Update Android contacts with Facebook contact Sync

Update Android contacts with Facebook contact Sync

One of the first things that many Android users discovered after upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.x), much to their dismay, was that their phones would no longer associate their friends’ Facebook photos with their Google contact records. Previous versions of Android would automatically associate a Google contact with their Facebook profile photo & details, when using the contact sync feature of the Facebook Android app.

I was so disappointed to see that this feature was no longer available on my brand new Galaxy Nexus. It really bugs the hell out of me to have contacts in my phone that do not have an associated photo or image.

The break-down appears to be due to continued rivalry and feuding between Google and Facebook, who no longer want to allow each-other the competitive advantage of being able to export/import/sync contacts from one service to another. Fortunately there are a few workarounds to help you out with this issue.


I’ve tried multiple solutions, and so far, my favorite has been the Facebook contact Sync Android app by Danut Chereches (shown above). Yes, it sucks to have to use a 3rd party app to sync your contacts. Yes, it requires some manual contact editing / joining and work to get all of your contacts to sync up correctly, but it is a decent solution and works as advertised.

If you’d prefer to try out a Windows desktop app for syncing your Facebook friend photos to your Google contacts, you can try out Heart of Angel’s Google Contact Sync app. I found the Facebook contact Sync Android app to be easier and more effective.

If you’re interested in the official “why” of this feature getting removed from Android, here is the statement from Google:

“We believe it is very important that users are able to control their data. So in the over-the-air update for Nexus S, we have a small change to how Facebook contacts appear on the device. For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app. Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability. Facebook contact data will continue to appear within the Facebook app. Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data. We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices. We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation — and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well.”

I expect Google and Facebook to continue their rivalry, to the detriment of their customers, going into the future.

About Wes Novack

Wes is a Technologist working in the software industry, with extensive experience building and managing highly available applications, services, and systems in the public cloud. He has extensive experience with online publishing and building internet communities. Wes enjoys hanging with his family, getting outdoors, skateboarding, hiking, pickelball, tennis, the vegan lifestyle, and a good cup of tea. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) @WesleyTech.

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