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.
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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 www.google.com/contacts. 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 www.google.com/contacts.
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 www.google.com/contacts (and www.google.com/calendar). 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!