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This small Google Contacts change could have major consequences
- The latest update to Google Play Services is changing how contacts sync on Android.
- Turning off Contacts sync will remove previously synced contacts from your Android phone.
We take contact sync on our Android phones for granted. As long as you have a Google account on your Android phone, transferring contacts from an Android device to another Android device is something you don’t even have to think about. But Google is making a fundamental change to this behavior, and if you change phones often, you may need to be a little careful.
The latest entry to the changelog of May 2023’s Google Play System Update includes a big departure from how contact sync worked on Android so far:
[Phone] Turning off sync with Google Contacts sync will now remove the previously synced contacts from your Android phone.
This change is rolling out to all Android devices through Google Play Services v23.20.
What exactly is changing with contact sync on Android?
When you sign into a Google account on any Android device, one of the things that Google syncs first is your contact list.
As mentioned, the process has been very seamless, and it’s one of those things that Android had gotten right early as an OS. As long as you add any new contacts to your Google account (and not to your phone or SIM storage), they will be available on every device that you sign into in the future.
However, if you accidentally ever switched off Google’s contact sync on your Android phone, nothing would really happen to the contacts that are displayed on the phone. Contacts that have already been synced will continue to be displayed on your phone, though any changes that you make will remain on the device only and will not be synced.
The only way to remove the contacts synced to the phone would be to remove the Google account from the phone. If there is only one Google account on a phone, then it cannot be removed, and by extension, the contact list also cannot be removed.
With the new update to Google Play Services, toggling contact sync off will remove the contacts from that device. You won’t need to remove the Google account anymore to remove these contacts.
Why is this a big change?
For technically adept users, this may not feel like a big change. But for the average Android user who has never needed to think about contact sync, accidentally turning off contact sync would cause their entire contact list to “vanish.” They may be left scratching their heads as to what is happening and why their contacts have suddenly disappeared from their phone.
It is also not immediately clear what will happen if contact sync errors out, as it sometimes does on poorer connections and VPNs. We hope contacts don’t vanish in the event of a failed sync.
What to do if your contacts disappear from your Android device?
If your contacts have disappeared from your Android phone, you first need to check if they’re still present at contacts.google.com. If they are present there, then it’s just a matter of toggling contact sync back on your Android phone.
Go to Settings > Passwords & accounts, select your Google account, and ensure that the toggle is on for Contacts and it shows a recent date.
What are your thoughts about this change? Let us know in the comments below!