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Organize Your Black Book: Syncing Google Contacts With Your Phone

Black Book Sync
With your Facebook contact data freed from the evil clutches of the mighty Zuck, we're halfway done with consolidating your address books. While getting your info from Facebook is the trickiest part, we all know that the disaster of an address book on your cell phone is the worst offender when it comes to disorganization. Today, we're going to combine your Gmail contacts with those on your Android or iPhone, and set them up to sync any changes. This way, the next time you get the number of that cute guy or girl at the bar, it'll automatically be saved online to your Google account, too.

While you can certainly sync other contact-management apps with other mobile platforms, covering them all would take a prohibitively long time. So, we focused on two of the most popular smartphone operating systems and Gmail, because we think it offers the most elegant and flexible solution for syncing. (Plus, most of you have it.) These general tips can be applied across different platforms and using other e-mail interfaces, as well.

Android Makes it Easy

Android Sync Obviously, the easiest way to sync your contacts with Google is to have an Android phone. In fact, when you first set up your Android phone and log into your Google account, it will automatically start syncing your contacts. (If you're not sure, open up the Accounts page in the Settings app. Tap your account, and make sure the box next to 'Sync contacts' is checked.) If you want to sync contacts from other services with your Android phone, simply install the appropriate app (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, etc.), add the account in Settings, and make sure the 'Sync contacts' box is checked.

If you already have contacts on your Android phone, but haven't been syncing them to Google, just turn on syncing in your account settings. Google will then automatically copy any numbers or e-mail addresses on your handset to your Gmail account.

Getting Google and Apple to Play Nice

Apple Sync If you want to sync your contacts with anything besides Apple's iTunes and Address Book, the iPhone makes things a little more difficult than Android -- but it's not impossible! First, backup your iPhone contacts using iTunes, just in case. If you want to combine the contacts already on your iPhone with your Gmail account, you'll have to take a few extra steps. First, with your iPhone connected to your computer, go to iTunes, and check the box next to 'Sync Contacts' under the Info tab. If you're on a Mac, it will default to 'Address Book,' and, if you're on a PC, pick 'Windows Contacts' from the drop-down menu. Click 'Apply,' and let iTunes work its magic. When it's done, open up either the Windows (just type "wab" into the search box in the start menu) or Mac Address Book app, and choose to export your contacts to a .CSV file (Windows) or a group vCard (Mac). You can import this file directly into your Gmail account from the Gmail Contacts pane. You'll find the option under 'More Actions.'

Once your contacts are synced on your phone and Gmail, pick up your iPhone, disconnect it from your computer, and open 'Mail, Contacts, Calendars' under Settings on your iPhone. Then tap 'Add account.' As counterintuitive as it sounds, don't add a Gmail account here; doing so would provide only basic e-mail. Instead, pick the option that asks you to set up a Microsoft Exchange account. Enter your Gmail address under 'Email and Username,' and punch in your password. (Don't worry about the domain field for now.) Tap 'Next,' and, at the top of the screen, there will be a field for 'Server.' Enter m.google.com, and tap 'Next' again. Toggle whatever you want to sync (in this case, your contacts). Calendar and Mail would be nice additions, but we'll save those for another week.

Just make sure that, when you're asked what to do with your existing iPhone contacts, you choose 'Delete.' If you keep your contacts on your phone, Google will sync all of your contacts, including every random person or list that has ever e-mailed you. To get the more tightly controlled My Contacts list, you'll need to have your Google Contacts in top shape. We will give some helpful hints about that tomorrow.

Tags: address book, AddressBook, contacts, google contacts, GoogleContacts, productivity, sync, syncing, techtip, tips, top

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