Transferring your Contacts to Samsung Galaxy Nexus

25.12.2011

tl;dr:
If you haven’t synchronized your contacts with Gmail contacts before, export them from your Outlook in vcf format using  a third party data export plugin, copy the vcf files to your Nexus device and then manually import them from “People”.

Having broken the glass on my old Samsung Galaxy S a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have to think much about what to buy as its successor. The new hardware and the fourth edition of the Android operating system were arguments enough to buy a Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

The obvious first task at hand when you acquire a new telephone and connect it to all networks and accounts obviously include importing the contacts. The way I managed my contacts in the past was to keep a tidy contact database in Outlook and then synchronize it with whatever phone I was using (two HTCs, a Nokia and the Samsung Galaxy S). The tool I was using to synchronize the contacts between my Outlook and phone was Samsung Kies and I must say it didn’t do its job as well as I’d like to. The first time I used it with the Galaxy S it deleted all my Outlook contacts and I had to salvage them from the deleted items. Sometime later it created duplicates of all my contacts,  shuffling first names and last names. I never took the time to introduce some necessary order into my base of some 2.000 contacts (duplicates including). Also, I never felt the need to synchronize my contacts with Gmail, as I am not using it for business or personal purposes.

I immediately discovered Samsung Galaxy Nexus does not run with Kies. It is a Google phone running on Samsung hardware and it contains no Samsung branded software. The way to synchronize your contacts is by linking your phone to the Google account you are using. The Contacts section of Gmail offers some functions for importing the contacts in csv (multiple contacts) or vCard (single contacts) form (see More/Export). As I had no access to my Outlook yesterday when I undertook to transfer the contacts to my new Nexus, I began by importing the contacts from the old Galaxy S in Kies, and saved them in CSV format. It took me some 4 or 5 hours to manually purge the contact list of duplicates, merge different entries for the same people and delete the contacts I no longer need. I was left with some 600 contacts having phone numbers (and some of them also e-mails, addresses, fax numbers, company names etc.) and some 400 contacts without phone numbers. As it was already past midnight, I decided I’d only try to migrate the 600 contacts with phone numbers to the Nexus.

It turned out it was impossible to import the csv list into Gmail Contacts. Even though the field names were exactly according to some instructions found online, Gmail kept dumping all the data fields like phone, email and address into the Notes field. Gmail wouldn’t import the csv file exported from Outlook either. Upon synchronizing these contacts with the Nexus, I discovered it is impossible to search the contacts by the content of Notes field. Feeling Google should put more efforts into making the contact import work and also provide better support, I was quite disappointed and had to find another solution.

As I was unable to import the contacts into Gmail, the only solution left was to prepare the vCard files for each contact, dump them into Nexus’ storage and then manually import them. I did this by importing my csv list into an empty Outlook 2010 account and then exporting the contacts in vCard (vcf) format using a third party data export plug in. I suppose you could also use any other csv to vcf conversion tool, but I didn’t bother to look for one that works. I then copied the 600+ exported vcf files to a new folder on the Nexus, and then manually imported them from “People”. The notification bar crashed somewhere along the import, but the imported contacts seem to be fine. Three hours after having a tidy csv file, the contacts were finally in my new Nexus.

Technicalities:
1. Prepare your csv file so that each different data field is in its own column (given name, family name, email1, email2, phone1, phone2…). In this contact migration method, the field names are not important.
2. Import the csv file to Outlook under File/Open/Import/Import from another program or file. In one of the next stesp you will have to map the data fields in your csv file to Outlook’s data fields. Be careful mapping the fields and then make sure your contacts imported OK.
3. Install the Outlook Data Export plugin from here. Mark your Contacts folder in Outlook and export your contacts in vCard (vcf) format  (Add-ins/Outlook data export/Export contacts).
4. Connect the Nexus to your computer with the data cable, create a folder and copy the vcf files to it.
5. Import the vcf files under People/Settings/Import/Export/Import from storage. This takes some time, depending on the number of contacts, and may crash your notification bar, requiring a reboot.
6. You are done. The Nexus will automatically sync the contacts to Gmail contacts according to your sync settings.

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