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How-To: Droid Syncing on the Mac

Maybe it’s because you’ve been watching too many of these ads , but for whatever reason, the iPhone isn’t for you. You opted for an Android-based phone instead. It may blend, but will it sync with your Mac? Read on.

There are comprehensive third party desktop syncing programs available such as Missing Sync, but realize that with a “Google-based” phone, over-the-air syncing is automatic and built in. When you purchase your Android-based phone, you’ll link it with your Google (s goog) account (a free Google account is required to use the phone’s over-the-air syncing). Your phone will generally auto-sync with your Google account allowing you to possibly ditch your MobileMe subscription. The task then is to get your Mac to sync with the Google account.

1) Foreplay

While using a Droid isn’t as easy as using an iPhone, it’s not that much harder. Here’s a tip, do NOT allow your mobile phone company to import your contacts from your old phone. This has caused problems with synchronization for some. It’s best to start with a clean list of contacts in your Google account. If you haven’t synced your previous phone with your Mac, go ahead and do it before switching phones. If you can’t, you might consider typing the phone numbers into your Mac Address Book beforehand.

2) Safe Syncing

Syncing is only one step above the SCSI voodoo of previous generations. It’s always best to start with a core data set and push it to other devices. Trying to merge two data sets can result in duplication and corruption.

If your Google account already has contacts, export them from Google as a vCard file and import them into your Mac Address Book.
Once imported, delete the contacts from Google so the initial sync pushes all your Mac info into Gmail. As always, it’s a good idea to back up your data before any sync endeavor. From the Mac Address Book, go to the File menu, then choose Export, and then Address Book Archive.

For your calendar, the safe sync concept is similar but you actually want to start with a populated Google calendar and a clear iCal. From experience, if you push too much into Google at once, it can choke. If you already have a Google calendar, back it up by clicking “Settings” under the “My calendars” Then choose “Export Calendars”.

They’ll download as a zip file that you can double click and get the individual .ICS files. Similarly, backup your iCal by visiting the File Menu and choose “Backup iCal.”

Syncing can be buggy under the best of circumstances, which is why I recommend backups throughout the whole process.

Now that both your Google Calendar and your iCal calender are backed up, you’ll then want to export your existing iCal calendars and import then into your Google calendar. This isn’t the same as backing them up. Click on a calendar, and then go to the File menu and choose “Export This” which will create individual .iCal files for each calender you use. Note that Google doesn’t like To Dos so go ahead and remove those beforehand.

Now that you have your individual iCals exported, go to that same Settings tab in Google under “My Calendars” and now import your individual iCals into your existing calendars. Note: it won’t give you an option to create a new calendar from the import, so have your Google calendars ready beforehand. Finally, delete your iCal calendars (remember to back up first) so your iCal is clear of info and all your data is now on Google’s servers.

3) Getting Your Sync On

If you skipped step two, proceed at your own risk. You have been warned.

If you have Snow Leopard, Google contact syncing is built-in: go to the Address Book Preferences and check “Synchronize with Google”. Put in your Google name and password and let the syncing begin! For Leopard users, you’ll need to own an iPhone or iPod touch to enable syncing or use third party apps like Gsync.

To sync calendars, you’ll need to be running Leopard or Snow Leopard. Go to your iCal application and then go to Preferences and then Accounts. Click the + icon and put whatever you want for description. For username put your [email protected] and your password for Gmail. Then under the disclosure triangle for Server Options, put by your googlemail address) and then user. So for example,[email protected]/user would be what you enter. Your calendars will now start downloading from the cloud. Alternatively, you can use BusySync and avoid these hassles.

For photos, iTunes-like picture sync isn’t available, but you can mount your Droid like any other mass-storage device and have it recognized. You’ll need to enable USB mounting first. Go to the menu at the top of your phone and then click USB Connection to mount the SD card. To move music and other multimedia files easily I recommend DoubleTwist.

Having used a Droid for a while I’m pretty darn impressed and you gotta love the advertising. If Mac syncing is holding you back from buying one, you just removed one reason not to switch!

26 Responses to “How-To: Droid Syncing on the Mac”

  1. Really?
    I didn’t understand half of what is described here. If it’s that complicated then it’s useless to me.

    Going back to my Lett’s of London and a #2 pencil.

  2. Decided to make the switch. With Snow Leopard the setup is fairly easy. I’ve got the additional issue where i’ll ALSO use Mobile me….with an iMac, MacBook Pro, 2 ipads (one’s wife’s) and wife’s iphone. It looks like it works all ok. Caution….the initial sync of address book to google translated some things, especially when you have an entry as ‘a company’. Google want to translate the name to a first/last name entry. you may have to do some cleanup here. On the Calendar, it’s easy enough for any entry to change which ‘calendar’ it shows up in. So…i changed the entries that need to show up on both my wife’s and my calendar to a google calendar entry. This should work on the ipad (as it currently does on iphone) when the new OS is updated. I offer this as an experience. I’m something other than a tech guru on this stuff, though i do screw around with it alot.

  3. Regarding your opening sentence:

    “Maybe it’s because you’ve been watching too many of these ads , but for whatever reason, the iPhone isn’t for you.”

    Really now. Isn’t it all the iSheep out there who watch too many ads. Having “switched” to Apple years ago and recently “counter-switched” to platform neutrality, I can attest that at least in my case owning a Droid is more akin to the old Apple modo: “Think Different.”

    That said, thanks for the informative post.

  4. I’m a real novice, but I followed the directions and synced my Droid 2 calendar to the Google calendar on my MAC. I was so proud of myself–the data all showed up on my Droid–but it seems to have disappeared on my computer calendar. What did I do, and what can I do to retrieve it? (I didn’t have much in it yet, so it’s not tragic, but I’d like to know where I went wrong.

  5. i didn’t find a solution for the “failed to import events…” until i did this.
    it works!

    hey guys, go here.

    apparently google cal does not import ical alarms and todos. so go to that site.

    1. download script “”
    2. export your ical.
    3. put it in a folder named “script” on your desktop
    4 .change your ical calendar name to “in.ics”
    5. put the script that you downloaded into the “script” folder
    6. start “terminal”
    7. type “CD DESKTOP”
    8. type “CD SCRIPT”
    9. type “python”
    10. script will run, erasing all TODOs and ALARMs.
    11. script will export file called “out.ics”
    12. import “out.ics” into google cal.
    13. it should work, it worked for me!

    hope this helps.

  6. Jeff Young

    Thanks, Dave Greenbaum. This posting seems very comprehensive and promising. However, I was unable to import my iCal file to my Google calendar: “Failed to import events. Unable to process your iCal/CSV file.” I previously did a test import with only one even and it worked fine. The file that failed to import had only two months of events. any ideas? Are there particular types of events that are not handled properly, such as multi-day events or events with other “organizers?”

  7. and what % of consumers are willing/able to go through all this trouble? of course they could always go to their Apple Store genius bar for help … oh wait, no they can’t. now lemme see, just where is that Goggle guru bar? oh yeah, in the cloud.

    which is all to say this is just too much trouble/too difficult for most consumers. one huge flaw of Android is the lack of a comprehensive desktop program to simplify and integrate all these important tasks. and the danger of fragmentation to even further complicate them.

  8. I think I’m being dense: The instructions for iCal get me a Google Calendar in my iCal just fine. But what if I want my calendars in iCal to show up on my Google Calendar (and thus show up on my Droid)?

    Is the only way to do that, to drag all my current iCal calendars into the gmail calendar in iCal, so that they’re now just subcalendars of it? I hesitate to do that.

  9. This is a very helpful post. My phone contract for Verizon is about to expire and there is still no word about a verizon iphone. If I dont hear about a connection between the two any time soon i will be getting the droid. I am a mac person but if i am able to sync with the droid that would be great.

  10. THis is great, but I HAVE to use Exchange calendaring. I have no choice in the matter – work requires it, and most of my calendar entries will be work-related. How about a nice how-to to get all three of them (Exchange, Google, Android) to play nice?

    • have you found a solution to sync with Address Book and iCal without uploading the information to google? MissingSync from MarkSpace still has their iCal (calendar and tasks) listed as “future features”…