Monday, October 24, 2011

Google Contacts and Android

For about three years now, I've been using Android to make and receive phone calls, text messages, and emails. For the most part, it works great. But there is a problem that, as far as I can remember, has persisted since the beginning. I'm wondering if anyone has found a good way to deal with this scenario in Android, and how do other platforms (iPhone, Blackberry, ...) deal with it.

The scenario is: multiple contacts at the same address.

This comes up all the time. But I want to focus on two common examples: a husband and wife, and two people who work at the same company.

  1. Two people who work at the same company: for example at my kid's school, I have a contact for the front desk, and I have a contact for another person, named Susan. If I want to call Susan, I have to call the front desk and ask for her. So, the front desk and Susan have the same telephone number. The problem is, when I call the front desk, or when the front desk calls me, the contact displayed on my phone is Susan.
    Solution: There has to be a better way. For one, if I call the front desk, Android should be smart enough not to display Susan as the contact. When the front desk calls me, I grant that Android can't know whether it's the front desk or Susan, but maybe it could list the possibilities.
  2. A husband and wife: You're friends with a husband and wife who share the same home address and home phone number, but have individual email addresses and mobile phones. There seems to be no good way to set this up in Google Contacts. Let's say your friends are Steve and Laurene. If you put them all in one contact, then when you get an email from one of them, or a call from one of their mobile phones, it will show up in Android as "Steve and Laurene". If you make two separate contacts, then you have to duplicate their address and home phone - that's cumbersome, and if they move you have to change it in two places. Plus you have the same problem desribed above in #1. My solution has often been to make three separate contacts - one for the couple, and one each for the individuals, but that's hardly elegant.
    Solution: There are probably many ways to improve this, but how about a way in Google Contacts to link two individual contacts and indicate that they share an address and/or phone number?



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