When I got my first cell phone, around the time I turned 15, I started collecting other people's numbers. My address book started filling up quickly and all things were great. I took the time to organize everything and fill out as much information as I possibly could at the time. For anyone who also went through the same trouble, you know how much effort and work it was to key in hundreds of people's phone numbers, names and any other applicable information with a T9 keyboard.
When I switched to a smartphone, I chose not to let Alltel transfer my contacts. I wanted to do some spring cleaning and tidy up my overflowing address book manually. Back then, I had the time and I wanted to get a feel for the roomy keyboard on the BlackBerry Curve 8330. I went through each contact, deleted old information and added email addresses, street addresses for some people (I have since learned better) and added missing information.
But since my phone was "smarter" than your average cell phone – keep in mind, this was 2006, the pre-iPhone era and none of my friends or family members had smartphones at the time – I wanted to find a way to ready my address book for the next time I switched phones. The carrier offered a contact transfer service (for a fee), but I wanted a way to transfer contacts at will. My list of contacts had grown by a few hundred people since I switched to the Curve, and I wasn't about to try to key in upwards of 500 contacts.
After doing a little searching, I came across Google Sync for BlackBerry. Among other things, the app allowed me to synchronize my contacts and calendar entries from my phone to my Google account. Perfect, right? In theory, yes. In practice … not so much. I downloaded the app, installed it and logged into my primary Google account. I scoured through the settings a bit and fired the first sync. It failed. I tried again. Success! (Or at least I thought it was successful.) When I logged in to check the results on my Google account from my computer, I was met with multiple duplicates of every single contact in my address book. Numbers had been switched around, pictures that I had assigned were with the wrong contacts and nothing was in order.
It was complete and total chaos.
I spent several hours over the course of a few weeks trying to sort out the mess. Luckily, I discovered that there is a simple way to merge duplicate contacts built right into the Google Contacts settings. However, I made the mistake of merging duplicates before weeding out the mixed-up contacts.
For the several following weeks, there was only one way to sort through the muck. Call and text people. All the important contacts (read: the people I talk to most often) were fixed in a matter of days. But I still find traces of the mess even six years later.
When I moved back near my hometown at the beginning of this year, I dialed the number of one of my favorite locally owned pizza joints, Little Italy. Instead of the generic dialing screen I expected to see, the name and a picture of my high school friend Sarah popped up. Immediately, I hung up in fear that I had dialed her on accident. I looked the number up once again and came to realize that it wasn't an error. To this day, I still haven't totally restored my contact list from that little escapade in 2006.
It gets worse.
After Apple's iOS 6 announcement, I immediately started downloading the iOS 6 beta to install on my iPhone 4S. Since Facebook integration was one of the larger features in this version of iOS, I figured I might as well try it out. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I started noticing the effects of said integration. I was text messaging with Aaron through Google Voice one day and I saw it: another high school friend's face popped up instead of Aaron's. When he called me later that day, I got a better look. It was my friend Mallory from high school. When my girlfriend's mom calls me, my friend Kyle's Facebook profile picture pops up. When my girlfriend calls me, my cousin's Facebook profile picture appears. Every single person on my phone has another person's Facebook profile picture set as their contact picture. And unless I'm willing to wipe my entire address book or take the time to go through several hundred contacts to manually delete incorrect data, there's nothing I can do about it.
I don't know what went wrong. I have heard from countless people that their Facebook integration worked perfectly. But mine went completely haywire. I imagine it had something to do with how many sync services I have setup and the meta data left behind by some of those – a snowball effect of sorts. For instance, all of my contacts have old "HTCData" from HTC Facebook sync on Android stored in individual contact's notes. That could potentially screw with the synchronization of Facebook for iOS, fooling it into thinking Aaron is actually Mallory, or my girlfriend's mom is my friend Kyle.
I have tried numerous times to dedicate some time to fixing this horrible mess. But in all honesty, I don't even know where to begin. Every time I sit down with the intention of fixing it, my eyes lose focus and my mind shuts down. I don't actually know anyone's phone number anymore. (Of course, there are a few exceptions, like the ones that are forever engraved in my brain.) And there are some people I can't come to grips with deleting, yet I don't know which of the eight or so numbers is the correct number.
I keep waiting for a magic solution to land in my lap so I won't have to dedicate hours of my free time to sorting out hundreds of contacts and trying to figure out which contact information is totally false.
The worst part of it all is that I'm usually pretty anal about things being correct, neat and orderly. But this is to the point where I have built a blind and try to entirely ignore its existence. I would love nothing more than to restore order to my address book, but I'm not sure how or where to begin.
But I'm curious, readers. Am I the only one who has fallen victim to contact syncs gone bad? I can't possibly be the only one. And I can't be the only one whose address book is a complete and total mess. I've seen some of my friends' contact lists, and while they may not be victims of a sync gone wrong, their address books are a wreck. How does your contact list look, folks? Neat? Orderly? Or is it pure chaos and disorder?