One of the biggest features of the highly-anticipated Palm Pre is the contact and calendar management system called “Synergy.” With this new functionality, your Facebook, Google, AIM, and/or Microsoft Exchange contact data is merged together, de-duped, and made available to you within your phone’s contacts.
While it’s great to see a mobile device include out-of-box functionality for contact import from webmail and social networking sites, there’s still a major problem with this type of syncing: no filters. You see, most people don’t want their entire contact list from any online resource dumped into their phone. The reason is simple – we just don’t phone all our online friends.
Contact Sync: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Think about who you’ve friended on Facebook. Unless you’ve been extremely selective, I can guarantee you that you have more than a small handful of what can only be called casual, online acquaintances. Maybe they’re people you know from around the ‘net or maybe they’re those old high school friends who wanted to catch up. Either way, what they’re not is people who you need on speed dial.
Now think about who’s in your Gmail address book. If you’ve been with Gmail since the beta days (oh wait, they’re still in beta…ok…the private beta days), your address book there is probably over-crowded with hundreds if not thousands of random email addresses belonging to people you don’t know, bots, and auto-responders. Hardly the kind of data you’d want in your phone.
And yet, on the Pre, all this data is being dumped into your device without any sort of advanced filtering going on. That would almost be OK if the phone also offered some sort of “favoriting” or filtering mechanism after the data is loaded so you could see different views of your contacts, but instead, they’re just all there. Instead of a simple, compact list where it’s easy to find your actual contacts, you have no choice but to start typing to find someone by name. There’s simply too much data for scrolling to be worthwhile.
All-or-Nothing is Good for Nothing. Why Can’t We Sync Lists?
This problem isn’t limited to the Pre alone. Android pulls in all your Gmail contacts and some of the contact apps for iPhone which sync with Facebook like MyPhone+ for Facebook(iTunes URL) just dump your friend list data in its entirety, too.
This is a shame, especially considering that both Google and Facebook as well as many other webmail services offer ways to create contact lists or, as they’re called in Facebook “friend lists.” But why isn’t there a program that lets you pick and choose which lists come into your phone? Why is it all-or-nothing?
Call, Email, or Text…What about Tweet, Wall Post, and Share?
But too much of a good thing isn’t the only problem with contact management programs today. There’s also the fact that they only let you communicate in traditional ways: call, text message, or email. Why don’t contact managers offer features that let you send a tweet to your friend? Or post something to their Facebook wall? These new types of public communication are just as important as the old ones.
Phone calls and texts are great for private, personal chats. Emails are better for sharing info – especially attachments – and communicating with business colleagues who don’t need to be bothered with small talk. But Twitter and Facebook let you share something with a friend…and also with a network. On Twitter, that’s a more public type of sharing (if it’s an “@” reply, that is) and on Facebook, it’s somewhat public, but with a closer network of friends.
Then there’s the issue of multimedia sharing. Why can’t I post a video recorded with my phone to YouTube at the same time I send it to my friend’s phone, or do the same for a photo and post it to flickr, MMS, or another device?
The closest application we’ve seen to offer this sort of functionality is Asurion’s social address book, which debuted at DEMO 09. Unfortunately though, the app is limited to Android phones and is still in private beta.
Developers: Enough with the Twitter Apps, Build this Instead
With all the growth taking place in social networking sites over the past few years, the ability to incorporate the social element more deeply into our phone’s contact list is an area that is crying out – perhaps even screaming – for innovation. But instead of building something useful like this, so many of today’s developers seem too content to create yet another Twitter application,or even clones of ones that already exist!
Why isn’t someone working on an address book application that will blow Palm Pre’s “Synergy” out-of-the-water? We want to see something that makes the Pre look behind the times. We want to see something powerful and, oh, while you’re at it…cross-platform too. (Cough, iPhone first please, cough). If someone out there is building this app, please let us know. We’d be the first to sing its praises.