Android Contacts - Link and Unlink / Join and Separate

Keep contacts in one place, from Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, Domino or Outlook. This is how to link and unlink them

Update January 2022: Not much has changes since 2010 when my wife got her first Samsung Galaxy. Gmail and Yahoo still don't handle events and invitations in a way that is understood on other platforms. iOS pride themself to be different and therefore isn't meaningful. So I'm just keeping to the basics.

We are using HCL Domino messaging, calendaring and contacts. It is well integrated with other leading platforms and follows the established standards. We still have a Gmail, Yahoo and iCloud account. It was just not possible to setup a Android or iOS device without signing up with their service. So here we are today.

Multiple accounts means duplication. Some contacts appear in more than one account. All the social services have their own contact profile integration and this adds to the confusion.

Since day one, Android had a way to link (or join) these contacts and show them as one contact profile. It does not change the profiles, it is a visual aid to make them appear as one.
Depending on platform and release, this function may be referred to as Join and Separate or Link and Unlink.

Android keys This documentation is based on Android 2.1 on the Samsung Galaxy. Little has changes since then. There are three function keys which are frequently used in this documentation.

I will also use the right-arrow bracket to indicate a sequence of options you need to tap. For example >Contacts > Menu Keymeans to tap on the Contacts icon which opens the list of contacts, then on the Menu Key which opens the options associated with the Contacts.

Please refer to your smartphone documentation for more details.

What is a SIM card?
SIM card Most phones have a removable SIM card. This card is your phone number and can also store contact information. When you put the card into another phone, you move the phone number and the SIM-only contacts to the new phone.
IMPORTANT: The phone has to be unlocked for this to work. The SIM card format has changed over the years. Your service provider may issue another SIM card, but they will be able to transfer any information to the new card.

Android Basics
The basic concept is that the Contacts in Android are the sum of all contacts, no matter if they are in Lotus Notes, Google, Facebook or any other place that has an Account configured.

list of accounts Android comes with a list of Integrated Accounts. These Accounts have to be configured before they can connect to the service provider.
To view the integrated contact accounts, find your Account setup and >Add account

Tapping on one of the services on the integrated contact accounts menu opens the set up menu for the account.
Even if an account is setup, lets say the Facebook account, you can choose to synchronize the contacts or not.

These exceptions apply.

  • Contact information that are stored on the SIM card can not be linked.
  • If you try to synchronize the contacts between systems such as Google and Facebook, this is NOT discussed here.

    Managing contacts
    list of contacts Some contacts show an icon to the right. The green icon is a contact in HCL Domino, the black icon is a contact in Google.
    No icon indicates a local contact and if two or more icons are shown, this indicates a Linked contact.
    In the case of John Doe, Android takes the information from HCL Domino AND Google and lists both entries as one.

    Edit contact Now we update John Doe.
    Tap on John Doe to open the profile, then
    >Menu Key >Edit
    Tap>Edit contact

    Update contact On top you see the different accounts where the contact information is kept. You MUST choose which profile you are going to update. Only the one you choose, the highlighted one, will be updated.

    Contact on SIM card As mentioned above, contacts that are stored on the SIM card can not be linked. These are the contacts with the SIM card icon. You can however copy them from and to the phone contacts.

    How to Unlink a contact?
    When you setup a new account, Android may automatically link some contacts.

    Unlink a contact I have a profile for John Doe in HCL Domino and Google. Android thenLinkedthe two based on some logic and shows the two profiles as one. As you could see above, you still edit the individual profiles separately. What happens if John Doe from HCL Domino is not the same as the John Doe from Google? Now we need toUnlinkthe two.
    Tap on the profile that has multiple icons to open the contact details as seen to the left.
    Slide down to theLinked Contactsheading and tap on the section.

    Unlink Tap on the of the entry you need to remove from the link.
    We only have two profiles, so it is not important which one we unlink.

    Unlink The result shows immediately

    Unlink And back in the Contacts view, both John Doe show as individual entries.

    I use the same example from above. Now we have two John Doe profiles and one for John Butler. The three contacts come from three different sources, the phone contacts (John Butler without an icon), John Doe from Google and from Lotus Notes. If this is one and the same person, we only need to see one entry. So we need toLinkthe three.

    How to Link a contact?
    Link Open the contact that needs to show in the contacts view. If you prefer the contact to show as John Butler, tap on John Butler. If you prefer to show the contact as John Doe, tap on one of the John Doe.
    Then slide down to the Linked Contacts heading and tap on the section. You should see something like the example to the right.
    Now tap >Add link Contact

    Link You see a selection of Suggested contacts. If you find a match there, tap on the contact. If you don't see the entry, tap on 'All contacts' and select the contact from the list.

    Repeat the process with all entries that should be linked.

    Link The result can be verified in the contact listing under the Linked Contacts heading. You notice the three icons, one for Lotus Notes, one for Google and one for the phone.

    This is it, very simple and yet very powerful. I do like the fact that contacts are kept apart but don't clutter the contact list with multiple entries. After working with Android for this document here, I wish I had something similar on my Blackberry.


    First published on December 21, 2010
    Last revised on January 18, 2022
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