Google’s awful, shambolic contacts app

google contactsIf you use Gmail, you have Google Contacts. Bad luck.

Google Contacts is a dreadful, embarrassingly bad piece of software. An utter shambles.

Last week I wrote Apple’s iTunes for Windows is such a dreadful experience it puts me off buying a computer relying entirely on Apple software. Google Contacts is the same.

No, wait, worse.

Random names
Google Contacts appears to record and store random bits of information from every incoming email – I suspect this includes CC addresses. It does something similar with incoming Google+ contacts – many of these are flaky.

Google stirs this foul-smelling data in a huge cauldron adds special sauce and vomits it back.

There are times when I’m reliably informed I know someone I’ve never heard of, or told some small time online crook who keeps trying to make contact may be “important to me”.

One week after an extensive cull, my ‘Other Contacts’ list already includes 820 people – seemingly plucked off the world’s back streets. It is riddled with duplicates – most entries are incomplete. There are misspellings. Contacts is completely worthless. The data is mainly junk.

I’m complaining about it now because, in a moment of weakness, I imported my Google Contacts into the Windows 8 People app. That list went from useful to useless in a matter of seconds, Today is filled with rubbish – many names are written in alien scripts.

Worse than iTunes?
Apple’s saving grace is the native software I use on Macs, iPads and iPhones is good. So I know iTunes for Windows isn’t typical of the company’s output.

On the other hand, Google’s curiously popular Android operating is also a mess. Android is just as shambolic.

You don’t believe me? What Android version are you on? Your friends, colleagues, family members with Android phones will almost certainly be on different versions. Even if you run the same nominal Android version number as someone else it may not look and act the same. Programs that run on your device may not run on your friend’s device.

Android is a mess. Because, at heart, most software from Google that doesn’t involve search is a mess. Shambles runs through the company and its product, like the word Blackpool through a stick of British seaside rock. There’s little quality control. The philosophy is to throw half-finished beta software out into the wild, let it breed or go feral and not take responsibility for the consequences.

Want to argue about this?

15 thoughts on “Google’s awful, shambolic contacts app

  1. lol @ last sentence. I do! :p

    I just can’t see Android as a shambles because people run different versions. I don’t know anyone who has complained or been able to install an app. You know why? Most people with an Android phone (at least here in NZ) use facebook and txt.
    I’m not going to disagree on the spread of versions (my devices are on 4.0 and 4.1) or the fact that some devices can’t install some apps. I will counter with:
    1) Because of the variation in hardware and capabilities of course some apps aren’t going to run (or run very stable) on certain devices. To me, this is worth it for the ‘pros’ of having choice in what I want. For everything else, there’s Windows Phone.
    2) The spread of versions and UI layers means it is not completely familiar when you use someone else’s device, but it also means you can get an experience that you like if you’re willing to go for it whether that be TouchWiz or AOSP or Sense or CyanogenMod.

    I can’t comment on Contacts yet. Where do you find these extraneous contacts? I’m interested to see what I got. Disclaimer: my GMail is just a dump for when I can’t use my main email (signing up to a service again, signing up to something I have no intention of following but doing for other purposes, etc.)

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    • I got a bit of an analogy for ya, just to show you my point maybe a bit better, I know I’m not very good at getting points across;

      It’s like looking out a window at the rain pouring down fiercely. I look and feel good and think what a beautiful day. You look and think it must be the worst day ever.

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    • Until recently our family had four Android phones with three different OS versions and four distinct front-end UIs. If someone found a cool app – away from the blockbusters – the chances were it wouldn’t run on anyone else’s phone.

      I call that a mess. Some people call it freedom. I want tools that just work, I don’t want them to BE work.

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      • As I said, if Android doesn’t align with your needs/wants then another OS may be more suitable. As you said Windows Phone is good.

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      • Isn’t it funny how these things go in cycles. Open is good until it gets out of control. Letting Apple or Microsoft make decisions comes as a blessed relief until the choices feel too restrictive…

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      • I don’t really think it’s cyclical, more like most people are cyclical. The systems don’t change, the underlying principles of them don’t change, it’s people that want the change. Now, not everyone is, just the majority. There are people like me who love choice and playing with the underlying systems and there are people who prefer to not care about systems and have everything chosen for them.

        The mantra on complaints about open source has always been ‘either fix it, find another solution, or make your own’. The thing is, mobile is still immature as a platform and developers for it are not able to do their best work for one reason or another which is why you get inconsistencies.

        I think the main reason a really closed system can’t work is because once it gets to a certain point they can’t control it any more and the ‘security’ that comes from ‘controlled environments’ gets outed as bollocks. Both ways of tackling the problem have their pros and cons which can’t be entirely mitigated.

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    • Isn’t it funny how folk say (with authority) . … “most people do / use / like /dislike” and so on. How do they know? Has there been some private census I don;t know about?

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      • It’s implied applied anecdotal evidence. Of course I don’t have any research to back me up; it’s an opinion on an opinion article.

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  2. +1

    As a long time user keeping 19.7 GB of emails, 397 contacts in “My Contacts”, 2529 contacts in “Circles” and 1311 contacts in “Other contacts” I am very happy with this product. I don’t remember a single occasion it failed me.

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      • Just going through some of your older posts Bill and thought I’d shed some light on your problem. In Gmail (Desktop browser version) go to Settings > General. There is a setting called “Create contacts for auto-complete:” There are two settings, select the lower one “I’ll add contacts myself”. This will have a small impact on auto-complete but you will have control of your contacts again. If you still want the auto-complete feature for every address of every email you have replied to then you will have to let the other contacts group grow and take care to select “My Contacts” only when you export your contacts. The auto-complete feature is great but the data for that has to be stored somewhere. The other contacts group. If you do a lot of email it’s worth making the change to the auto-complete feature IMHO.

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  3. I keep “my contacts” (real contacts using your terminology) synced with mobile devices. Any text/number pattern entered will bring the list of matched contacts. I also maintain a small list of “starred” contacts as for quick dialing.

    BTW, I am not affiliated with Google in any way.

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  4. Hi,

    I would have to disagree about issues with the versions of the Android operating system. We write software that runs on ~99+% of Android operating systems. The real issue is that not all developers know how to write an application that runs on all systems in a consistent fashion.

    Unless you’re using a special API call or piece of hardware (eg. NFC) then you shouldn’t come across these issues. Of course that’s not to say there aren’t bugs from time to time! :)

    The main fragmentation we have found is with device drivers for bluetooth and how the camera deals with photos (stores Exif data and auto rotates photos).

    Regarding Contacts (my experience), I keep all my contacts in one place and associated with one account which is convenient (although I know not practical for some people). When I moved all my contacts to that account I cleaned them up and removed duplicates. I do still see duplicates though if I allow the application to include contacts from other applications like skype, twitter, facebook. As I find that confusing I just don’t include those any longer.

    Regards,
    Julius.

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