Zyb: export / copy mobile phone contacts to Gmail / other phone - howto & review

This post is part review, part howto guide, on:
  • how to copy or import your mobile phone contact numbers into Google’s Gmail contacts, if you have a Gmail / Google Mail account, and
  • whether you have Gmail or not, how to easily backup or transfer your contacts between different phones, e.g. if you’re moving networks (as your old SIM card will die when your current phone number is transferred across, wiping out any contacts stored on the SIM).
I recently got a G1 Android phone, and finally decided to export contacts from old mobile phone phonebook to Gmail contacts so that I could access them on the G1, which syncs with Gmail contacts.
But the method outlined below works even if you don’t have a G1 and just want to have your cellphone contacts available on Gmail – as long as you have access to a mobile phone which Zyb supports.
What's Zyb? Zyb (acquired by mobile network operator Vodafone in 2008) is a free online contact & calendaring backup system, which works by synchronising with your mobile phone – as long as they support your make and model of phone. Sadly, they don’t support the G1 yet, so I found a workaround.
Zyb also includes calendar syncing, even SMS in the case of certain models of phone, but I cover only contacts here.

How to use Zyb (contacts only)

  1. Sign up for a free Zyb account. They will of course have to be given your mobile phone number.
  2. Sync your old mobile (as long as it’s supported by Zyb) with Zyb online – they’ll send you an SMS text message when you add your phone; open the text and save the settings, then find the Sync application on your phone and choose the Zyb profile to sync it (I won’t go into these aspects further, Zyb’s support is pretty good, ask them for help if you need it).
  3. If your new mobile phone is supported by Zyb it’s easy to get your old contacts into it - Zyb can synchronise with more than one phone, so just add the new phone to Zyb (even if it’s on a different number) and you can sync it with Zyb so that the contacts from your old phone which you previously synced with Zyb can be transferred to your new phone. You can of course also edit the contacts online etc more easily than on a phone.
  4. While you’re in Zyb, this is not a syncing point but you might want to tick https on Zyb’s Settings page for better security, and Save:

  5. If your new phone is not supported by Zyb, like my G1, or you want to copy your phone contact details across into your Gmail Contacts, then it’s a little bit more complicated – see below.

How to import or copy Zyb contacts into Gmail contacts

This involves a few steps. Be careful to do them all, exactly in the order I say below, or else you may end up with weird contact details in Gmail, or duplicates or empty contacts – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  1. Login to Zyb and check your contacts. Some editing is needed here – other methods may work which don’t require this (if you know one please let me know!), but this is what I found I had to do to get it all to work properly. (You could also take the opportunity to use Zyb to Merge Duplicates (link on the right of the Zyb People screen), if you haven't already.)
  2. For a contact, if any phone number happens to be recorded in a “Voice” field or box, then it won’t transfer across at all, unfortunately:

  3. You will have to Edit the contact and copy and paste the number from the Voice field into a Mobile field, and Save it (yes, even if it’s really a land line telephone number – sorry but that’s the way it is):

  4. Do that for all your contacts on Zyb. Luckily I only had a few like that; those didn’t transfer across properly the first time but left blanks for the phone numbers, which is how I knew what to do instead.
  5. Now, while still logged in to Zyb, go to their feeds page:

  6. In the Contacts line, click on the VCard link, outlined in red above.
  7. This will prompt you to download a vcard.vcf file (in VCard format, obviously). Save it to your computer.
  8. Now go to this excellent free online vcard to CSV converter site (there are other vcard to CSV converters but they don’t work so well):
  9. Browse to select the vcard file you downloaded from Zyb. Under Format, make sure you pick “Gmail (CSV)” before you hit the “convert” button.

  10. It will offer to save the converted file. Save it – vcard.csv – on your computer somewhere you can find.
  11. Now login to Gmail, and click the Contacts link in the list on the left:

  12. Then click the Import link on the right (outlined in red above), and choose the vcard.csv file you saved earlier (see below), then OK.

  13. Now your phone contacts will be added to your Gmail contacts (and, if you have a G1, accessible via your G1 contacts once you sync them up).
This is of course a copy rather than sync of contacts information into Gmail.

Some thoughts on Zyb

Zyb also offers 1-way import of Gmail contacts into Zyb. If you want to do it the other way round it’s a bit more long winded, as I outlined above, because there’s no full export of contacts from Zyb into CSV format – just VCF (and also JSON and FOAF). Those familiar with other formats can of course play round with the feeds made available by Zyb on their feeds page.
My main wishlist issue with Zyb is that I’d like to be able to turn off the sync or set its direction – what if I want to have some numbers on the phone but not on Zyb, or vice versa? If I delete a contact from Zyb, it tries to delete it from my phone too. I want to be able to set the direction of sync. Indeed, I’d like to be able to keep a master contact list on Zyb and decide exactly which items are copied onto which phone. This seems to be a deliberate design feature, but personally I’d prefer it if it were otherwise. I guess I'd like to have a selective copying than syncing option.
I also feel a bit uncomfortable that if I delete some contacts from Zyb, they seem to stay there forever anyway, according to that link (which is a little out of date – actually, you click on the Phonebook dropdown on the People page in order to find your deleted contacts). I’d like to be able to permanently delete certain contacts, call it catharsis, rather than restore them! I know that if I entrust my contact details to them in the first place that shouldn’t bother me, but it does…
On the whole though Zyb provide a very useful service, as long as your phone is supported, and I'd been meaning to review them for a while.
Hope this post is of help to you if you're trying to transfer your mobile phone contacts from phone to phone.

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