Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finally My Contacts are Managed!

Ever since I owned my first cell phone in 1998 I've had a nagging problem; contact information. Every time I upgraded my phone, I had to manually re-enter all my contacts. To make matters worse, my email (at the time Hotmail) contacts were not linked to my cell phone contacts, so I had to maintain two separate lists. The problem eventually got easier with the advent of SIM cards, but it still wasn't solved. Every time I got a new phone I hand to hand over my old SIM card to the cell phone carrier to magically transfer my contacts from my old phone to my new phone. To make matters worse, there were almost always errors in the translation.

Then Gmail Contacts came along and made my life a little simpler. At least now I had a web service interface that I could go in and muck with. I could at least merge my Hotmail and Outlook contacts into my Gmail contacts. I still had the cell phone problem. That is, up until now.

Google has finally solved the problem with their new release: Google Sync. I can finally sync my contacts from my cell phone to my email. Sure, there were a few other syncing programs before Google Sync. You had to entrust your Google password to them of course. Not the safest security policy. Also, most of these services worked for one device or the other, but not all. With Google Sync, they currently sync 6 of the leading phones with Gmail Contacts and I would bet that that number will keep rising. No longer will we have these ad-hoc attempts at preserving our contacts.

But what I'm really happy about is the new contact merging capability that was newly added to Gmail Contacts. After having preserved my contacts from about 5 different phones over the years and about 4 different Email accounts ,my contacts were in serious need of some cleaning up. I had tried clean up efforts in the past but inevitably through the crappy ad-hoc sync and backup attempts the errors that I would remove would almost always make it back into my phone book. So, with the merge function you can click on all the contacts that are the same person and Gmail will attempt to merge them into one profile, and it does this with some good results. I sat down today with about 670 contacts, after merging I now have about 550. I had about 12 contact entries that were all myself! I can't tell you how frustrating these dupes were in the past.

Needless to say, I am ecstatic about this new capability. This is how things should work. Seamlessly.

Here's a quick intro video: