Recently, a friend of mine with an iPhone lost all of their contacts because they stopped using MobileMe.  I’ve had an iPhone since they were first released here in Australia, and never had the need to use MobileMe.  They were using the free trial, and cancelled the account as they did not think the service was worth the subscription fee.  The worst thing was they would have to pay the fee to get the contacts back from MobileMe.

This got me thinking… If I was to lose my phone, or lose my contacts off my phone, I don’t have a backup of them anywhere other than the iTunes backups.  I found out that you can sync your contats to Google Contacts, and is easily done through iTunes.

Seeing as I already had a Google account (I’ve been using Google Apps for a few years now for my domain), I figured I’d give it a shot to see how it all works.  First things first, I backed up my iPhone, and my Google Contacts, I strongly suggest you do the same before changing any syncing options for your phone, just in case anything goes wrong.

My first concern was which direction the syncing goes… would I lose all my iPhone contacts and my Google Contacts be pushed to the phone?  Or would I lose all my Google Contacts…  Well, it’s a 2-way sync.  It merged both the phone and google lists together, so now I have all my iPhone contacts in my Google Contacts account.  A good time to take another backup of Google Contacts.

Now, during my research into the iPhone and Google Contacts, I came across Google Sync.  This was interesting to me, as it allowed you to set up your Google Account as though it was a Miscrosoft Exchange server, which will take care of your contacts, calendar and email, with push notifications (if you wish).  This was interesting because it’s a way to sync a Google Calendar to your iPhone calendar without any 3rd party apps.

So now I have my iPhone contacts synced to Google, I thought I’d give this method a try and see how it worked.  I followed the steps on Google Help, and it worked flawlessly… almost.  I opened my contacts, and I had duplicates of all my contacts.  This was because in step 13, I kept my phone contacts, and seeing as I’d already synced my contacts to Google, I now have two copies.  The phone version, and the Google version.  Once I had verified everything else was working fine, I went back into the settings for the Exchange account, then disabled and re-enabled the contacts syncing.  This prompts again what you would like to do with your local contacts.  This time I clicked the Delete option, safe in the knowledge I had my backups in case anything went wrong).  I was happy to see that I no longer had duplicates, and the contacts were synced with Google Contacts.

The final step was to go back to iTunes and stop manually syncing with Google Contacts, as this is automatically done through the exchange set up.

So far so good.  I think that this solution is a great (and free) alternative to MobileMe, so long as you don’t need features such as iDisk and Remote Wipe, then this is a perfect solution.  Plus, it’s good to know if I don’t have my phone with me, but can access the web, I have access to all my contacts.