I got my first cellphone in 1994. Some of the contacts I entered back then were still on my current Samsung Galaxy smartphone, 22 years later! As of last week, I had nearly 1,000 people in the My Contacts list, and 2,294 in Other. Many of these entries had no phone number. Many of them were only Google profile listings. Lots of names I didn’t recognize, and even worse, some of them I recognized as people who died years ago.
How did this happen? First of all, I admit that I hate to delete anything, I may just be a digital hoarder. But that’s not all. Every time I bought a new phone, starting with my first cellular “flip-phone” in 1994 to my third Android smartphone in 2014, the sales person would make sure that all the contacts in the old phone were transferred to the new one. Smartphones make it even easier to add more contacts. They can be added without my even knowing by automatically entering from my emails, Facebook, and Google. So my contact list only got larger, never smaller.
I just bought a new iPhone 7+ and I plan on using it as well as my loyal Samsung Galaxy S5. I am no longer having a salesperson transfer contacts from one phone to another. In fact, I try very hard to not store contacts on the phone at all, it’s all cloud storage for me. So, when I first started setting up my new iPhone, I wanted to prevent it from using the default Contact system which stores contacts on the phone and backs it up to iCloud. I decided to set it up with my Google contacts, and nothing but my Google Contacts. If I can do the same on my Samsung, then I can use my computer to clean up my Google Contacts and, voila! both phones will match.
The Steps I took
- Back up my Google Contacts using the computer, going to contacts.google.com and Exporting all contacts to a .csv file that I can view using Excel. This way I can always get a contact back!
- On iPhone: Settings, Accounts, Gmail=turn contacts ON, iCloud=turn contacts OFF
- On Samsung: Contacts, Settings, Contacts to display=only check my gmail account. Whenever I add a new contact, make sure it shows my Google account at the top as the place where contact is being added.
- On Computer – go to Contacts.Google.com, view “Other” contacts and delete them all. 250 at a time.
- Still on Computer, start reviewing everyone in My Contacts and deleting!
- On either phone – I can now trust that all devices are seeing the same synchronized set of contacts, so I can start cleaning them up with whatever device I have handy.
With my new-found confidence of clean contacts I am now filling out the information on the good contacts that are left! What a concept! A contact list that actually has valuable contact information! I’m even setting up their photos whenever I get a chance. I especially love this little trick for adding a photo to a contact – when you don’t have a photo of that contact! We taught this in episode 22 of our “What Does This Button Do?” show. Here’s the link: Adding a Photo to a Contact when you don’t have a photo!
Keep On Learning
Keeping your contact lists clean is a continual struggle. First, you need to understand where your current contacts are coming from, and where a newly added contact is going to. There is no magic bullet. There’s a lot to learn. We did 2 complete shows on the topic, I recommend you watch! Each show includes separate tips at the start and end of the show, then the “Beginner’s Lesson” is in the middle.
I also recommend reading Google’s Help pages on managing contacts.