I am constantly hearing attorneys tell me that they find their iPad so useful that they no longer carry around a laptop, whether that means taking the laptop home from the office every night or taking the laptop with them on trips. That's certainly what I do. But sometimes when you are away from a computer, you need to do something that requires the computer, such as access a document that you left on your desktop or access some software that can only run (or runs best) on a PC, such as your law firm's document management system. One popular culprit: restaurant websites that require Flash. I will be out of town, looking for info on a restaurant, and when I try to pull up the website on my iPad I see nothing. Arrgh! A solution is to use remote access software so that my iPad (or iPhone) can access one of my computers, whether it be the PC at my office or the Mac at my home. I can run the software or access the Flash website on that computer, and my iPad acts like an external monitor for that computer so that I can see whatever I need to see.
There are lots of remote access solutions for the iPad and iPhone, but the one that I have used for a long time is LogMeIn Ignition. (My 2009 iPhone app review is here, my 2010 iPad app review is here.) My only hesitation in recommending it was the price; it cost $30 and there are other, free solutions in the app store. But the app is nicely done and I've considered it worth it.
LogMeIn recently announced that they are changing their prices and you can now use LogMeIn on your iPad for free. If you want advanced functions, you can pay more, but the free product will be all that many people need. This is fantastic news.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the differences between the free and paid options, and here is what I have learned so far.
1. Free computer to computer access
LogMeIn has long offered a free product called LogMeIn Free that lets one computer access another computer, and I'm mentioning this first just to provide context. For example, you can install the LogMeIn Free software on your office computer and your home computer, and then if you need to do some work at home at night, you can just connect to your work computer and you will see it on your screen (even full screen if you want) and you'll be working just like you were in your office. Note that if your IT folks want to manage this access, they can use a product called LogMeIn Central for $300/year.
2. Paid computer to computer access
For $70 a year, you can purchase LogMeIn Pro for a single computer, such as your PC at work or your Mac at home. (Or you can purchase a monthly subscription for $12.20 a month.) This adds lots of extra features such as the ability to transfer a file between the two computers, although you can do something similar in the LogMeIn Free product just by e-mailing a file to yourself on one computer and then downloading that file from your inbox on the other computer. You can also print something from your remote computer running LogMeIn Pro and have it print on the printer attached to your local computer. (Again, e-mailing the file to yourself gives you a similar ability with the free product.) A full feature comparison list can be seen here.
A new feature just announced a few days ago is HD. When a PC is running LogMeIn Pro, the image that it sends to a remote client is even better. If you play a video on the host computer running LogMeIn Pro, the video looks much better on any remote computer. HD is being added to LogMeIn Pro for Mac in the future. For more information and a video showing the difference, read this post on the official LogMeIn blog.
3. Free iPad or iPhone to computer access
The big news for users of the iPhone and iPad is that you no longer have to pay $30 for the LogMeIn Ignition app. With the new, free LogMeIn app, you can now use your iPad to access a computer, either Mac or PC, as long as you installed either LogMeIn Free or LogMeIn Pro on that computer. And for most users, I think that the new, free LogMeIn app on the iPad/iPhone and the free LogMeIn Free software on each computer is all that the user will ever need. You get great remote access from a product that has been around for a very long time.
4. Upgrade to Pro from the free app for $40
If you use the new free LogMeIn app, you have the ability to make a $39.99/year in-app purchase (I'll just round it up to $40 for simplicity) to add advanced features. First, you can use that new HD feature with a PC (Mac support coming soon). Second, you can now access cloud storage services from within the app (Dropbox, Google docs and a WebDav server). Third, you can save files from a remote computer to your iPad/iPhone or transfer files (a feature that has been in the LogMeIn Ignition app for a while). When you make this $40/year in-app purchase, the upgrade only applies to one computer. In other words, if you pay $40 and apply it to the PC in your office, you will have HD video from your office PC and the ability to transfer files between your office PC and your iPad or iPhone, but you won't have those features when you connect to the Mac at your house.
Note that if you already have LogMeIn Pro running on that computer in your office, you don't need to pay the $40 in-app fee to get the extra iPad/iPhone app features. But as far as I can tell from what I have read (and I haven't tried this out myself to confirm), I don't see any difference between paying $70 on your computer to purchase LogMeIn Pro versus paying just $40 on your iPad or iPhone to get the same LogMeIn Pro. The app does state that $40 is an "introductory price" so perhaps it will increase by $30 at some point in the future. For now, however, if you want the advanced features of LogMeIn Pro, you can slash the price by paying for it through your iPad or iPhone instead of on your computer.
5. LogMeIn Ignition remains for current customers, and costs $100 for new customers
Here is the part that seems a little strange but I suppose makes sense after you think about it. The LogMeIn Ignition app that used to cost $30 (and would occasionally go on sale for $20, such as the day that I wrote this review) remains in the app store. The company says that it is doing this so that it can continue to support customers who previously paid for the app. I'm one of those customers, so I appreciate the continued support. And people who use the LogMeIn Ignition app get all of the features that the iPad/iPhone app has when it connects to a computer running LogMeIn Pro even if that computer is just running the free version of LogMeIn.
If you previously purchased LogMeIn Ignition, this is good news for you. You can access the new features that I mentioned above (HD and cloud services access) plus the features that the Ignition app has always had but which are missing from the new free app (the ability to save files locally and transfer files between computers) without having to pay a yearly subscription for each of your computers, either the $70/year or the new $40/year. The $30 you paid for LogMeIn Ignition in the past (or $20 if you got the app on sale) now seems like a real bargain.
While the company is leaving the Ignition app in the App Store so that the company can continue to support it, I'm sure that LogMeIn would rather have new customers get the free app and then pay the yearly LogMeIn Pro rates. Thus, the company has raised the price of the LogMeIn Ignition app to $99.99. At first I considered that massive price increase a way to discourage people from buying the app at all. On further reflection, however, that is a reasonable price compared to what people are paying for LogMeIn Pro. If the main reason that you want LogMeIn Pro is to get the advanced features on your iPad or iPhone, and if you want to access two (or more) computers such as your office and your home computer, paying $100 once may seem better than paying $80 every year for two computers via in-app subscription, or for that matter $140 every year if you were going to pay for LogMeIn Pro on the computer instead of through the in-app purchase.
If you were an early adopter and purchased LogMeIn Ignition for $30 (or less), that app is now even more valuable. It now has new features (HD and cloud services) and you don't have to pay a yearly fee to keep those features.
If you stayed away from LogMeIn in the past because you wanted a free alternative, the new LogMeIn app may be exactly what you need. While I haven't done an exhaustive comparison of LogMeIn with all of the free remote access products on the App Store, my sense is that the free LogMeIn app is more advanced. If nothing else, it is supported by a large company with a long history in remote access software.
If you haven't yet purchased LogMeIn for your iPad/iPhone and you now want to do so, and if you also want access to the advanced features such as the new HD or the helpful ability to transfer files from a remote computer to your iPad without having to use a work-around such as e-mailing the file to yourself, you are now going to pay more. Instead of the $30 (or less) you could have paid, you'll now have to either make a one-time payment of $100 or you will have to make yearly payments of $40 for each computer you want to access.
The new prices are somewhat confusing — and for some new customers are more expensive — but I'm happy that LogMeIn has continued to update its iOS products over the years. The new features make the app even more valuable (and for basic use, more affordable), and I presume that in 2012 and beyond we will see even more added to the apps.