Android: Google contacts and thunderbird

I have recently, maybe a bit delayed, got my hands on an android smartphone. My old regular mobile phone stopped working so I decided to take the step and embrace the new big thing so I got myself a Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro. However things were not as smooth as expected.

The ugly:

The first impression was that the phone asked me for a google account. I inserted mine without a second thought although later that second thought came to me and I started thinking scenarios of what would happen if I had no google account. That was an ugly introduction google thank you very much. Before even getting to use it as a phone I started connecting to many social service like facebook, linkedin and skype. It took no time to clutter my contacts with a mess with people from all these services and also see that people that I had only contacted via email were there to give them a call as the google account had already synced my contacts.

The things went out of control when I wanted to use the PC companion to get contacts from an old phone. Unfortunately for me my old phone would not operate at all so I had to use an even older Nokia phone that did not support en mass dispatch of all my contacts to the new phone via bluetooth. In order to get the contacts from it (and thus the valuable phone numbers to make the phone usable – it had only profiles and emails to contact so far…) I had to install the OVI suite as well. So I started cluttering my computer as well. Finally PC companion decided to recognize the Nokia phone as connected and copy all the contacts from it. Then I was shocked. There was no option of sending these contacts directly to the phone and make it as easy and clear as possible. Instead it asked me whether to add these contacts to the google contacts OR replace the google contacts with the current ones. Of course I chose add because losing all my google contacts over the phone contacts seemed to be a ridiculous idea.

So the phone was inoperable. That is because although Android tried so hard to merge the same people into a single account and make the contacts look really nice it miserably failed. And this is because I am Greek and we Greek people use multiple ways to have our names written in latin characters.This resulted in some contacts to have even four different instances! And this is where I realized that this was ugly and I had to do something about it.

The bad:

My solution was simple. Remove all the useless accounts from the contact sync (use only google) and now that all my contacts were there I could easily spent a few hours merging them (and deleting obsolete ones) and consede that I would have all my contacts in google. I spent an afternoon doing that but then I did something foolish, and that was because till this day when I thought of phone contacts I thought of something local, only in the phone. So wrong, this is not the phone anymore it is my google account. So as I wanted a fresh start I deleted all contacts on the phone to copy the new ones. MAJOR MISTAKE.. When the sync took place everything on google contacts was deleted except for a couple of contacts that I had altered before erasing everything on the phone. The sync worked fine but I got a lot frustrated as I had to do this all over again.

U mad?

The good:

So here we come to the final sollution. Soon enough I realised that if everything was to be used with the google contacts it meant that my new mail comrades should be updated there too, so that I would be fully functional on the phone as well. But I use thunderbird for my mail thus the sync is not automated at all. There was a rant at that point of the profanity of the lack of a global standard of the contact format but I settled my self with using a thunderbird plug in and stop sulking about the situation. Introducing Google Contacts! It is a simple add-on that creates an address book for each one of the gmail accounts that you have imported on thunderbird and syncs there all the contacts. This is unifying enough for me. There is a minor issue though because the contacts that did not have mail at all (only phone number) did not appear on the lists but only on the general list of all contacts, not a big issue though as I don;t plan to use thunderbirds to make calls anytime soon. Thus I was able to backup all contacts on the hard drive in a .ldif file using thunderbird and now all this will be synced thourgh the net and that I won’t have to worry again.

Verdict:

Apart from forcing me to unify everything under it, google achieved to make me have a single place to keep my contacts. This is something that I did not feel the need to have so far but now that I see it happen I realise its potential. However the ranting will continue!

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