For quite some time I’ve ran into an annoyance when it comes to contact management. I live in this idealist world where contact information is a simple idea. Name, Phone, Address, etc. All this stuff is common and an integral part of things like cell phones and email. Unfortunately, in our current world most major players think that they should tackle contact management will a “walled garden” approach. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and others want me to put all my contact information exclusively with their system in their non-interchangeable format.
When I say “non-interchangeable”, I realize that it’s possible to mix and merge this information in various applications such as Outlook, Microsoft People, or your handy-dandy Android cell-phone. I’m specifically speaking of cell phones. When it came to cellphones, I was not a “first adopter”. I waited a long time. I figured anyone who really wanted to get a hold of me could email me. Looking back, that sounds so “old” of me, but it is what it is. You don’t really appreciate everything you can do on a smart phone until you have one. Sadly, intuitive contact management is not one of those things.
I ended up getting a Samsung Galaxy S3, an Android phone. Our local Verizon store actually refused to stock a Windows phone due to their poor sales and usability. I literally use the thing every day in ways I never thought I would. It’s true that a smart phone adds convenience to a lot of little things. Android phones really want you to use Google’s services for everything. This includes contact management. As soon as you sign in with your Gmail account (which you have to do in order to use the Play store), it makes the assumption you want to use your Gmail account for contact synchronization. Now, I’ve been using a Hotmail (now Outlook.com) account since the late nineties, and have, perhaps neurotically, kept my contacts up to date all that time. I really like the new Microsoft People app that they’ve integrated into their new online email, Outlook 2013, and Windows 8. It let’s me link other services to my contacts to merge information from multiple sources, making it quite concise.
The huge bump in this smart phone road is the fact that my contact information that has been painstakingly kept up to date only pushes down to my phone and is kept in duplication of my phone contacts which is again kept in duplication to my Google account. To top it all off, I started using this CallApp ..app… in the hopes of consolidating all my contact information. Instead I get, in some cases, a fourth copy of the same person in my phone (Outlook, Google, CallApp, Phone). The concept is utterly ridiculous.
I ended up searching for a piece of software that could help me manage this madness. I started off by using the Samsung Kies software. I found it to be clunky and unintuitive. I then moved on to a Lifehacker recommendation named AirDroid. I used this happily for a while. Being able to manage my phone from a web browser was pretty cool, including texting. It made it so I never had to look at my phone at work, but instead, just keep a web browser open to see and respond to text messages. The only thing that was really missing was good contact management. I searched again, and came to a piece of software that I have settled on for now, called MyPhoneExplorer.
There are a couple of features that have made me stop looking for an alternative to PC-to-Android Phone management. The first of which is the fact that I did not have to tie up a web browser to manage my phone. It may seem like an unimportant thing, but I personally think that a Windows Form application (i.e. a ‘regular’ program), eliminates some of the restrictions of a web application. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity have been very easy. You either give it the Bluetooth port, or the Wi-Fi IP Address of the phone, and as long as the client app on the phone is running, you have connectivity. I get a visual indicator via a little pop-up window and Windows notification bubble whenever I receive a call or text. I text so much better when I have a keyboard. The top feature though is the contact management. It gives me a list, similar to the Outlook (the program) list view. I can double click the contact, manage it and upload the changes. I can backup my contacts, and most importantly, keep my duplicating contacts down to a minimum.
In the end, I feel that the only way to keep my contact management under control is to reduce the number of services that provide “contact management” for me. Repeatedly, I’ve been trying to disconnect Google from my contact list, only to have it repopulate with all the information from my Google Plus account, some of which is information from people I “follow”, but don’t know personally. It’s downright maddening, as I don’t want to use Google for everything. I personally prefer the way I have things with my Outlook account, as I find the interface better. I may just have to settle for just keeping “Phone” contacts on the phone, but then you distance yourself from the reason for having a smart phone in the first place. I just were a little smarter when it came to contact information.