How to keep your Android contacts current and duplicate-free

Although smartphones have progressed exponentially through the last decade, I'm still finding myself bumping up against remnants of the past.

Take my contacts list, for instance, or my "electronic Rolodex," if you will. I've had these contacts since I held my first smartphone in 2010. But there were some strange happenings back then, including friends who were still tending separate numbers because of their former T-Mobile Sidekicks, and weirdly those memories linger on thanks to a snafu in my phone book.

I was reminded of Andy Rubin's first major claim to fame.

I was reminded of Andy Rubin's first major claim to fame just the other day, as I texted a multi-paragraph diatribe to my friend who I figured was avoiding me for whatever reason (it was probably my fault). It turns out that I'd simply been sending messages to the wrong number for the last three months! Somehow, I resurrected my friend's phone number for his Sidekick from back in the day, and it turns out that I never deleted it from my Google account.

I eventually remedied the situation, but it got me thinking about contacts maintenance, and how summer is the right time to take some time to eliminate those extra numbers taking up space and maybe merging any duplicates you've collected over the past few months. After all, your digital phonebook can very easily become jumbled in the process, especially if you're always switching phones.

It's also surprisingly difficult to find a decent contacts manager in the Google Play store — at least at first search. Simpler Merge Duplicates (opens in new tab) and Merge+ (opens in new tab) seem to be the more popular titles available, but I didn't like that the former requires you to log in with an external account. There are also apps like Contacts+ (opens in new tab) and Sync.Me (opens in new tab), both of which offer caller ID and dialer functionality as well as a bevy of other features. However, I like to use something that's a little less intrusive.

Contacts Optimizer is one of the best contacts management app I've used thus far, though there are plenty more to choose from.

Contacts Optimizer is one of the best contacts management app I've used thus far, though there are plenty more to choose from.

I've always been partial to Contacts Optimizer (opens in new tab) because it works locally to find duplicates. It's also very thorough at detecting blank entries, fixing country codes, and digitizing vanity numbers, not to mention it can locate contacts that you can't even call because the number is altogether incorrect. There's an easy-to-use wizard you can toggle on to fill in empty contacts, and you can check on which of your apps have inherited weird metadata as a result of jumping around platforms. There's also a data backup ability, and MOBILedit offers a PC-compatible suite if you're aching to take your contacts management to the extreme.

Of course, you don't have to use a fancy third-party contacts app if you don't want to. Instead, you can manage your contacts manually from the Google Contacts web app, which gives you access to all those years of data you didn't even know you had. Google Contacts also has a duplicates locator, or you can use it to import and export your entire address book. Don't expect turnkey automation here, though; if you want that, you'll have to try one of the apps I mentioned above.

How do you manage?

With the massive number of contact apps available in the Play Store, and duplicates plaguing so many smartphones, we're curious to hear what your phone book maintenance methodologies are. Do you practice a ritualistic cleanse session each season? Or have you simply given up keeping tabs on whether your cloud data is doing what it's supposed to do?

Leave us a comment, especially if there's a contacts management app you particularly like.

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

  • I'm very picky when it comes to my contacts. I don't just add anyone, I have to know you on some personal level before I bother adding your number to my contacts list. When I do add someone, I always add them in the +1XXXXXXXXXX format because it ensures I'm able to call them from anywhere.
  • I do the same thing.
  • Well having an iPhone now things are different. I gave up trying years ago after owned multiple HTC phones...I still to this day have garbled text under contact "notes" from htcs system...
  • I use to own HTC phone too and have the same thing. I'm just too lazy to clean them up.
  • Mine is usually the good ole manual cleanse method. When I have some time I just want to kill I will pull up the contacts list and go through each one. I edit where needed, merge if necessary, and delete what I no longer need. Painstaking, yes; time consuming, definitely; but I find it to be an occasional necessity.
  • Mine are a mess. I jump between Android, iPhone and Windows Phones all the time so when adding my Google, Apple and Outlook contacts to any of those phones they all end up duplicated or triplicated or more. Factor in Skype and WhatsApp etc and it ends up one royal mess. Every now and the I do a spring clean and try and sort it once and for all but it doesn't take long to screw up again
  • I moved all of my contacts to Google as soon as I switched to Android. Google Contacts sync flawlessly between Android and Windows Phone, and its webapp puts Outlook People to dust (the native Windows 10 People app is really good though, not sure why MS can't get it right on web). Unless you have a good reason to keep your contacts on different accounts (personal vs work maybe?), sticking to a single address book is the way to go.
  • Managing contacts is a task!!! But my biggest issue is what to do with old phone numbers for contacts. I learned quickly when deleting the old number that I lost all access to previous messages with that contact. Now, my only solution has been to rename the old "Mobile" number to "Old Mobile." The annoying downside is that I may get recommendations on Facebook or WhatsApp with the contact suggestions for the people that now have that contact number. Any suggestions for this scenario? Thanks!
  • You know.. I've always wondered why I get random recommendations on Facebook. And I do the same thing to old numbers. If this is truly this case, this could be scary. I could just randomly add numbers, see who Facebook starts suggesting and now I have a number with a Facebook profile.
  • What I do is copy paste the old numbers to the notes field under contacts. It is always available but wont come up in contacts search, nor wont show as suggestions in FB or Wsapp.
  • A big issue I deal with, for a lot of people, is duplicates between 'Phone', 'Verizon Cloud' and 'Google'. They'll have the same contact on all 3 systems, or in one but not the other. The problem is the default Dialer/Contacts app will default to 'Phone'. Or Verizon will tweak the Contacts app to default to Verizon Cloud, etc. As such, their contacts are all over the place. And usually will get lost if the phone is lost or damaged. And worse is that the Contacts app usually won't let you set a default storage location. You may have to remember to select 'Google' each time. And it may not let you switch the storage location. So you have to manually delete and re-add to correct the storage location. It shouldn't be this complicated.
  • Useful information if I ever have the patience to try again :p
  • I miss Windows Phone's Facebook Contact photo sync.
  • I switched from WinPhone to Android last year and feel your pain! My brother swears Android does that, but I just figure mine isn't working because I'm trying to still manage contacts in my Outlook account. It...isn't going well.
  • Number 1 thing is to turn OFF 'automatically add contacts' when sending email.
  • My note 5 just said "delete limit exceeded" after using contact optimizer.
  • One thing is for sure- within 24 hours of cleaning my contacts out, I get that random text from an unknown number, and have to play 20 questions trying to figure out who she is.
    Being single now a days is hard without having a million contacts. Now, If there was an app that I could place all these numbers in and have them "expire" in like 6 months I would be all for it.
  • good call, Florence, on the "weird metadata"....I noticed that some of my contacts have this garbled mess at the bottom with "...HTC..." in it. I haven't owned an HTC phone since the Thunderbolt (which was the first 4G android phone)! might have to give the app you recommended a try. thanks!
  • I've always thought there should be a better way to handle families. Some info is shared (address, landline if they have one etc.) but other info is individual: Cell phone. I usually create one contact for the family and label as Jim Cell or Jane Cell. But then when I get a text or call it's difficult to tell who it is because it will just say Jim and Jane Smith. Google also doesn't handle the same number in multiple contacts very well in caller ID. My doctor used to be a the husband of a close friend. So I had him under the family contact and a work phone number there in case I was searching by his name. Then I had another office contact for the practice. When the office called, I often thought it was my friend calling not the doctor's office. Ideally I'd like a way to link people together as a family.
  • Same for businesses too.
    I always get first in the alphabet for family or work. Stinks but it would be an issue to figure out.
  • mine is a true mess. I use Google Contacts, but since the most recent(?) update I can'ẗ manually merge contacts any more, at I have to wait for the app to detect duplicates (which it sucks at!).
  • I find that when I add a contact to my phone it rarely if every syncs up with Google Contacts in Gmail..not sure why but its not the way I expected it would be. When I get a new phone I'm going to have to manually enter contacts it appears
  • Via IFTTT it drags in my contacts from work (Outlook and iOS), and Linkedin also add to my contacts - so there's a lot of duplicates.
    Please Google, bring back manual merge in the Contatcs app!
  • I use Google Contacts!
  • Does anyone know of a way to keep Microsoft contacts and Google contacts in sync, but not simply copying from one to another? I'd like them to mirror each other, but not show up as duplicates on my phone. I recently switched from Windows 10 Mobile, but would like to keep the possibility open of switching back if anything ever happens in the next year or two. So I don't want to just *see* my MS contacts along side my Google contacts. I'd like to maybe doing an initial merge kinda deal, clean it up, and then keep them the same. Any ideas? Maybe some of those mentioned in the article? I'm going to take a look at those, but can't do so til I get home from work.
  • You can enable contact sync on Outlook for Android but I find it unreliable - delete a contact, for instance, and it'll eventually come back. I ended up migrating my contacts to Google just a few days after switching. If you ever go back to Windows Phone just add your Google account and there you go. Oddly enough Windows 10's People app plays really well with Google contacts (my mom still uses her old Gmail account on her Lumia 640, it's a breeze). You could always use an app such as FullContact to keep your address build in sync but you'd have to pay for it. EDIT: you may simply add your MSA as a Exchange account on system settings
  • Interesting article, as I am still very annoyed by the contacts management here on Android. I switched from Blackberry and former Windows Phone, so yes, shame on me I am still rooted in M$ world using an exchange account. I tried a lot but couldn't manage to sync contacts properly. Still only can add and edit them within Outlook on my Computer if I want them to sync correctly. Changes I make on the phone are being ignored. At least I managed to get the calendar sync correctly. (btw I am using Blackberry Apps here on my Android Moto Z Play Phone) If you guys have any ideas of how to fix it, please let me know 😉 Thx mH
  • Just
  • I use FullContact (web, not mobile app) as my primary source of contacts. It syncs to my personal (Gmail) and business (G Suite) accounts so that they stay in sync. I then use piesync to sync from my G Suite contacts to Prosperworks and Contactually (two CRM systems that I use). In the end, they all stay in sync and I can manage them easily through the FullContact web interface. Here is a crude drawing of how it looks:
  • I have used this configuration for 5+ years across 3 phones and I have zero issues. First and foremost, turn off any email clients or other options that auto add contacts to your phone. I manually add or selectively identify contacts to add by right clicking in Outlook to add a contact. Mostly, I add them manually. I add 2-4 contacts a month generally. That said, I have my phone settings set to setup all contacts on Google, not to the phone directly which can be done and causes duplicates. That provides a backup if ever needed. Secondly, I use Outlook on my desktop. I then have an application on my desktop called Go Contacts Sync Mod which is easy to setup as it finds your Outlook contacts on your desktop and asks for your Google account and password. You setup how often you want the synch to run and how to handle conflicts which I have defaulted to let me decide. Very rarely do I have conflicts as the application synchs very With everything setup properly, I can either add a contact to my phone (which is automatically added to Google and then the Go Contacts Sync Mod automatically syncs to my desktop).
  • Sorry, my prior post did not completely continuing I can do the reverse by adding a contact to Outlook on my desktop and the Go Contacts Sync Mod automatically adds to Google which in turn Google adds to my phone. So, basically I am setting up a contact only once (either phone or Outlook) and within seconds it is on the other device. Keys to success are:
    1) Never allow auto add to contacts
    2) Set phone settings to synch to Google and not allow an option to add to phone only
    3) I use Go Contacts but I am sure there are other synching products but this product works seamlessly with Google and Outlook I hope this helps others as this is one item I never fiddle with or worry about as there are too many other nags with my phone I need to tackle.
  • You can go to google contacts online and run a duplicate checker there.
  • Joined Android this year, on Nougat. And coming from webOS by way of a year or two on Windows Phone 8.1, disappointed by WM10. I think in general Google could take a lesson from their dying or defeated competitors. I didn't used to have to think about this. Synergy on webOS and the People hub on Windows Mobile used to do this for me very well. Facebook, Google, Outlook, Exchange, old one-off contacts, or didn't matter. Why do I need a third party app to get all nosey in my contact info for something I expect a smartphone to handle? Why was "the other guy" so much better at it? That said, I use Sync.Me and it does a passable job at merging duplicates while begging for more money for more features.
  • I use Microsoft Exchange. Works great!!
  • 94 Contacts right now, and will be less this week.