Sharing Contact Information Digitally: Why Isn’t This Easy For Android Phones?

In my preparation for the BlogHer conference (which was awesome!), I wanted to put together several ways to share my contact information with the people I would meet. I have traditional paper business cards, of course. But since I’m a digital geek girl, I also poked into my contact card on my phone and looked into ways I could share it. I assumed that there would be an easy, straightforward way to do this. Sadly for us all, I was wrong.

Sharing contact information via a smartphone is one of those things that many people assume is a basic, standard task. Going all the way back to the days of Palm Pilot supremacy and the rise of BlackBerry, the ability to “beam” your info to another person was a nice and expected perk of having a mobile, business-focused device. I remember that the process didn’t always work on the first try, but it was there and was easy.

Fast forward to now. Last week I went into my Android phone’s contacts, found my contact card, hit the Menu button and tapped “Send My Contact Info.” The menu that came up informed me that I could send via MMS, Mail, or Bluetooth. You might think: oh, that sounds reasonable. Let me explain why it’s not.

MMS is multimedia text messaging; thus, I’d send my contact info as a vCard attachment to an SMS. Not all phones/services support MMS. I use Google Voice for texting. It does not support MMS. So I can’t use that.

The Mail option is what I wanted… except Mail does not indicate the Gmail app, it indicates the Mail app for non-Gmail accounts. I don’t have any accounts set up there because I use Gmail on my Android phone. In order to send via my Gmail account, I would have to set up that account in the Mail app then set it to not notify me when messages come in because Gmail is already doing so. Convoluted? Yes.

Bluetooth is what people meant by “beaming” in the past, but connecting to another phone via Bluetooth isn’t always straightforward. Try doing it in a conference hallway when you’re on the way to the next panel and the person you want to send to doesn’t know how the Bluetooth works on their phone. Not ideal.

So really, my phone offered little in the way of easy or viable options. Why?

The heart of the problem lies with Android. Apparently, there is no native option for sending contact or vCard data in the OS at all1. How is my phone able to do so? It’s all down to the HTC Sense user interface skin. Android skins do more than just change the way icons look and offer fancy widgets, they also provide deep interface functions which are sometimes fixes for things Android doesn’t provide.

Who should I shake my fist at more, Android for not having a native contact sharing function or HTC for not realizing people might want to share contacts via their Gmail accounts? I’m inclined to be a little angrier at HTC.

That’s because I also happen to have a Samsung phone. I don’t use it as a phone, only as a MID/PDA. It connects to Wi-Fi just fine, so I could send my contact info from that device. I checked, and lo Samsung’s TouchWiz UI does realize that users might want to send via Gmail and offers that option. My problem is solved.

That doesn’t solve the overall issue though, does it? It also doesn’t help if I’m not near a free Wi-Fi signal. And my HTC phone is my main device; I want to be able to share from there. That’s when I started to look for alternatives.

I’ll share what I found so far in another post. Right now I’d like to know: how do you share digital contact information from your phone? Is it easier on iOS or webOS? Have you found the perfect app for the purpose? Let me know in the comments.

  1. This is what I gleaned via research and appears to be true at least up until Android 2.2. Some forum threads suggest that this function is available in Gingerbread (2.3), but I have not had a chance to check this myself. []