if you haven’t got OS X – don’t sweat! Fruux will import your existing data from other programs as well) and iCal, which is enabled by going to System Preferences and enabling a CardDAV and CalDAV account with your existing Fruux account information (this is all provided for you).
When you’ve set up your device, it should pop up in the Manage Devices section of your Dashboard. If you’ve signed up for a free account (which is the only account on offer at the moment), you can add up to 3 devices to your Fruux account.
Why Use Fruux?
The question that might be bugging a lot of you is: why use Fruux at all? After all, there are perfectly good offerings in the form of iCloud and Google’s Contacts and Calendar. Well, if you want to sync across all your devices, no matter who made them or what operating system they are running, then Fruux is perfect. Before I got my iPhone, I was using an Android phone, and getting my iPad to sync with it via Google was a bit temperamental at the best of times. I either had duplicated contacts or calendar events and sometimes synchronisation wouldn’t go according to plan – I would have an event on my iPad and not on my Android and vice-versa.
One of the best things about Fruux is that it’s completely free (for the time being anyway) and is built to the strictest security standards using Amazon Web Services, a reliable system. The company is also based in Germany, which is known for having some of the strictest data protection laws in the world, so although you may be a bit dubious about giving all your private data away to some unknown company, you can rest-assured that it will remain in safe hands.
With its simplicity and range of features, Fruux might just be one of the most useful web-based tools out there on the Net. Although simple at the moment, the company is expanding. Seeing as they have just secured additional funding from High-Tech Gründerfonds and netSTART Venture, we can expect to see some exciting features coming up for the future (including team and professional accounts). I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to keep their devices in sync without using iCloud or something similar!
And remember to check out our interview with Dom and his team, which should be coming up in the next week or so here on Web AppStorm.