Managing and moving contacts from one phone to another is definitely easier in the smartphone era, but for some, it can still be a challenge. Bring feature phones into the mix and it can be even more complex due to the devices’ lack of sophistication as compared to their smarter brethren. With contract consumers in the U.S. likely upgrading handsets every 18 to 24 months, and adding more contacts along the way, moving contacts from phone to phone can become a painful exercise on a recurring basis.
Google Android (s goog) phones actually make this process easy if users tie contacts to their Gmail account, and Facebook can be used as well. The webOS (s hpq) operating system offers a Synergy feature that can automatically pull in Facebook contact data. Apple (s aapl) iPhone owners can use the $99 yearly MobileMe service — which adds other benefits as well — for contact migration. But these, and many other similar solutions, become unwieldy if switching phones from one mobile platform to another. MoveMyContacts is a new cross-platform, subscription service that uses the cloud to manage, backup and migrate contact databases between hundreds of different phone models.
MoveMyContacts comes from Toffa, the same folks that built the popular GooSync service I used in 2007 (before Android arrived) to sync my handset to Gmail and Google’s Calendar. That worked so well that I decided to pull out my wallet and try Toffa’s latest service. MoveMyContacts costs £4.95 ($8.33 USD) for a 30-day subscription or £9.95 to use for a full year. Clearly, it’s priced low enough for very occasional or one-time use, but folks that migrate through handsets more often won’t have to spend much to use the service for a year.
After signing up and checking out through PayPal, the MoveMyContacts website walked me through the simple step-by-step process, beginning with choosing the phone model that holds my contacts. I picked the generic Android option (which works on Android 2.0 and up) and was directed to install the free Funambol Sync app from the Android Market, which I did on my Google Nexus One. Funambol is an open-source, data-sync solution that supports hundreds of mobile devices using the SyncML standard many third-party apps use for synchronization processes.
Upon installation of Funambol, I just had to log in to the MoveMyContacts servers, which was a simple configuration step. Immediately, the software asked if I wanted to import contacts from all of the accounts on my handset: personal Gmail, work Gmail and even Twitter. My only interest was for my personal contacts, so I chose that option only. The app then imported my 712 Gmail contacts in about two minutes. One button press later, and they were all sent to the MoveMyContacts server, which took another two minutes over a Wi-Fi connection. That put my contacts in the cloud, which were viewable directly on the MoveMyContacts dashboard.
From there, I chose to add a second device to test the contact transfer. I could have chosen another Android device, but decided to test with another platform, so I picked iPod touch as my other “phone.” Again, the MoveMyContacts website offered similar simple instructions to proceed, but didn’t suggest using the Funambol client from the iTunes App Store. Instead, the service recommended that I install the free Synthesis SyncML Lite from the App Store, which I did. I suspect that the process would work with either app, as both support the SyncML protocol. Using the Synthesis software on my iPod touch, I simply logged in to the MoveMyContacts server and tapped the synchronization button. Roughly five minutes later, all 712 of the contacts from my Android phone appeared on my iPod touch.
While the process might sound convoluted due to the application installations, it’s actually quite simple and fast. And because MoveMyContacts supports so many handset platforms from many hardware makers, the software part of the equation is bound to vary. The common denominator is the cloud, which does the heavy lifting and becomes your contact database book of record.
Although the service is useful for one-time contact transfers between devices, it can be used as often as you’d like while your subscription remains active. That means a yearly subscriber, for example, could routinely backup contacts to the MoveMyContacts server; useful if the phone hardware fails or in the case of a lost phone. There’s bound to be other similar solutions for free or for less money, but overall, MoveMyContacts is an effective way to do exactly what its name says it does. If I weren’t so reliant on Google and the Android operating system to manage my contacts, I’d likely continue my subscription of this service.