iPhone / Gmail / Google Calendar wishlist.

I’ve had my iPhone for about a year now, and while I love it and the fact that it has made me more productive, it is still not perfect. There are still a few things which give me a headache, so I thought I’d compile a wishlist here for no reason other than my own sanity.

To start off, here is the context under which I have compiled this list:

  • Running Windows XP
  • Using Gmail’s hosted mail for my domain
  • Using Google Calendar for all of my events and time tracking
  • Using iPhone 3G, firmware v2.2.1
  • Using iTunes v8.0.2 to manage and sync my data

My main goal is to have all contacts & calendars sync seamlessly between all of my devices: my desktop workstation, my iPhone, and my online Gmail/Google Calendar accounts. To break it down, starting with contacts:

When I first got my iPhone, I synched my contacts with Outlook. This is annoying to me because I hate Outlook. It’s also an unneccesary step because I don’t use Outlook for my email, I use Gmail. So while I had a decent backup of my iPhone contacts on my desktop machine, this didn’t help at all with my daily Gmail usage. In order to keep things in sync I would have to manually export from Outlook to CSV, then import into Gmail. Who wants to manually export/import contacts all the time? I do so much emailing that my contacts change at least weekly, if not daily. Undoubtedly I’d give up on a regular manual sync, causing my contacts to became a clusterfuck of chaos.

Then to my surprise, I noticed that iTunes has an option to sync with Google Contacts. “Yay, my prayers have been answered! I can finally ditch the middleman (Outlook) and my life is complete!” Or so I thought. The problem is that it syncs all of your contacts, even Gmail’s “Suggested Contacts,” which I never use. The sync worked flawlessly, with the unfortunate side effect of filling my iPhone with hundreds of random email addresses, most of which I don’t know who they belong to and I will ever need to contact again. So here is my wishlist to make my iPhone/Gmail experience perfect.

  • iTunes: Allow me to chose which contacts to sync from Gmail. A checkbox of groups would be ideal. If I could disable the syncing of the “Suggested Contacts” group, things would be perfect. Or…
  • Gmail: Allow me to disable the “Suggested Contacts” feature. I don’t like it, don’t use it, and it messes up my iPhone sync. Just add a simple checkbox to settings that allows me to enable/disable Suggested Contacts. How hard is this to add?

First off let me say that I love Google Calendar. I use it to track everything from friend/family birthdays to my work hours as a freelance contractor. The problem here again is that I am reliant on Outlook as the middleman to sync all of my calendars between my Google Calendar and iPhone. I have installed the Google Calendar Sync app, and it works great between Google and Outlook. iTunes then syncs with Outlook so that I have events synced to my iPhone. The problem here is that Google Calendar Sync only syncs your main calendar. I have all birthdays in their own “Birthday” calendar in Google in order to keep them separate from personal/work events. So when I sync calendars, my iPhone doesn’t contain any birthdays because Google Calendar Sync only syncs my main calendar. It sure would be nice to have birthdays on my iPhone! I could move all of the birthdays back into my main calendar, but then they’d be intertwined with my work hour tracking and personal events, resulting in a big confusing mess. So here is what I need in order for this process to be perfect:

  • iTunes: Direct sync with Google Calendar so that I don’t need Outlook and Google Calendar Sync. Also, let me select which calendars to sync. Or…
  • Google Calendar Sync: Allow me to select which calendars to sync.

Overall, I wish that iTunes would sync directly with Gmail and Google Calendar, with the option to select which Contact Groups and Calendars to sync. That way I could ditch the middlemen (Outlook and Google Calendar Sync). I’m sure that these changes will come eventually, but I am throwing a digital temper tantrum here because I want these NOW NOW NOW! What is so frustrating is that these seem like trivial changes that could be made with minimal work. Google has provided APIs for Contacts and Calendars, so why doesn’t iTunes use them to their full potential? Probably because they want me to pay for MobileME. Also, why doesn’t Gmail give users control over their annoying and useless Suggested Contacts feature? Does Google know better than me? Reminds me a lot of that old dinosaur Microsoft. It drives me crazy that fixes which are so simple and obvious haven’t been implemented a full year and a half after the original iPhone was released.

If anyone has any suggestions to tackle the items I’ve listed above, I’m all ears. I know there are better syncing apps out there, but I don’t feel like paying $40 to accomplish something that I feel should be standard in today’s mobile world. Switch to Mac and use iCal? Sure, I’ll get around to that someday. MobileMe? I’ve thought about it, but would rather use a simple and free solution.