Cell phones get lost, cell phones get stolen. Cell phones may fall on water, cell phones may break. So much can happen to cell phones that would render them useless, but I guess nothing feels worse than losing all your contact details. It is, in some sort of poetical view, like losing your own voice somehow.
And it has been a while now, since I have been meaning to write about this subject. It is quite frustrating — for me at least — to see anyone go through whatever inconvenience that could have been avoided, particularly when I, for one, know exactly how to shun it. So, here it goes.
While searching online for instances of people who reached out to friends, and ask them for their contact numbers again (after having lost a cell phone), I came across an interesting public Facebook event, created by a certain J. Castell somewhere around March 2012, that was actually labeled “I lost my phone… Please inbox me your numbers!” “Dood [sic]. You should google sync your phone,” advised one of Castell’s tech-savvy friends. And that is exactly what this article is about: how to use Google’s Gmail Contacts sync capabilities, to shelter from possible stormy days.
If you own an Android phone then it is your lucky day, since Google services’ integration is unparalleled here, and it makes the process quite simple and automated. It is, actually, probably already done on your phone, because Google offers this option when you first set up your phone. If not, this is how you do it:
1. You, first, need to own a Gmail account, and there is no escaping this one. How else would you use the Google Play Store anyway, without a Gmail account?
2. Next, go “settings” on your phone, and look for Accounts. Under Settings/Accounts find Google and select it. You should see your “[email protected]” email-address listed. In case there isn’t a Gmail account (I’m not even sure if that is possible on Android phones), then simply scroll down under Accounts and choose “Add Account,” to add your Gmail address.
3. After you’ve selected Google, under Settings/Accounts, and found your email-address listed, select it. The next screen is where you will be given the option, right below your email address, to choose what to sync, and you should activate Contacts.
4. Now close the Settings and go to your Contacts app on the phone (I think this app is called People, on Android Jelly Bean). On the upper right, once the Contacts app is open, look for the button that takes you to Accounts. Then, select Accounts and make sure that your Gmail address is listed under it, and that the option “Auto-sync app data” is activated. That should be it, you’re good to go.
Simply make sure that, when adding a new contact using your phone’s Contacts app, you select your Gmail address as the location where the new contact details will be saved.
Now, if you go to your Gmail account on a desktop computer, you should see (on the top right) a drop-down list entitled Gmail, right under the Google logo with a search bar. Click on the drop-down and you should be able to navigate to Contacts. Once there, you should see the same list of contact details that you have on your phone, and any contact you add here should become available on your phone too.
Any contact details that exist on your phone, but do not show on Gmail on your desktop computer, are most likely saved directly to your phone’s internal memory and not under your Gmail account. So, go back to your phone’s Contacts app, select the contact details in question and choose the option to edit them. This should show you where the contact details are stored; make them Google contacts by editing their syncing details.
Important note: merging or joining contacts on the Contacts app, does not automatically make them Google Contacts. You have to manually edit that contact and change the account to which it is linked.
Now, should you lose your phone or tablet, or even buy a new gadget, simply connect your to Gmail account and your contacts should “magically” return.
As for Apple iOS users, you too can do this synchronization, but the process is different; you would need to use CardDAV. Please refer to Google’s instructions, for a step-by-step how-to.
Lastly, I know that some of you might be reluctant to trust Gmail — or Google as a whole — with your contacts, but this, to me, seems unfounded. If you use any email service, be it from Yahoo!, Microsoft, or any other, I guess you would agree that you already entrust them with enough private information, that sharing your contacts with Google becomes quite trivial.