iPhones are awesome gadgets: really, really impressive. One thing that’s less than impressive is sync time. Every time you connect, it performs a “backup” that takes (for me at least) far too loooong. Given that all the details it’s syncing (nearly) are on my Mac already, I’d really like to skip this step. However, should something go wrong during a sync, if you don’t have a backup it’s a pain to rejig everything. Solution?
Use the Sync menubar widget to “Sync Now”. That takes care of bookmarks, mail accounts, contacts, calendars and all the stuff that changes frequently. Interestingly, the iPhone doesn’t tell you this stuff is going on, but if you have the developer tools installed, look in Developer/Applications/Utilities for Syncrospector, with which you can track all the sync updates to your iPhone or anything else.
Managing larger media is easy too. In iTunes, select your iPhone, turn off “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” and turn on “Manually manage music and videos”. Now you can update your music, ringtones and podcasts by dragging them to the iPhone directly, which you’d likely have to do anyway if you have a music collection of any reasonable size.
I’m still going to run a full sync once a week or so, but it’s good to be able to update bookmarks etc. very quickly without going through the full backup. One last thing: if part of the sync process seems to be taking a long time, make sure there isn’t a tiny dialog sitting behind other windows asking for your permission. Nothing proceeds until you say yes.