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MacnifyingOne cool thing about Macs is that most of their applications interrelate and communicate with each other out of the box. Information bounces across multiple applications seamlessly. Data from Mail can be sent to iCal and Address Book without raising an eyebrow, as I have written in a previous article How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2] How To Instantly Increase Productivity on your Mac [Part 2] Read More . Many Mac users embrace this feature but I’m sure that as newbies to OS X, you might not be familiar with this newly-attained ability.

This week, I’ll be teaching you how to connect your phone to your Mac and sync data between them. You’ll be surprised how easy it is. The main reason most people sync devices is to prevent data loss and to easily recover data from a backup in any event that your device malfunctions.

The main applications that we’ll be looking at are iSync, Address Book and iCal, perhaps iPhoto as well.

But before we begin, you’ll need to check if your mobile device is compatible with iSync. Apple supports most mobile phones from the major manufacturers but there are some exclusions. Generally, most Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia phones are compatible; on the other hand, Samsung being the black sheep, is a bit of a nuisance – they’ve got only 3 compatible phones. If you’ve got a relatively new phone (around 3 years old) it shouldn’t be a problem but it’s better to check and be sure. Additionally, syncing is performed either over a bluetooth connection (which most newer phones should have as standard) or through a sync cable so have those at the ready.

*In case your phone isn’t supported, I recommend Nova Media plugins for iSync. It’s not free but so far, it’s the only solution if you want to get it to work.

Right, let’s get cracking. The first step to syncing your phone with your Mac is to set up a bluetooth connection (or if you have a sync cable, just plug that in and connect your phone). Enable bluetooth on both your Mac and your phone and pair them.

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There will be several interim steps i.e. entering a passcode on the phone and selecting services to use with the phone; have a read to understand what this whole process is about, then just click on ‘Continue’. Once they’re paired, launch iSync.

In iSync’s menu bar, select ‘Edit’ and ‘Add Devices’. It will then search for your phone so remember to keep the bluetooth running. Select your phone from the results to add it to iSync’s list of devices.

On the first sync, you will be asked if you want to merge the data from your phone and your Mac. You must select this option since you have no contacts in your Mac’s Address Book.

Once the synchronization process is over, you’ll be rewarded with your contacts in Address Book and your itinerary in iCal. Easy, isn’t it? Now, to tackle some of the random questions that most newbies may have:

Q: What if I make a change in my Mac’s Address Book and another change in my phone’s contact list? How will this reflect after synchronization?
A: iSync will always only sync the latest changes to each item. If more than a 5% change is detected, iSync will show a confirmation window where you may view the changes which will be made. This alert can be set to show at 5%, 25%, 50% or when any amount of data is modified.

Q: What if I accidentally delete a contact in my phone’s contact list? Will iSync re-sync them from my Mac?
A: Yup. iSync will always merge data to have a copy of each contact in both your phone and your Mac.

Q: Will iSync retrieve the photos I have in my phone?
A: Short answer — no. However, you can transfer them over manually. Here’s how.

  • Click on the bluetooth icon in your menu bar and select browse device
  • Choose your phone from the list
  • A Bluetooth File Exchange window will then pop up allowing you to view the contents of your phone
  • Select the files you want to copy over and press ‘Get’. (Usually, the phone’s file structure is pretty simple. From experience, I’ve only encountered folders labelled according to their content i.e. ‘Music’, ‘Pictures’, ‘Videos’, etc.)

So now, what do you do with your newly-acquired data? Well, for starters, you could edit them. Most people won’t bother re-arranging or properly labeling their contacts because their phones’ screens are so tiny and everyone knows how difficult it is to properly type on a numberpad. Now that your contacts are in Address Book, you can clearly see what’s what. Incomplete fields are more obvious. You can also add emails, addresses and birthdays to your contacts and even paste in a contact photo (if you haven’t already). Everything you do in Address Book will reflect on your phone upon synchronization (depending on the model, refer to the bottom of this page).

Your itinerary will also be copied to iCal. If you have always added new events on your phone, you will be relieved to see how easy it is to manage your life with iCal by comparison. Of course, when you’re on the run, you will always need your phone to add meetings/events on a day-to-day basis but once you reach home and after you’ve synced your phone with your Mac, everything will be laid in front of you on your [much] larger screen. Re-ordering and managing your schedule would then be much easier.

In iCal, you’ll have the option to view your events by the day, week or month. If you need to set a reminder for an event, just double-click it and press the ‘Edit’ button. The alarms will go off both on your Mac and on your phone so you’ll never have to worry about being late for a meeting.

If you haven’t noticed, there is a little pin on the bottom right-hand side of iCal — that’s the to-do list. Adding items onto the list will also sync over to your phone. Although, I have no idea how this feature would work on older phones which may not have to-do lists.

It doesn’t just stop on your Mac. Your contacts can be synced over to your iPod via iTunes so you’ll have an extra copy in case your phone goes kaput. Also, you could export your Address Book and calendar and save them online so that you could easily retrieve them from anywhere.

To sum up, iSync will retrieve contacts and schedules from your phone and add them into Address Book and iCal respectively, providing you with a backup of your data on your Mac. Simultaneously, that will also allow you to easily edit that information on your Mac and see your schedule span out on your screen.

(By) Jackson Chung is a full-time medical student attempting to perform a juggling act with relationships, studies and his future.

  1. Jackson Chung
    September 6, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Sure you can! All you have to do is create a group in your Address Book and dump in the contacts which you want to sync into your phone. Then, in iSync, just choose to sync that group and NOT all contacts.

  2. Kabi
    September 6, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Thanks for your enlightening advice. Now that I have my sync working I'd like to be a bit more selective and not sync all of my address book contacts to my phone. Is this possible please.

    Thanks
    Kabi

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