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!