Why You Should Stop Storing Contacts On Your Cellphone

We’ve all been there. You lose your cellphone, or damage it beyond salvation, and there’s no way to recover your contacts from it. You’re then stuck trying to get everyone to send you their contact information again, ultimately losing a few phone numbers forever–never to hear from those people again.

But there’s no excuse for letting this happen–not anymore. We live in the age of technology; fortunately there are easy ways to keep this from happening to you ever again. Here’s how to break free from this cycle and never lose a contact again.

Forget the SIM

You may have heard about the SIM card, or been told to use that. Why not just keep contacts on your SIM card? There are several reasons it’s a poor choice. First, not all phones use a SIM card at all, eliminating that option entirely. Next, you can only store a single phone number for a single name. This means you’ve got contacts like “Brad – Cell”, “Brad – Home”, “Brad – Work”. This is not only inefficient, but quickly fills up your address book with unnecessary entries. Perhaps the most important reason is that SIM cards are notoriously poor in quality, often requiring replacement, negating the benefits of storing on a SIM–not that there were many benefits to begin with.

Don’t Rely On Your Carrier

Most people choose to store their contacts directly on their cellphone, which is the worst possible way to store them. It’s become such a big problem that wireless companies have provided their own apps and services to back up contacts from the cellphone to their servers, and prevent this problem from recurring. So problem solved, right? Wrong.

What happens if you decide to switch carriers? What happens if your phone doesn’t regularly backup to their service? What if you don’t sign up for it to begin with? There are too many ways for things to go wrong, and you’re left with no control at all over whether your contacts belong to you. Not to mention privacy concerns–do you really want your wireless provider to have all your contacts’ information?

To understand how this all works, you must first understand how contacts work on a cellphone. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to presume use of a smartphone, such as an iPhone, or Android.

Today’s smartphones are capable of managing and organizing multiple contact lists, including those stored in different locations. What you should avoid now is storing contacts in your phone’s address book. Instead, it’s better to rely on some type of internet-based service (Cloud service) to hold your contacts. Some of these include:

  • Microsoft Outlook or Exchange (such as your work email account.)
  • Gmail
  • Hotmail/Outlook.com
  • Yahoo!

Chances are you already have an account with one of these services for personal email, work email, etc. but don’t fully use its capabilities. It’s time to change that.

Get Your Contacts Off Your Phone

Unfortunately, there are really no quick or easy ways to accomplish this, unless your wireless provider already backs up your contacts. If the cell phone store transferred your contacts to your new smartphone, they’re likely stored within your phone itself. As mentioned before, this is the worst place to store contact information–or any information, really–since it’s easily lost.

Move to the Cloud

Though this process may be time-consuming (depending on how many contacts you have), you’ll only ever need to do this ONCE. Ever.

First, you need to determine which cloud service you’re going to use. This should be a service that you’re familiar with, and one that you’re comfortable using. If you use Yahoo! for email, use Yahoo! If you use Hotmail, use Hotmail, etc. This provides the benefit of also using your address book with your email service. Once you’ve chosen your service, log into your account (or create one, if needed). While each service is different, they should provide options for Contacts, Email, and Calendars.

Now, begin manually entering all of your contacts into the service’s website. Use this opportunity to combine those work, home and cellphone numbers for each contact, so each person has only a single contact entry. Feel free to add additional details now, such as their birthday, addresses, spouse information, etc. It will come in handy later on.

As mentioned before, some wireless carriers have their own backup solutions. The problem with those is that they’re tied into that particular carrier, and don’t provide the same benefits as having them elsewhere (more on this later). However, if your contacts are backed up to your carrier, most will allow you to EXPORT them, which can prevent you having to manually enter them all. Because each service and wireless carrier is different, you may need to contact them for assistance exporting your contact information. Once exported to your computer, you can them IMPORT that information into your desired service, bypassing the need to manually enter them.

Once you’ve got your contact information entered, and organized the way you want, it’s time to sync them to your phone.

Sync Your Contacts

Now that your contacts are safely in the cloud, it’s time to get them onto your phone. Again, because each service is different, the instructions may vary slightly, so these instructions will be relatively vague.

  1. On your smartphone, navigate to your Settings, and choose to add an account.
  2. Choose the service that you’ve saved your contacts to (Yahoo!, Hotmail, Google, etc.)
  3. Enter your login information for the service where your contacts are stored.
  4. You should be prompted to choose which items to sync (Email, Contacts, Calendar, etc.)
  5. Done!

Once you’ve completed the setup, your information will begin syncing with your phone.

What are the benefits?

There are so many benefits to using cloud-based contacts that it’s hard to narrow down, but here are just a few:

  • Multiple devices can access the same information. This means that your computer, tablet, cellphone, and any other computer you use can all have access to the same contact list. Any changes you make on one automatically sync to all the other devices you’ve setup for that account, and if you change cellphones, getting your contacts back is as easy as logging into an account.
  • Cross-platform – This means that no matter what type of computer or cellphone you use, they can receive your data. So you can have a PC at home, and an iPhone/iPad, or Android device, and all those devices can access the same data. This isn’t the case if your contacts are only on your cellphone, or backed up to your wireless carrier.
  • Instant updates – Anytime you make an update to a contact, those changes are nearly instantly available on all the other devices you use. So for instance if somebody changes their email address, and you update that on your cellphone, you’ll also have that new email address on your computer when you go to email them the next time.
  • Less worry – Even if you lose your cellphone (already worrisome enough), your contacts are already backed up to the Internet, and you no longer have to worry about how to get them back.
  • Easy to transport – Lets say you setup everything on Yahoo! but later decide to switch your primary email to Gmail. Having your information in the cloud makes it very easy to migrate to another service. Many have automated ways to transfer this information, or at minimum an Export/Import option which allows you to avoid manually entering all those contact details again.
  • Add extra information – In addition to phone numbers and email addresses, you can add birthdays, spouses, anniversaries, and even general Notes to each contact. You’ve now got pertinent details about all of your contacts stored safely in one place.
  • Most modern smartphones will also “link” or “join” contacts from Facebook, and other accounts where the same person might reside, into a single contact card on your phone. This prevents having multiple contacts for the same person on your phone, and makes it easier to find any information you might desire about that person.

Tips

  • Keep work and personal information separated. This is just good practice for all aspects of information, including contacts, calendars, email, etc. Smartphones will still display both items together, but it’s easier to view work and personal information separately, which helps improve work/life balance; not to mention if you’re suddenly terminated from work, you don’t lose any personal information, since it won’t be stored on company systems.
  • Don’t use iCloud for contacts — Though better than nothing, iCloud is still platform-dependent, meaning if you don’t use an Apple product, you can’t access that information. This is similar to relying on your wireless carrier to back up your contacts.
  • When creating new contacts on your phone, be sure you’re creating them for the account you’ve setup, and not adding them directly into the phone memory. You’ve gone to the trouble of getting your cloud contacts setup, so continue using it. Most phones have an option to set a default account (to set which account to add information to without you choosing each time), and you should choose that. If it’s not immediately obvious what account your contact is being added to, contact your carrier for help.
  • Ask for help – Your wireless carrier has dedicated support staff to answer questions about your phone; don’t be afraid to call them and ask for help; you’re already paying their salaries.
  • Security – If you’re worried about your account being hacked, and your information falling into the wrong hands, don’t be. Most of these services now offer two-step authentication, which makes it virtually impossible for someone who’s not authorized to gain access to your account. Once enabled, your information is more secure than ever before.

So now that you’ve moved your contacts to the cloud, and gotten them synced up to your phone, sit back and relax, knowing that your contacts will never be lost again. You won’t have to post anything, or send out requests for phone numbers again. If your phone is lost or destroyed, just log in to your account from a new phone, and voila!–contacts are back, just the way they were.