Google Contacts can now back up and sync contacts saved to device storage
Google Contacts is Google’s first-party contacts app on Android. The app is the default Contacts app on Pixel and Android One phones, and can be downloaded for other phones via the Play Store. Over the years, it has become a feature-rich app, and its design is in conformity with Google’s Material Theme guidelines. It has a dark theme, too. Google has now addressed a feature gap of the app. It wasn’t able to backup and sync contacts that were saved to a phone’s device storage instead of being saved to a Google Account. Now, thanks to a server-side switch, it can – at least on some phones.
The background: On Android, there are three ways of saving a new contact in most contacts apps. You can either save them on your Google account, or you can save them on your phone’s internal storage. The final option is to save them to the user’s SIM card in the phone. The option of saving contacts to a Google Account has been better until now as it ensures that contacts are backed up and synced online, so the chances of losing them in the event of a hardware failure or factory reset are negligible. Contacts saved to a phone’s internal storage, however, would have been lost until now if a phone stopped working, or if it was factory reset.
Last year, Google added a feature to Google Contacts that let users move individual contacts from their phone’s storage to their Google account without doing a full export or import. Now, the app can read and sync contacts that are saved to the user’s device automatically, so users won’t have to worry about manually moving them to their Google account.
There is a catch, though. This feature will work on only some phones, for now. On the Google Pixel, it’s actually not possible to save contacts to internal storage in the first place, as they can only be saved to a Google account. On phones from other device makers, though, it’s common to find an option to save to internal storage when creating a new contact. This is the information that Google Contacts will now back up.
Android Police was able to get this feature with the latest Google Contacts APK to work on a Samsung Galaxy S10+, where the Contacts app showed a popup asking if the user wanted to sync device contacts to their Google account. This means the feature is optional—users will have to manually enable it. (It also doesn’t work with either G Suite accounts or a child’s account.) In addition, there is a settings section named “Contact sync settings” where the user can change this sync setting. It’s present on the Pixels even though they don’t actually allow users to save contacts to internal storage. The feature hadn’t rolled out for Android Police on a OnePlus 7T Pro despite using the same version of the app, which means it’s likely a server-side change. The option to move a contact from a Google account to a phone’s internal storage was available on the second device, though. This means that it hadn’t got the new functionality yet, which would have superseded the older feature.
Google notes in its support page that this doesn’t affect contacts saved on a user’s SIM card or on other cloud services such as Microsoft Exchange/Yahoo, as Google Contacts still won’t sync them to a user’s Google account automatically.
Users can download the latest version of Google Contacts from the Play Store or from APK Mirror. It’s fair to expect Google to complete the feature roll out in the coming weeks.