So a while back, I decided to get back into a many months contract commitment with a mobile phone provider. Since completing my 18 month contract with T-Mobile I was loathe to get another phone with a long term contract, partly because I wasn’t sure back then if I would be in the UK long enough to fulfill the contract.

As time progressed, and I got further and further into my work here in London, I came to realise that I’m gonna be here for a while. I won’t be shooting off anywhere anytime soon, and I’m going to be in London for the long haul. That said, I decided that I couldn’t stick with the Sidekick Slide as my primary phone for much longer. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the Sidekick was a great phone, and it served me well for tweeting, and reading a few emails – but I was ready for something a little more ‘serious’, that would let me live stream with Qik, manage multiple email accounts, allow me to choose from a healthy eco-system of apps, and most importantly, still have a decent sized full keyboard.

Settling on a Blackberry, and having received my handset, I had a day before my number would get ported across, to my new network provider, Vodafone, and decided, since I had the handset that I would get it all configured, and set up, ready for when the Sim Card in my new phone went active. That’s when I discovered that my current phone at the time, the Sidekick slide, didn’t sync with a Mac. Worst still, it didn’t even sync with a PC. In fact it just plain didn’t sync with a computer. Terrible I know. And after having had the phone for two years, I realised that most of the numbers on the Sidekick Slide weren’t stored anywhere else online. They were on business cards and online profiles of the people I’d met, but they weren’t in any one addressbook that I could access, and I was loathe to start aggregating them all again, on yet another new device. After spending countless hours hunting, and searching, I finally discovered that I had access to everything that was on my phone, online. After more than 18 months with a Sidekick Slide, I only just discovered that T-Mobile had set up a portal for Sidekick users in the UK, and that I could see many of the items on my phone online. All my contacts were available online, as well as all the emails I had coming into my phone, the notes I’d made, my To Do lists – everything was on this online portal, that I had never once seen, or heard about. I suppose that’ll teach me to not properly read the manuals in the future!

Well, anyways, after spending a half hour with the portal, I came to realise that there wasn’t anyway of ‘exporting’ your data, even from the portal. It seemed just downright dumb, and silly, but it seemed like they expected you to be a customer of theirs for life, and to use the one handset that they had manufactured. Clearly mobile phone manufacturers still hadn’t learnt to think about or deal with people moving their contacts onto and off of a handset. Perhaps they all presume people will just copy it onto and off of the Sim? Well I wasn’t about to do that, given that my past experiences with using Sim cards to copy phone numbers resulted in names being shortened, and multiple numbers for a single person being turned into many entries.

Well, anyways, I ended up finding a ‘printable view’ of all my contacts – thank god they had the decency to think a person might want to at least ‘print’ off all their contacts. Then, with the print view, I at least had all the contact details in a table type view, that I could save and keep hold of 😉

I then had to get that data out of the HTML encoding, and into a CSV format. That was no easy task, I can tell you. First I took the raw HTML, removed all the images, and empty columns, (with much experimenting, and using NVU constantly jumping between the source code, and the WYSIWYG view, to make sure I didn’t lose any data as I did it..

Eventually I managed to get the table down to a basic table that I could then copy into a spreadsheet (notice I didn’t say Excel? It’s cos I’m using Open Office!) Unfortunately, the ‘Name’ field was collapsed into one, and so I had to then edit that by taking that column into a text document, converting the table to text, and then re-converting the text back into a table, at the commas. Finally, with all my data in a spreadsheet, all the columns properly labelled, I was able to consider generating a CSV with all the phone numbers from my current handset. Then I realised, that I also hadn’t properly dealt with all the phone numbers on all of my previous handsets, having just started using a new phone, and then slowly just adding numbers as I was using them. Fortunately, most of the other phones I had were able to Sync with the AddressBook in OSX, using the Bluetooth on my Macbook. With the Motorola RAZR V3 it was no problem.. I’d sync’d that in the past with previous laptops, so knew that wouldn’t give me any trouble, and so merrily got all of the contacts off of that handset. Then came the Sony Ericsson Z310i – an old handset, in so much as I had stopped using it as a phone, but nonetheless, one that in it’s prime had been home to many many phone numbers. That one didn’t sync out of the box, but googling I found the iSync plugin for the Z310i. I did first land on the website, and mistakenly thought I would have to buy a plugin, but believing that there had to be a free plugin for Sony Ericsson somewhere, I decided to just keep looking, and boy am I glad I did.. At that late in the night, I might have even bought that plugin, if I didn’t soon find the proper Sony Ericsson iSync plugin shortly afterwards.

So I got all of these contact details of mine into my AddressBook from my previous handsets and realised that I still hadn’t imported my Sidekick Slide phone numbers in. When going to import in AddressBook, I noticed that there were a number of AddressBook formats, and for the life of me I couldn’t see CSV. (Had I not been so exhausted, I might have noticed the ‘import text file’ option – but either that’s only just appeared, now as I look at it again, or I was worried about it importing the data into the wrong columns.. I can’t remember which it was, but I remember thinking I’ll just use Google to sync with, and then there was a Google Blackberry Contacts sync plugin that I’d read about somewhere, when looking for info on sync’ing so figured if I can just get all my contacts into Google, then I can just sync it over the air, with my BlackBerry, which I’ll be able to do from anywhere, so I won’t need to worry about being at my laptop anymore.

I already had my AddressBook on my Mac Sync’d with Plaxo, which had a whole bunch of information that was upto date ( I also had a heap of duplicates, as I wasn’t impressed by the idea of paying Plaxo to have duplicates removed from my addressbook). I knew of a hack that would allow me to make visible the sync with ‘Google Contacts’ option even though I wasn’t an iPhone user, and I didn’t use an iPhone.

Eventually I managed to get my MacBook, my Google Contacts, and my new BlackBerry all sync’d up, but boy did it take some time.

Now I’m keen to selectively filter out some of the contacts in my addressbook out of my mobile, but that’ll be for another day..