Although I say earlier in this chapter that the phone is the Nexus One's most important feature, the Contacts application ties it for first place. Without your contacts, how would you possibly remember all your friends and relatives' phone numbers, email addresses, and Twitter handles?
Contacts play a critical role on a mobile phone because they're your link to the outside world. They allow you to communicate with everyone who's important to you, which is a lot of people. Businesspeople would argue that contacts are (or can turn into) customers, which are a source of revenue. Most important, your contacts allow you to stay in touch with friends and quickly call home to find out what's for dinner.
People seem to change phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses more frequently than ever these days, so it's important to be vigilant about keeping your contacts current—if you want to actually reach anyone, that is. It's a never-ending task, which may be why Americans spend billions of dollars each year on contact management and customer relationship management software.
The Nexus One come with excellent data synchronization baked in. Google has simplified the process of managing contacts enormously by storing them on the cloud (code for "on a Google server somewhere"), making it easier than ever to keep contacts current. The process requires a little training and discipline, but storing your contact data on the cloud has two big benefits:
- You can access it anywhere that you can get an Internet connection.
- It's virtually impossible to lose it (unlike your phone, which you have a 50 percent chance of losing).
Managing contacts on the phone
You have two main ways to manage contacts on the Nexus One:
- Launch the Phone app, and touch the Contacts tab at the top of the screen (refer to Figure 4.1 earlier in this chapter).
- Launch the Contacts application in the home screen by touching its icon.
Either way, you see your list of contacts, which you can add to or edit as I describe in the following sections.
When you're viewing the Contacts list, pressing the Menu button brings up five options at the bottom of the screen (Figure 4.10):
Figure 4.10 The Contacts tab has five options.
- Search. This option is pretty self-explanatory. Touch it to search your contacts.
- New Contact. Touch this option to create a new contact (see the next section).
- Display Options. This option allows you to view only contacts that have a phone number, which can greatly whittle down the list of contacts stored on your phone and make scrolling much faster. It also allows you to choose which contacts are displayed on your phone if you have multiple accounts configured.
- Accounts. Touch this option to enable or disable background data (which allows apps to send and receive data at any time) and autosync (which allows apps to sync automatically). The option also lets you manage and add Google, corporate email, and Facebook accounts.
- Import/Export. This handy option allows you to import and export contacts from SIM and microSD cards. Contacts are exported in .vcf (vCard) format.
To add a new contact, follow these steps:
- Launch the Phone app.
Touch Contacts > Menu > New Contact.
The Edit Contact screen opens (Figure 4.11).
Figure 4.11 Create a contact easily by entering some contact data and pressing the Done button.
- Fill in the appropriate details.
Optionally, you can scroll down to press the More button at the bottom of the screen (not visible in Figure 4.11) and enter even more data.
More data is always better than less, so if you have it, take the time to enter as much contact data as possible.
- Press the Done button when you're finished.
Contacts entered on the Nexus One are automagically synced to the Google cloud in the background—an amazingly useful and powerful feature.
To edit or delete a contact, follow these steps:
- Touch Phone > Contacts to display your list of contacts.
- Search or use the scroll tab on the right side of the screen to find the contact you want.
- Touch the contact's name to display its detail view (Figure 4.12).
Figure 4.12 A contact's detail view.
- Press the Menu button; then touch Edit Contact to open the Edit Contact screen (Figure 4.13).
Figure 4.13 The Edit Contact screen for an existing contact.
- Edit any of the fields.
- Press the Done button when you're finished.
If you want to delete a contact, just touch Menu > Delete Contact in any contact-editing screen.
If you want to get fancy, you can add photos of your contacts to their contact information by touching the framed-picture icon in the top-left corner of the Edit Contact screen (refer to Figure 4.11). Remember to press the Done button when you're finished. Then, whenever you call your contacts or they call you, your Nexus One will display their pictures. This feature is a nice personal touch but can take some time to set up, especially if you have a lot of contacts.
Managing contacts with Google Contacts
Real-time, online data synchronization isn't a trivial task. Many companies have failed miserably at it by underestimating what's involved and how complicated it really is. Someone once summed up the situation by saying, "Sync is hard."
But not Google. The Nexus One synchronizes your data—automatically and in the background—with Google Contacts (www.google.com/contacts), Calendars (www.google.com/calendars), and Gmail (www.gmail.com).
Sync is a very powerful feature, and Google provides it as a free service. (Apple, on the other hand, charges $100 per year to sync your contacts over the air.) How you use Google Contacts depends on whether you're starting from scratch or already using it. I discuss both approaches in the following sections.
Starting contacts from scratch
If you're new to Google, perhaps creating a Google account just for your Nexus One, you should take a bit of time to set up your contacts. As I mention earlier in this chapter, contacts are integral to your phone, and having them organized and up to date is essential to having a good Nexus One experience.
You can import any existing contacts in CSV (comma-separated values) file format. The easiest way is to use the import tool in Google Contacts. Just follow these steps on your computer:
- Log in to Google Contacts (www.google.com/contacts) from any Web browser.
- Click the Import link in the top-right corner of the screen (Figure 4.14) to open the My Contacts window.
Figure 4.14 Many people find it easier to add and import contacts on a desktop computer, using a real keyboard.
- Click the Browse button, and select your contact file.
- Click Import.
If you're using Windows, you can import data from Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Eudora, and some other apps. Just export the contact data to a CSV file and then import that file into Google Contacts.
If you're using Address Book on a Mac, you have several ways to import contacts into Google:
- The simplest method is to choose Address Book > Preferences > Accounts, check the Synchronize with Google check box, and then click the Google button. You'll be prompted to log in with your Google account, and Address Book will sync in the background.
- A free utility for the Mac called A to G (search for it on www.macupdate.com) exports a tidy CSV file to your desktop; this file imports easily into Google Contacts. The A to G utility is good for one-way migration to Google but doesn't offer syncing.
- An application called Spanning Sync (www.spanningsync.com; $25 for one year or $65 for a permanent license) allows Mac users to synchronize Address Book and iCal with Google Contacts and Calendars. The app may seem to be a little expensive, but it's worth the cost because it syncs bidirectionally (from Mac to Google, and vice versa) in the background.
Entering contacts manually
If you don't have a software application that Google Contacts can import contacts from, you can enter contacts directly by clicking the blue icon in the top-left corner of the Google Contacts window—the one showing one person next to a plus sign (refer to Figure 4.14 in the preceding section). Then just populate the fields, save your work, and move to the next contact.
Already using Google Contacts
If you're already using Gmail or Google Contacts as your primary contact manager, you're way ahead of the game. Your contacts already live on the cloud and are ready to go; in fact, they've probably downloaded to your Nexus One already. Take a gander at the Contacts screen in the Phone app (refer to "Managing contacts on the phone" earlier in this chapter). If you see contacts that you didn't add manually, you're in business. How easy was that?
Dialing, texting, emailing, and mapping contacts
Any time you're viewing contacts, you can communicate with that particular person or business in a couple of ways, right from the contact list:
- If you long-press a contact's photo, a little bar pops up, displaying contact options (Figure 4.15). Touch the appropriate option to call, email, text, or map that contact.
Figure 4.15 Long-pressing a contact's photo reveals the Quick Contact bar.
- To the right of each piece of data in the contact's detail-view screen (refer to Figure 4.12) is an icon representing the contact's phone number, email address, and so on. As you've probably guessed, touching that icon calls, messages, emails, or maps the contact that you're viewing. This feature is incredibly useful and centralizes all the ways to communicate with that contact.
If you're not seeing your Google Contacts entries on your Nexus One, here are a few things to check:
- Did you sign in on your phone under the same account that you use for Google Contacts? Getting the account sign-on right is imperative. If you have more than one Google account, you may find it easy to mix up those accounts.
- Are you in an area that has a solid data connection? Can you surf Web pages? If not, the problem is with your Internet connection.
- If you set up your phone recently (as in hours ago), the contacts may not have fully synced from the cloud to your phone yet. Patience, Jedi, patience. Give it an hour or two.
After you've verified that your Google Contacts are synced between the cloud and your Nexus One, you're all set! Now you can call, email, IM, text, or even map the address of any of your contacts directly from the phone—all of which I discuss in the next section.