Google on Android: Gmail and Contacts

Friday, October 17, 2008 | 10:00 AM

On September 23, T-Mobile announced the world's first Android-powered phone, the G1. The phone comes preloaded with Search, Maps, Gmail with Contacts, Calendar, Google Talk, and YouTube. The applications are easy to use, fully synchronized with the web, and work together in new and innovative ways, as explained in our first post in the blog series: 'Google on Android'. Over the next couple of weeks, we will put the spotlight on each one of the Google applications for Android. Today: Gmail and Contacts. -- Marc Vanlerberghe, Product Marketing Director.

As an engineer on mobile, part of my job includes testing multiple phones. Having to add and update contacts whenever I get a new phone is one of my least favorite things to do. Switching phones is such a hassle in no small part because manually adding my friends' contact information takes so much time.

In the early days of developing Gmail and Contacts for Android, the team set a clear goal to make this problem disappear once and for all. We envisioned a world where your various computers and phones would always be in sync without needing discipline, USB cables, Bluetooth, and synchronization software.

It occurred to us that the best way to synchronize these various pieces of information is to let the device do it on its own while you're not looking, so you never have to think about it. Once you've logged into your Google account on an Android-powered phone it automatically synchronizes all your contacts and Gmail information so everything is always available, regardless of where you are and whether you have cell coverage. Since all your contacts and mail are backed up to the network, they will still be available if you get a new phone or just have multiple phones.

You will also find that Gmail on Android preserves all the nice functionality that you are used to on your desktop, such as starring, archiving, assigning and reading labels, and the conversation view that makes reading email on Gmail so pleasant. You can also configure which labels you want to synchronize to your phone and how much data you want there. More than ever, you are in control of the data that you want to find on your phone. Gmail even syncs your drafts so you can begin a message on the phone and send it from the web, or vice versa. With push email, Gmail offers real-time, two-way synchronization of your email, notifying you of new e-mails even when you're using another application.

Of course, your contacts list in Gmail also syncs to the phone, and any changes you make on the phone sync to your contacts list on the web.

Because this synchronization works in both directions, you can add a contact on the web and almost immediately use it to call the person from your phone. Once you get used to automatic synchronization, you'll wonder how you could ever live without it. We certainly became addicted to it, and we hope you will too!

To learn more about Gmail on the world's first Android-powered phone, visit the Gmail blog


Unknown said...

I agree that this is a great Android feature, but I'm curious why the Gmail client on other phones like Blackberries aren't able to perform the same contact sync that this does.

sullimander said...

I agree with Wayne. I would love to see the GMail contact syncing appear on my Blackberry. It would be amazing if on first run it merged my Blackberry address book with my GMail contacts and then kept them in sync from then on.

Bradd Piontek said...

At the risk of being repetitive, I would agree with @Wayne and @SkiSulli . I have been a Blackberry user for a little over 6 mos (U.S. Cellular) and have no plans on switching wireless carriers. Being an avid Google user, I wish I could sync my Contact with my Blackberry!!!! It'd also be nice to be able to upload attachments via the GMail application for blackberry!!

Romkin said...

with the introduction of push email for google, will it be also propagated to iPhone ? or it will be just Android feature?

Rafał Grądziel said...

I wonder if Android works with Gmail for hosted domains?
It would be really great if hosted domains are supported... Otherwise it's not for me, unfortunately.

Will said...

this is great when it is up and running - setting it up for the first time is the problem.

Many of the people interested in the G1 android phone will come from a windows mobile world, where their contacts are synced with Outlook and they have 100s of them- getting your outlook contacts into gmail is not easy - there is no sync software, there are less fields in gmail, gmail will not support multiple contacts with the same email address (this caused the import process to hang many times for me).

What Gmail needs a descent contacts application that can import / sync and merge contacts. I've now got my contacts into gmail, so i'm ready for android, but it took a lot of time.
This will cause lots of people lots of problems.

Unknown said...

If there were a good contacts software or an intergration to
to office or act ??

Bartmanxc said...

Hi, I also want to sync my gmail contact to my nokia contact list....

but also i'll want to sync contact group....

I work with gmail, and I 've organized my contact list in group, press, factory, parents, send an email to all contact of a group.

I must have same contact and group organization in my nokia... to send email from my nokia by gmail imap configuration.

it's also important to sync contact and group with outlook.

staralliance said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

staralliance said...

I think that the contacts in Gmail is beyond horrible. How do you expect people with detailed contact lists to ditch their blackberries and switch to android? Have you tried importing contacts from Outlook into gmail? Its a joke. Its not even about mapping for the CSV files. The contacts in gmail doesn't even have the fields / categories available. Many users (especially business customers) have multiple addresses, multiple phone numbers. You are telling me you are a senior developer and leading a team that developed this system? Utter fail, I will be sending my G1 back before I open it.

Shawn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Shawn said...

My concern is about the "send as" feature. Does Android G1 Gmail allow me to "send as" different email addresses if I have them set up in Gmail on the web?

And just as importantly, if an email comes addressed to one of those other addresses, but auto-forwarded or pulled to the Gmail account, will my reply automatically come from the address to which it was sent?

If you're going to make me pick only one Gmail account for my Gmail app, then please make sure these features are enabled.

Samuel said...

Glad to hear that Gmail integrates so well with Android.

I read from reviews that Android doesn't support Microsoft Office files, so how well does Google Docs work on the platform?

Unknown said...

Does Android G1 has a integrated modem, so i can connect with my laptop to use internet like on blackberry?

Unknown said...

I would switch tomorrow if Verizon would go ahead and pick it up. I am a Blackberry user, but I operate almost solely through google products. Please forward to Verizon.

sweens said...

I want an android phone at some point, but in the meantime it would be great to have contact sync on my blackberry. Gcal sync has been around for a while, as has Gmail on blackberry...what's the hold-up with the contact syncing? Maybe if I beg it will happen? please please please?

Unknown said...

This is my biggest fear regarding the G1 (which I've already pre-ordered). Since I'm coming from Windows Mobile and have been organizing most of everything through Outlook (calendar, notes, email, contacts) how will I successfully transfer EVERYTHING to this new phone. As Will said, I have hundreds of contacts. This makes me not so excited about getting this new phone as it may turn into more of a hassle than a benefit. I'm not looking for a toy phone or else I'd buy an iPhone; most of what I use my phone for is business, not games, music, etc. This will cause a major problem and a potential deal-breaker if this is too much of a hassle for me.

Someone develop an app that transfers Outlook to Gmail... PLEASE (since it seems as if Google won't).

Spencer Topel said...

I am concerned less about the phone/apps than of the T-mobile network. Frankly, it sucks. I have a T-mobile account for the past three years, and I am wondering if this phone has a superior signal or is just more of the same.

enobrev said...

Just got my G1 yesterday. The syncing is seamless.

Unfortunately any contacts that have a company but don't have a first and last name only show up listed as a phone number in the contact list, which is completely useless.

It would be great if we could merge contacts and handle duplicates as well.

Thus far I'm a huge fan of my G1 - and I'm pretty impressed with the Android Platform overall, besides maybe the shallow battery life on the G1.

Samuel said...


Hey could you do me a favour by testing how well Google Docs works on the G1?
Like could spreadsheets be edited and do presentations show up?

Will be a huge considering factor on whether to buy one..
Thanks a million!

enobrev said...


Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like you can edit the docs, but they do look very good.

The mobile interface is clean and the docs (presentations, spreadsheets and documents) are easy to read and navigate.

Samuel said...



Rob said...

I've seen a lot of fear and doom about syncing with MS Outlook but the solution isn't that tough. I have the G1 Android phone and use Outlook 2007 on my laptop. I use a product called gsyncit ($10) to keep all of my calendar and contacts synced with Google. It runs on a schedule and verifies that my Outlook contacts always match Google contacts. Then, of course, the G1 is always updated automatically.

I have over a 1000 contacts.

I'm in the DFW area and have not had problems with getting 3G signal but I've only had it several days.

I've tried the iPhone and it's great but I love the G1. Since it has Wireless, USB, Bluetooth and Cellular capabilities it's not difficult to transfer information to/from it.

Also it comes with a stereo set of ear plugs so you can do calls and listen to music.

I've upgraded the 1GB micro SDHC card to 8GB ($30) so I have more space for pictures, music and movies.

Unknown said...

Finally, a piece of software that will synchronize Outlook contacts, calendar and tasks with Android devices.

Blogaholic said...

Gmail still has an issue. The contacts part of Gmail is awful. And the genius that thought of categorizing people by the first name should be fired. Sorry i ever switched over. Lots of the other features are fine, but I have had numerous times where i wanted to look up someone by last name, put it in the contacts search bar and came up with zilch. And this is a search company? Like it or not, they better integrate Outlook or Act or some other real contacts program or forget it.

Will said...

i really have no intention of buying a piece of 3rd party software so that i can sync my contacts - this should be what google does best - organise and sort my information.

GContacts should also be able to merge contacts - e.g. one in gmail with the email address and the one currently on my phone with the phone number...

The best free solution i've found to manage google contacts is an add-on for thunderbird but even this isn't perfect(and my contacts start off in outlook...)

neondragonfly said...

Can't seem to figure out how to send to Groups on my G1 - am I missing something obvious?

TMAKA said...

This feature sounds quite amazing, but that is in theory that it would run so smoothly. I received my G1 on Monday, and up until today (only three days later) I have had Android mysteriously forget all my contacts while it was relaying this information between my google account and my phone. I would get rather flustered after copying the majority of my contacts which fit on the SIM (250 numbers). Every few hours on Tuesday that I had to make an outgoing call to a number I would simply not find anything at all in my "My Contacts" tab. I would then copy over all of my contacts from the SIM and soon I realized they were being added yet in their twice sometimes. Soon enough I called tech support quite flustered that my phone seemed so reluctant to perform any address book permanent records. They offered some instructions on performing a hard reset and the phone magically downloaded my contacts, duplicated to more than quadruple the length of my phone list. After performing a couple hard resets. I realized that there must be some Google "syncing" that was not recording properly to my phone. I went into my Google account and surely enough had to wipe all my contacts as the interface there is so horrid. I'm not a huge fan of this "feature" at this point. I've been struggling with it for a couple days, but overall it appears they still need to perfect this syncing process.

Kevin K. Barrier said...

Exporting csv from outlook is easy but gmail doesn't import all the information. I have addresses! It is an address book! gmail doesn't map correctly. Of 1500 contacts all are missing addresses, company names don't show up, email addresses are missing. Really? You guys can build Google Maps and you can't import csv?

Unknown said...

How do I sync my contacts from my Sony Ericsson to my GPHONE?

Jonathan Pongco said...

Why can't these google group contacts be used on the G1 to send group sms text messages? It makes not sense to have the ability on the Gmail web version and not on the "Andriod" phone.

iRic said...

hey anyone HELP PLEASE!!!!!! ok here i forgot my gmail on my g1 phone never had a gmail before and i created it on my g1 and now forgot my gmail so y phone is now on lockdown cant do nothing what can i do to get it back help please you can contact me at it would be so helpful if anyone can help thank you

Anonymous said...

Just like will said I have 721 contacts that I keep together with outlook and my T-Mo Dash now I have to 1 by 1 copy and paste over my contacts if I want them imported right

Bryan said...

I have multiple Gmail accounts - Professional, Personal, Educational, Family, etc how can/does the G1 phone handle this or will it?

kevin said...

If the Android team "set a clear goal to make this problem [of syncing contacts] disappear once and for all." I would say they failed rather comprehensively. My attempts to load outlook contacts into gmail have left over a hundred contacts on my G1 phone that do not appear in gmail.

How can I wipe the phone contacts without doing a factory reset

Kellic said...

OK I don't know how this would get to Google. I don't know if they activly monitor feelback comments. It needs to get to someone though. I don't care if the Gmail client on Android gets updated or the damn
browser. But something has to be done, because frankly I'm seriously
considering returning this phone over this one issue. While overall
I'm enjoying it. I've just run into a MAJOR roadblock that is a deal
killer, because it forces me to wait until I get to a REAL browser to
be able to send out an e-mail.

I have aprox 5 mail accounts forwarded to my g-mail account. It is
also setup to be able to respond as those accounts as well. On the
desktop side this is not even remotely a problem. However as far as I
can tell there is NO way to send an e-mail as another mail account
from the Gmail client on Android. None at all. I can only send as
the parent mail account which is NOT going to work. So I figured no
problem. I'll just go to my web browser and go to I
go there. Switch from the mobile client to the standard client.
Click compose....and....NOTHING. WHAT THE HELL GOOGLE?!?1 Normally
above the TO: dialog field there is a drop down to select what account
I want to send the e-mail as. It it totally missing in the Android
web browser. I'm dead serious here. I NEED to send out e-mails as
these other accounts. These are business associates, professional
contacts, etc that I need to contact. The only other option is to use
the craptastic normal mail client. So then I would no longer be
maintaining e-mails send out in my gmail account. This goes beyond
unacceptable, to critically incompetent on the part og Google. I CAN
NOT believe I'm one of only a handful of people to setup gmail in this
way, and it certainly isn't some oddball configuration.

Kellic said...

PS- I'm not trying to get pissy. I simply can not state how much this impacts my ability to communicate on this phone. I love the Android experience....and then all of a sudden get slapped in the face with this. Its frustrating, because this seems like such a normal capability.

Mark Bolton said...

Dear Mssrs Google.
Since receiving my G-Phone this week I have scoured the internet to find a way to sync it with Outlook on my PC. It seems that no such tool exists currently. Like many business people I use more than one email alias, have over 2,000 live contacts and a rapidly changing schedule. My crappy old MDA copes (just) with all this and gives me email etc. But it seems to me that your product testers seemed to consist of kids, students, stay at home parents. In fact anybody excpet active business people.
Accordingly I am returning my G phone tomorrow (within the 30 day period) and will look for an alternative product. The reason many business people reject Apple products (besides their Holier-Than-Thou attitude) is that they don't seem to cater to business people. For your own sake please don't make the same mistake.
You can give me a call when Android supports the business tools that people actually still use (i.e. Microsoft's products).

Gustavo Berman said...

One question:
Can I use this contact sync without a 3G network? (if I have WIFI connection to internet)
Please, anyone, can answer this?

Markasaurus said...

On top of all the aforementioned problems, there is also a bug that prevents contacts from syncing if there is some sort of a conflict between entries edited on the computer and in the phone. My phone will no longer sync in both directions. I had to delete my entire address book, reimport it and then sync to the phone again. It still is not working correctly. Someone should have tested this more thuroughly.

David said...

When will gmail push to the iPhone!?!?

I use gmail for my personal account and I setup my business with google apps, but the lack of push email is killing me!!

Unknown said...

I am looking for an application that allows me to look up a business name in my contacts on the android system, and by the way companion link has a softward that syncs outlook to google to g1. works ok, but I still can't look up a business name. help?

Stephen Hind said...

I'm having some issues with Google Mail on my G1. Some are not directly the Google App and some are.
1. It's crashed a couple of times and once after writing a big e-mail, which it didn't save a draft of - very annoying!
2. It doesn't work were you need to use a web proxy server, like when I'm using my employers Wi-Fi network. This isn't due to the Google Mail app, it's down to Android not supporting a web proxy for the Browser or the Google Mail App - so much for getting your e-mail anywhere.
3. Cannot download attachments I can only get a preview of some. Now I know this is by design but that's a silly design as it;s the same in the Browser. Say I want to download something to fix someone's computer, like a Zip file, and then use the USB to get it off I can't as Android won't let me download anything it cannot open.
4. I cannot see the e-mail address of the person that sent the mail, only their name.
5. The Mail app doesn't have the features of an IMAP mail client, so cannot take advantage of the IMAP integration Google Mail offers, e.g. it won't allow you to flag a mail, so you cannot Star a mail when using IMAP.
6. You cannot select multiple mails, so if there's a few you need to Archive you have to go into each mail and archive each one, rather than just ticking the mail and then Archive once, like in the mobile web interface.
7. Finally where's the support? here's no help on the G1 and there's no official Google support for users of Android (lots of support for developers, but not users). Where should I be posting these issues?

Unknown said...

Just got my Android and while the principal of just using your GMail contacts is fine and well, GMail itself really needs to improve the import of csv feature so you can get phone numbers added! All too often you get an unhelpful "an unknown error has occured" message when you're pretty sure there is nothing wrong with your csv. This task took me ages to sort out but the how to is here.

MQ said...

how do i save new email contacts when i get a new email from that person?

Unknown said...

I've just received an email from a new contact. It contains phone number and address. I want to add the phone number to my address book, from the Android Gmail client. I can't see how to do this! If I move the trackball over their number, it is selected, but long-pressing won't paste it and there is no add to contacts button. clicking the number does nothing either.

ZS said...

The contact search functionality is sub par on the phone itself: it only searches on the "Contact" field, while the Gmail application performs a substring search on the contact and other fields (company) too. This is a step back from using a Blackberry. Search should be the crown jewel of Android too!

Speaking about “company”, on the phone there are "Organizations" and "Work" as categories, instead of the standard "Company" field that is used in the online address book, pretty odd.

Unknown said...

I am considering buying a Google phone. Right now, I use a BlackBerry.

One of my primary uses for the BlackBerry is to send myself email in "offline" mode. I live in NYC and spend a lot of time on the subway, out of mobile service range. But I am able to send myself notes while I "think" during my commute, using the BlackBerry email client.

The Google Mobile software for the same BlackBerry does not work offline. It constantly complains about no data connection.

My question, to anyone who might be able to answer it - can the new Google phone with Android send mail while offline? Like lots of it, not just a single draft that queues up. I want to be able to send 5 to 10 separate emails to myself during an offline session while commuting.

Any advice is much appreciated!

Unknown said...

I have the g1
honestly, do not get it.
it has so many problems its ridiculous, for instance my contacts have been deleted almost nine times today ALONE.
so, yeah, don't get it.

Unknown said...

Guy, I really appreciate the work you are doing.

As I can't see powerpoints on my iPhone, It'd be really cool if I could see them on Gmail mobile.


v said...

Where do we G1 users go for sync related issues? I have been getting "Sync is currently experiencing problems. It will be back shortly." message since December 18,2008. I have tried T-Mobile support with no luck and also posted a message in google help forums. I can help with any information needed to help resolving this.

Michael said...

I wish there was a way to remove quoted text from emails in the gmail application. At the moment I'm having to use the email app which doesn't support push from gmail.

Kirk Taylor said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

vslee said...

What about syncing Text Messages between the phone and gmail? That way if you lose your phone/switch phones, you don't lose your text messages...

Mitch said...


I am one who thinks the contacts app in the Gmail mobile app is TERRIBLE! When using it on my G1, I do not have access to all of my contacts, only the ones that Google designates as most frequently contacted. As a result, when using my mobile, I am limited to contacting people who (a) send me email, (b) are among my most frequently contacted or (c) I recall their email address.

This is a HUGE problem. In a similar vein, I am not able to access by contact Group lists on my mobile. I need that functionality to contact a Group when I am mobile to forward messages or make people aware of recent developments. Am I doing something wrong or is this by design? Thanks.