As some of you who read my twitter feed know, I’ve recently re-entered the BlackBerry world. It’s not going to replace my iPhone which is still my main everyday mobile computer. Rather the BlackBerry will enable me to test more of the BlackBerry applications that will emerge in the wake of the new BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Bold. I’m a Mac user most of the time. I’ve also migrated virtually all of my daily applications to the Google clouds (mail, contacts, calendar, documents) which means an integration to a BlackBerry Exchange Server is not in the cards. So my first task was to figure out how to sync my BlackBerry to my Mac – as well as figure out how to sync my Google Calendar and Contacts from the clouds. At first glance it seems easy since Google has a native calendar and contact synchronization tool for the BlackBerry. And it is easy, once you know what works and what doesn’t. Here’s how I do it. UPDATE: Please see my subsequent update about Missing Sync which has a verified problem synchronizing contacts.
I bet more than one of you are about to hit the comments to tell me that Google has a native wireless synchronization tool that will automatically keep both your calendar and contacts in synch on the BlackBerry.
Well, I tried that tool – with only marginal results. The Google Sync for BlackBerry works fabulously on my calendar.
Not so much on my contacts.
Here’s an image of what my contacts looked like after I synchronized them with Google Sync for BlackBerry. See any problem? If I were to synchronize again – the problems would double, triple, etc. The contact synch with the current version of Google Sync for BlackBerry just did not work for me. It resulted in lots of duplicate contacts.
Instead here’s what I found DID work for synchronizing Google calendar and contacts.
To synchronize Google Calendar
In order to sync my Google Calendar I use Google Sync for BlackBerry (download here for free). I find that it works perfectly (bi-directional) for my calendar. If I add an event to my BlackBerry – it will upload to Google Calendar – and vice versa.
Same goes for deleting or changing events. Everything has synchronized beautifully.
Just be sure that you turn off the Google contact synchronization by removing the check next to “Sync Contacts” or you’ll be starting at multiple copies of contacts before long.
To synchronize Google Contacts:
The only way I found to synchronize Google Contacts (that works) is via cable.
This is a two step process for me.
First – be sure you have a backup of your contacts.
Then go into your Mac Address Book (remember, I’m on a Mac) and enable the sync of your Mac Address Book contacts to Google (Address Book – Preferences – Synchronize with Google). This feature is only in the latest versions of the Mac OS – so if you’re running an older OS you may not have any luck with this synchronization until you upgrade.
Tip: I found it easier to completely erase my Google Contacts (export them first so you have a backup). This way I could upload a clean copy of my contacts and not worry about having two contact databases do an initial synchronization. I also found it a lot easier to edit contacts in my Mac Address Book than online with the Google Contact interface.
Notice above that I synchronize via MobileMe and Google. This is so that my iPhone will be able to pick up my contact list wirelessly. I’ve found no problems synchronizing both simultaneously.
You can either wait for this synchronization to take place or manually initiate it via iSync (sync now).
Once your contacts are in sync, the last piece of the puzzle is syncing them to your BlackBerry.
I found it easiest to start with a blank set of contacts on my BlackBerry. Fortunately the synchronization software that I used (Missing Sync for BlackBerry – $39.95 and worth every penny I paid!) let me completely overwrite my BlackBerry contacts the first time with the information in my Mac Address Book.
Note: – RIM has a free product called PocketMac which I briefly loaded (and unloaded). It took forever to install and once installed added another calendar for itself and wasn’t as flexible as Missing Sync. Having it on my Mac also interfered with Missing Sync so I quickly uninstalled PocketMac).
I would greatly prefer having a wireless synchronization. If I really wanted I could subscribe to the more expensive (generally about $10/mo) BlackBerry Enterprise service and move my email, calendar and contacts to an Exchange Server. Under this configuration BlackBerry would seamlessly manage all synchronization behind the scenes for me.
But that configuration would cost almost another $30 monthly ($10 for BES, $9.99 for a bare bones Exchange mailbox at a reputable firm like exchangemymail and another $9.99 per month to add BlackBerry sync capabilities to that mailbox).
Since my contacts don’t change as much as my calendar – this method of periodically synchronizing contacts via cable has worked well for me. I synchronized bi-directionally with Missing Sync and had zero duplicate contacts.
Update on Google Contacts: I’ve noticed two odd things about synchronizing Google Contacts, First, Google creates some “suggested contacts” based on the people you email. This email address comparison is apparently case sensitive so if “Wayne@geardiary.com” is in my contact list and I email “WAYNE@GEARDIARY.COM” – Google adds that as a new suggested contact (?!). Second, contact synchronization appears to include those suggested contacts – even though they’re not supposed to be “real” every day contacts. I don’t know if this is a Missing Sync issue or a problem with the Google Contact synchronization API.
UPDATE: Please see my subsequent post as there appear to be some significant problems with Missing Sync and the BlackBerry Bold. The issues that I am seeing: If I synchronize contacts from Mac Address Book to my Bold – and select to totally over-write the Bold – the first synch is fine but subsequent syncs (even over-writing the Bold) duplicates contacts.