Keep your contacts in sync on different mobile phones using Funambol
If you are in the habit of changing cell phones as much as I do (or more) then you already must have felt the pain of transferring all your contacts from one phone to the other. I was always on the lookout for a (preferably free) software which would help me transfer all my contacts between phones since a long time. And many a times, having to type in contacts and their numbers manually was a BIG deterrent for me to switch phones (I guess the carriers would really love to hear that).
Some of the earlier methods I tried were getting the phone’s proprietary phone management software (often not-free) and downloading my contact to the computer. If my new phone was from the same manufacturer, then voila, but most often, I had to convert the downloaded contacts into a neutral format (.csv file or something similar), then load it up in the new phone’s proprietary phone management software and pray to god that it’s in a readable format ;) and then load it up in my new phone.
This method had me acquiring each phone’s Desktop management software and the cable required to connect each phone to the computer and then sync them both. Most of the times, the phone used to understand the MS-Outlook phonebook, so converting to Outlook’s format would work, but more than once I’ve had situations that the phone wouldn’t sync without MS Outlook physically being installed on the computer.
Then one day I came across a simple looking and “fun” sounding software called Funambol. That time Funambol was new on the web and were offering free accounts to people who registered with them. The software was compatible with multiple phone models and the best part was there was no need to tether your phone to the computer! Funambol supports all the major phone OS including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian. More information can be found on this page. Once you install Funambol on your phone, either by visiting their site on the phone, side loading it via the computer, or going through the phone’s respective app stores, you will have to create a free account with Funambol. Once you signup and register, then process is fairly easy.
Depending on what phone you have, you have options of syncing your Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Pictures. And these can be set to sync manually or scheduled to be synced automatically at a preset time(again depending on your phone model). It has options to sync one-way or two-way, meaning either only from phone to cloud server (or vice versa), or keep both phone and cloud server in sync.
This lets you sync all your Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Pictures in the cloud, and you can also access and edit them on the web at http://my.funambol.com/. Now whenever you switch your phone handset, all you have to do is install the Funambol client on the new phone, login to your account on it, and sync your contacts from the cloud, like magic.
I have also found another use for it. I use a Blackberry cell phone and my wife has an iPhone. Funambol client has been installed on both phones and synced so both have the same phonebook. Now, this might not be convenient for some people, but it works for the both of us, because now when I want to call a common friend whose number was saved only on her phone, I need not call my wife to get the number from her iPhone, it’s already synced to my BlackBerry. Also, when I ask her to confirm reservations at a certain place which I had stored on my phone, she need not hunt around for the number, it’s already there, synced to her iPhone!
This would also be useful for parents who want to keep tabs on the contact books of their kids, of course the kids wouldn’t be too happy (and it’s also darn easy to cancel the sync :P)
But that’s not to say this free cloud sync functionality is a god send all the time (though it sure is most of the time). There was one time when I was trying to “upgrade” my iPhone using iTunes and after taking the backup and deleting the existing OS, iTunes just gave up sometime during the software load and the upgrade left me with a bricked iPhone. I somehow got the iPhone back to life using various methods, one of which finally worked, but it left me with a half filled phonebook. Then I remembered, I just have to install Funambol and the phonebook would be in sync. But Noooooooooo!!! I forgot to set the options to one-way from server to phone, and then the unthinkable happened. Funambol changed my phonebook in the cloud to the half filled phone book from the failed iPhone. I tried to sync my BlackBerry to the cloud so it would pick up all the contacts, but I guess Moore’s Law was in full effect that day, even that phone lost 180 contacts out of a total of 247 and left me with around 67 contacts. Luckily, I was able to restore the phonebook of my iPhone using the backup iTunes had made before the software upgrade. Then synced that to Funambol cloud, and then synced my BlackBerry back to the way it was.
So the lesson is, Funambol is a great software to use for your daily use and to lessen your burden with scheduled backups. But it’s always important to have another backup in case of a failure.
In fact, even Ubuntu seems to be offering a Ubuntu One Contact Sync client based on the Funambol software.