Android Contacts - Link and Unlink / Join and Separate

Android and iOS contacts are all in one place, no matter if they are kept in Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, IBM Lotus Notes or Outlook. This document shows how to link and unlink them.

October 2016: Not much has changes since 2010 when my wife got the first Samsung Galaxy. She now has the Galaxy Edge and loves the device. I use the BlackBerry Z10 and the contacts work the same way.
The contacts from IBM Lotus Notes integrate the same way as any other account on the Android (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, etc).
Multiple accounts means duplication, some contacts appear in more than one account. I never found a good documentation how linking and unlinking works, this is how this document was created.

The newer Android release refers to this as Join and Separate. iPad also uses Link and Unlink.

I'm referring to Android version 2.1 on the Samsung Galaxy but 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 Key means 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 the smartphone documentation for more details.
What is a SIM card?
Not all phones have a 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. Most phones in North America are not unlocked.

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.
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, tap on
>Contacts >Menu Key >More >Accounts >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.

Keep in mind, Android will show them as if they were all in one place.

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 where it is done.

    With the basics out of the way, lets have a look at 4 of my contacts:
    Some contacts show an icon to the right.
    Lotus Traveler contact
    Google contact
    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 Lotus Traveler AND Google and lists both entries as one.
    Now we update John Doe.
    Tap on John Doe to open the profile, then
    >Menu Key >Edit
    Tap >Edit 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.
    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.

    Unlinking and Linking of Contacts
    I have a profile for John Doe in Lotus Notes and Google. Android then Linked the 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 Lotus Notes is not the same as the John Doe from Google? Now we need to Unlink the two.

    How to Unlink a contact?

    Tap on the profile that has multiple icons to open the contact details as seen to the left.
    Slide down to the Linked Contacts heading and tap on the section.
    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.
    The result shows immediately =>
    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 to Link the three.
    How to Link a contact?

    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
    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.
    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.

    I hope you find this document helpful and appreciate your feedback here.

    First published on December 21, 2010
    Last revised on October 24, 2016

  • Timestamp: 10/25/2016 09:42:47 AM EDT [on srv7cps]
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