iPhone contact synchronization is a mess

If BirdieSync 2.x constantly replaces your girlfriend's photo with your mother's one, this forum is for you...
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grinder2112
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Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:07 pm

iPhone contact synchronization is a mess

Post by grinder2112 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:24 pm

I've been looking for a way to keep my iPhone contacts in sync with my Thunderbird address book. Using Google as an intermediate did not work so well because it sort of flips out on the names. As I understand it, the iPhone displays contacts by concatenating First, Last and Company fields, depending upon which of those fields are populated. Whatever it's doing, I'm happy with. However, when taking it to Google, it screws up those fields because it *need* First and/or Last to be populated. If I have a contact that's just a Company, it tries splitting that in half, so I end up with contacts with names like: Support, Gigabyte Customer.

Ok, so this seems like a lot of discussion about something that does not have anything to do with BirdieSync. I mention it for two reasons: (1) it's backstory on why I'm enthused about finding a direct sync between my iPhone and Thunderbird, and (2) I suspect it's the iPhone's unique perspective on how it displays contact names that might be causing my sync problems. For reference, I'm using a Verizon iPhone 4 and Thunderbird 3.1.9. On to the details of the sync.

To prepare for the sync, I created a new address book in Thunderbird, named "iPhone Contacts," and installed and configured the BirdieSync pc-based server, and the iPhone client. The sync went off smoothly, and created a new item in my Thunderbird address book for each of my 312 iPhone contacts. The created entries are sort of a mess, though. Phone numbers are poorly formatted, but the big problem is with the display name. Here is what I think BirdieSync is doing to generate a display name.

(1) If the iPhone contact as has Company, use that as a Display Name.

(2) If the iPhone has a Home Email, use the username portion of the email address as a Display Name.

(3) If neither Company or Home Email are available, just don't use anything for Display Name.

This has resulted in many of my newly-created Thunderbird address book entries having no Display Name, or a messy, non-descriptive Display Name, in spite of those contacts having a perfectly legitimate First and Last name entry. This is a complete deal breaker for me--the sync is creating a Thunderbird address book that is garbage.

There are some other points and questions I may comment on as well, but this problems seems the most obvious to me now.

Birdy
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Re: iPhone contact synchronization is a mess

Post by Birdy » Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:29 pm

Hello grinder211,
The created entries are sort of a mess, though. Phone numbers are poorly formatted, but the big problem is with the display name. Here is what I think BirdieSync is doing to generate a display name.
BirdieSync synchronizes phone numbers in the same format in which they are stored in the iPhone database. If they are well formated when displayed on the iPhone, it's very likely done by the iPhone contact application itself. And Thunderbird doesn't do anything to format these phone numbers. Note also that it would be complicated for BirdieSync to format these numbers because of differences in each country. And I'm not sure it's up to BirdieSync to format the phone numbers but rather to the contact application itself.

Regarding the display name in Thunderbird, BirdieSync doesn't synchronize the Display Name field because this field doesn't exist on the iPhone. So the "Display name" should be empty in Thunderbird when a contact is synchronized from the iPhone. The behavior you described is the way Thunderbird "computes" a Display name when no one is fulfilled in the contact. This behavior can be reproduced if you manually create a contact in Thunderbird.
Birdy

grinder2112
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:07 pm

Re: iPhone contact synchronization is a mess

Post by grinder2112 » Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:44 pm

Birdy wrote:The behavior you described is the way Thunderbird "computes" a Display name when no one is fulfilled in the contact.
Ok, I see what you mean there.
Birdy wrote:This behavior can be reproduced if you manually create a contact in Thunderbird.
Not so much on this one though. When you manually create a contact by typing in First and/or Last names, Thunderbird will use that input to populate the Display Name. If I delete out that Display Name, then the contact's display in the list of contacts will fall back to the aforementioned computation.

At any rate, if you're telling me this is just the way BirdieSync is, and will continue to be, the rest of this discussion is only moot.

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