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Use Gmail to Sync Your PlayBook, Smartphone, and Outlook Contacts & Calendar

Go Contact Sync Mod

One of the most common questions I have been getting since PlayBook OS 2.0 launched is how to sync your BlackBerry Smartphone contacts and calendar with your BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 apps. If you are on a BES with Exchange then this is no problem since activesync will take care of it for you but if you are not then you will immediately see the disconnect. I actually had to help a friend with a similar problem recently since Android phones are also mostly incapable of synching with Outlook. Turns out that Google can be your friend for solving this situation. The downside is that there are a few compromises since Google feels the need to do things differently.

NOTE: BerryReview takes no responsibility for any harm that may be caused by following the recommendations below. Proceed at your own risk and we will try to help you in the comments and forums. This is not for the feint of heart!

To give you the basic framework the simplest way to sync your contacts and calendar with your PlayBook and BlackBerry phone is to first setup your PlayBook to sync with Google. Make sure to check what contacts you currently have in Gmail/Google by going to Google tends to add contacts you email regularly to your contact list automatically which can get frustrating. I then recommend you connect your BlackBerry smartphone to a PC with Outlook and sync your contacts and calendar on your smartphone with your PC using Desktop Manager AND perform a full backup of your BlackBerry using Desktop Manager just in case. This is because there is a high chance of Gmail creating loads of duplicates and you want to have a backup plan.

The ideally simplest next step would be to just fire up the Email Setup Application on your BlackBerry and select your Gmail account. You then would scroll down to the bottom and select “Sync Contacts” and “Sync Calendar.” That should then Sync your BlackBerry Contacts and Calendar with Gmail. The problem is this usually does not work cleanly since Google loves to duplicate things. You can try to fix that by using the Google Merge Contacts option at

Alternatively the best solution I have come up with is to first sync your contacts and calendar with Outlook. You then export your contacts (and calendar if you wish) using Outlook to a CSV file and then importing them into Google at (and You can then download the free open source app GO Contact Sync Mod and install it to sync your Outlook contacts with Google. You set that up and it will start syncing your contacts with Gmail. Due to the redundancy of the steps before you might once again end up with duplicates. You can just use the Google Merge Contacts tool again to deal with them. If you wish to also sync your Outlook Calendar with Google you can install their free Google Calendar Sync app which allows you to sync your calendar with Outlook at regular intervals.

Once you have all of this setup you should be good to go in the future. The first step from Outlook style contacts/calendar to Gmail is painful but may be worth it for full sync. Keep in mind there are lots of caveats with this method due to Gmail being painfully stubborn in not supporting all Outlook fields. For example, Gmail likes to bunch the whole address into one field while Outlook and BlackBerrys break it up into street, city, etc. They also have no area for PIN numbers and such which usually ends up in the notes field.

There does exist a third alternative too which also has its own pros and cons. You can use Google’s Google Sync app for BlackBerry which sometimes does a bit better job of synching/mapping your contacts and Calendar with your BlackBerry but fails in other ways. In short Gmail and Outlook/BlackBerry have different inconsistencies and trying to get them to work nicely together can be a bit of a chore. My guess is Google does this to start pushing people away from Outlook but that is just a guess.

Let us know if you have your own tips for getting your PlayBook and BlackBerry Smartphone contacts in sync. From what I hear RIM is planning on adding contacts and calendar sync for the PlayBook to Desktop Manager soon so that will hopefully also be an alternative. Better yet would be RIM somehow integrating it all using their Gist acquisition!

Barry pointed out to me that Joseph @CrackBerry has his own similar take on a solution if none of these options work for you!

27 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. LMAO @Ronen’s disclaimer bwahahahahahahaa!!! Good stuff tho. 🙂 thanks for the info and step by step 😉 #Props

  2. An alternative would be to ask your sysadmin to install the excellent Horde Groupware solution ( which supports ActiveSync and is Open Source (so that you can tweak it).

  3. Seriously? I have a Torch and was one of the idiots that bought a Playbook at full price. It’s great that OS2 has launched but all this “two-Stepping” to syns my phone and my playbook is absolutely stupid. Lemme seeeee….. I have a Torch and a PB and yet, they can’t sync with each other? That is possibly the stupidest thing I have ever heard. RIM get it fixed! DM should do this – or you should be able to do it over Bluetoorh. ARGH

  4. I feel your pain Joe and I know RIM is working on contact sync through your desktop. In terms of two stepping this is sort of the underbelly of Android and Gmail which is why I am familiar with the workarounds. You are right Desktop Manager should and will do this but doing it over Bluetooth would definitely be cooler. The problem is that it would be super complex because then you would have users syncing their contacts to gmail, then to their phone, then between their phone and PlayBook over bluetooth, and you would have a serious serious mess.

    There is no good way out of this which is why a few companies have sprouted up around the concept for users who cannot justify Exchange costs. Still I am hoping RIM does something with backing up and syncing your contacts in the cloud when they bring BBM to BlackBerry 10.

    • Thanks Ronen for the feedback. Because of the gmail/outlook mess, I might either 1. end up adding them all by hand or 2. waiting for DM to be updated. I agree with Joe though..I should have a seamless experience with both devices.. and maybe that is coming with BB10. If not, this will be another strike against RIM in the consumer market (IMO).

      One thing I am a little annoyed with is that OS 2.0 imports Linkedin contacts but doesn’t import their email address information (unless I am missing something).

      • Regarding the linkedin email addresses, it could be due to the Linkedin API or the user’s privacy settings.

        • I’m not sure why that is, considering the connection between the LinkedIn app and the contacts on my Bold 9900 sync’d. I now have picts of people that I am connected with on LinkedIn and their email/contact information in my BB contact list.

          • It could be because it was done the other way around. On the SP, the app sent your address book to Linkedin and it matched it with users whereas on the PB the app imported your linkedin contacts and they don’t come with email addresses that you could use to match with your contacts.

    • There wouldn’t be a problem if the PIM suite was getting the data directly from the smartphone and it would stay in a protected perimeter. I really thought they would make it work this way. I was expecting the bridge apps to be replaced by the new ones.

    • Ronen, thanks for the response. I can see the issues with the bluetooth – fine, but really, DM should perform this function…..if I can sync my Outlook to my phone, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to sync it with my PB. I don’t want to give Google my contact information – part of the reason I like RIM is because you have dedicated servers…..if I give all my info to Google, well, so much for that security.

  5. hope that sync via Desktop Manager comes soon. have to think how to sync my Contacts and Calendar from OSX without going the sync-with-Google way

  6. Another free app Contacts Sync lets you sync your Outlook Contacts to Gmail

  7. The non-existence of a solution to sync a RIM phone with a RIM tablet stinks! Why have I bought products from the same company if they can’t even talk to each other and otherwise rely on some multi-step-likely-to-cause-chaos approach via Google. Let’s then all buy Google products. If the bridged mail, contacts, and calendar entries cannot be synced on my PlayBook then I might as well sell it (or throw it away, as nobody else wants it then either). Guys, wake up; we are the customers who want products that work and not being forced to find multi-step work-arounds. Have you ver thought about the word “efficiency”?

  8. wolfeddi is a troll in disguise as an actual playbook owner. Believe it.

    • I agree with Wolfeddi in part, but disagree with his message. There should be a seamless integration between the two… but it doesn’t make my PlayBook (or my BlackBerry handset) useless.. just a minor annoyance. Frankly, I love both and wouldn’t trade them for any Apple or Android devices even if someone paid me…. I just wish some of the following minor things will be worked out:

      1. Contact/Calendar sync between PlayBook and BB handset
      2. Allowance of email address on my PlayBook
      3. Pinch to zoom in the BB Remote
      4. Easier set up of email on my PlayBook. Getting my personal Comcast email address set up was painful. I love how I can just enter my user name and password on my Bold and it does everything magically behind the scenes. With the PlayBook, I had to change settings, etc.

  9. If you see it being your hobby to insult people with opinions that do not coincide with yours, then I know how’s brain child you are.
    If you also enjoy playing with a half-complete product, so be it. For me the PlayBook was supposed to be a serious business tool and not something I would use my spare time on trying to make to work.
    Never mind, play on, but stop insulting – it’s actually bad manners.

    • Couldn’t have said it better myself.

      If you have the time to fiddle with your devices to make them work then good on you. But for the rest of us who don’t have the time what is the next best option? When I buy tools for my work like a truck, should I be expected to spend countless hours changing tires, tuning the engine, and looking for workarounds to get it to do it’s intended job?
      This is exactly what RIM expects you to do because they HAD TO get 2.0 out this month.

      I’m forced to look at alternatives. I can no longer play the “wait for the upgrade game”.

      For those of you who are tired of fiddling, see you on the other side, wherever that may be.

  10. Hey guys keep it friendly and productive. Personal attacks don’t help anybody.

  11. Time to sell the PB. I’m a sales rep. I don’t make $$ screwing around to setup contacts. i was a BB fan for a long time. This sealed my decision to walk away.

  12. I would not give up since PIM sync is coming shortly. They essentially put in everything they could get ready for a February launch with passing quality control and quite a bit didn’t make the cut but is coming very shortly. From what I hear this is the reason they had to rework desktop manager 7 PIM sync capabilities to work with the PlayBook shortly but since it is a new system you can see the bugs in DM7. There are releases coming that address this.
    PlayBook OS 2.0 was just laying the foundation. They needed that out and now they are refining.

  13. After reading all the comments here and elsewhere it finally sank into my thick skull that the PB/BB bridge is reading from the Netmail server that Outlook uses for e-mail messages. So I imported an abbreviated list of contacts and a calendar to the Netmail server from Outlook. Voila the bridge read them and put them on the PB . I was wondering if anyone knows if that is a risky thing to do. I didn’t use Google, but rather I put the data on the Verizon Netmail site which is what supplies my emails.

  14. Now I’m totally confused. My contacts and calendar that I put on the Verizon server were on the PB last night. This morning they are gone and I can’t get them back.

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