There’s a notable lack of good software to bring all the different contacts on several different platforms available today such as mobile, desktop and multiple Google Apps accounts. Even though contact enriching services such as Gist tries to do this it fails on a couple of points that are critical to me.
- No two way sync with for e.g Google Contacts (this is a MUST!)
- Slow and bulky UI
Today I use Google Contacts on my primary Google Apps domain as my base, my one point of sync for mobile (iPhone) and desktop devices. My first encounter with the need to sync between several Google Apps domains occurred when I started up another business and wanted to have my business contacts on more than one Google Apps domain.
In terms of hardware I use an iPhone and a desktop PC on a daily basis that are synced with my primary Google Apps domain, so whenever I enter information into any of the devices they are in sync with the main Google Contacts. On the PC I usually access my contacts through Gmail, but on occassion I also use Thunderbird, which is configured to sync with the above domain using the Zindus plugin.
I was surprised to find that syncing between two different Google Apps domains was not available straight from Google which raised the question “There must be more people than me that work for several different companies (domains) that need their contacts kept in sync?”
Today I will give you my opinions on the two services that I like the most for the above task, those being, bring it on (you know there´s a VS coming right?):
Soocial VS Plaxo
Soocial – light weight contact syncing with neat features:
My solution so far has come in the shape and form of the contact syncing service called Soocial. Soocial syncs my two Google Apps domains and, if I should need it, other services such as Hotmail, Yahoo and Outlook etc. It does this with great success and it adds small but convenient features like merging duplicates, correctly formats my phone numbers and it even syncs my contacts profile pictures.
This functionality is really too good and too transparent for me to drop in favour of services that focus more on enriching your contacts with integrations to different social media services. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for adding more information to my contacts, preferrably automatically, but there must be a way of syncing them back to a contact manager such as Gmail or even the native contact manager in the iPhone through Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.
Soocial offers a free service for those of you who have less than 250 contacts and 2 connections. If you like me have more than this you will need to pay about 3 EUR / 4.5 USD per month for the next step which is up to 1000 contacts, 5 connections and more. For more details you can visit Soocials pricing / plan page.
But if I want more? Can I not get some juice in my contacts, can I not pimp them with the latest info and what not? There is a way and I will tell you all about it below.
Plaxo – Letting your contacts control their own information
I tried Plaxo a while back and then it suffered the same fate as Gist does today, meaning no 2-way sync with Google Apps. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when they updated Plaxo so that now it does indeed support syncing back to your Google account (or other service).
Plaxo, unlike Soocial, links your adress book to other Plaxo users. Meaning if I add you to my contacts and you also have an account at Plaxo.com, it will suggest that I update my contact info with the information you entered on your own. You can set the sensitivity towards these types of updates, either it can perform this automatically or you have to approve all changes.
Features include a more comprehensive duplicate merger than found in Soocial, Plaxo also seems to sync your contacts on a more regular interval than Soocial. Some downsides though is that Plaxo currently does not support syncing of contact pictures back to Google Contacts and I have had some error messages appear when syncing with multiple Google Apps accounts, something that disappeared after re-connecting, but still.
“Usually I am allergic to having to start an app in order to call people…”
There is a mobile app (only iPhone and Blackberry at the moment) available for Plaxo, it basically replaces your current Exchange sync (the one I have to Google Apps) with it’s own sync of your address book to Plaxo.com. Usually I am allergic to having to start an app in order to call people, but this app puts the contacts in your native adress book aswell as making them available in the Plaxo app.
However the sync between Plaxo and your phone only occurs when manually starting the app, which is not good, and which is why I am sticking with my Google Apps Exchange sync, which almost instantly shows me contact changes and updates. Plaxo has said that they will introduce Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync in the future, so I do have my hopes up for that though since it would mean the contact pictures would also be synced.
I mentioned Gist earlier in this post and a comparison is inevitable I suppose. Gist is definately more comprehensive when it comes to social media and finding information on blogs and websites. Plaxo does have some, even though very limited, interactions here aswell. You can tell Plaxo to post FaceBook status updates when you update your Plaxo status and vice versa. You can also display your Tweets on your Plaxo status. You have a dashboard where you can see recent updates made by you or your contacts. This is by no means as comprehensive as Gist, but still worth mentioning.
Also worth noting is the desktop notifier that is available for Windows users. This will notify you of any updates that your contacts are making to their info and or feed. You can select how sensitive it should be and when it should notify you. Could be a neat program to stay up to date on what your contacts are doing, however I have yet to see it in action (need more Plaxo friends?).
Plaxo is also available for free, but unlike Soocial, it does not offer any type of 2-way sync in the free version. To get the sync you need to get the Platinum Sync package (30-day trial available) which clocks in at a slighty more expensive 5 USD / month. You can visit their pricing / plan web page for more info.
I just recently went from Soocial to Plaxo due to Plaxo’s addition of 2-way sync with Google accounts. I am skimming the surface of what Plaxo is capable of and it seems like a neat service. I like both services, but if it is just contact syncing that you want I would suggest going for the marginally cheaper or even free (if you have less than 250 contacts) Soocial.com, their service has been excellent!
If you, like me, have more than 250 contacts you would need to pay for the service anyway, whichever you choose. If that is the case and if you have a desire to become more active with your contacts – adding more information, utilizing a more advanced duplicate merger and web interface I would suggest Plaxo.com.