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January 11, 2016

The Monotonically-Increasing Fucked-up-ed-ness of Apple Software (or, how to sync your contacts to the iPhone without exhuming Steve Himself)

Filed under: apple, software development — Benjamin Vulpes @ 12:00 a.m.
The Monotonically-Increasing Fucked-up-ed-ness of Apple Software (or, how to sync your contacts to the iPhone without exhuming Steve Himself)

Of late, my iPhone has been vibrating without displaying accompanying notifications, or for any discernable reason at all. This is an entirely possible state to get the phone into, where some application has permissions to run the vibrator and receive push notifications, but lacks the permissions to show banners, or display anything on the lock screen.

After trolling through the Notifications panel, nuking errant vibrators and ensuring that only Test Flight, Slack, the phone, Google's Calendar and Mail, and the Messages applications had permissions to hook into the notifications system, I idly dug into the battery performance panel to see what horrors lurked within. Lo and behold, Apple's Mail application was responsible for a whopping 21% of my battery use (Gmail clocks in at a comparatively lightweight 14%, not that I have any reason to actually trust these numbers beyond that they show a Google product trouncing an Apple one…).

"Well hey!" I think, naively, to myself, never having wasted an evening unsnarling an Apple toolchain problem after implementing some nominally quick fix to solve a niggling problem ever in my life, "Clearly the thing to do is rip my various mail accounts out of Mail, because I know from experience that uninstalling shit shipped on an iPhone to be a fruitless endeavour haunted by surreptitious reinstalls! That'll keep Mail from ever running out to the network to check for mail! Aren't you smart, kiddo!?"

All of my contacts disappeared.

This, a UX professional will tell you, should not have been a surprise, given that the phone presented a dialog asking which of the Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Notes that came from that account I wanted to delete. All of them, obviously, get your redundant damn data outta heah, right? The surprising bit was that all of my contacts came down from that Google account in the first place anyways, and were never copied to the device's local contact store.

No problem, though, I have some notion of how to fix this (no, not using an iPhone of the most recent vintage is not an option). I'll just export my contacts from Gmail, and sync them to the phone. Oops!

contactsmissingfeatures

EVERYONE'S FIRED.

No, it's fine. Really. I'll just jump through these hoops as well. Export the contacts (Which? All? Are there some groups I care about and not others for some reason? Oh, jesus, does this include everyone I've ever received mail from on a mailing list? I did not weep, but lo I did come close…).

VCF files finally in hand, I am ready to ship these contacts back to my mobile device (from whence, I must point out, they came in the first place).

So, to iTunes, right? To the…tab for contacts, right?

contactsqmark

Nope, let's try…Info?

infoqmark

Theoretically, that's where I'd expect the contact-syncing mechanism to lie. Theoretically, except it has no groups or contacts in it. And when I sync…and sync again…and restart my phone and sync again…and (no fuck that I'm not restarting my computer) lo, there are still no contacts on the phone.

And then it hits me. MMS the .vcf to myself.

And yes, that is what finally works. MMSing the .vcf exports of my GMail accounts to myself. Not iCloud (because fuck that, Apple web properties never actually work), not syncing via iTunes, but actually sending the collected vCards to my own phone and importing them from the Messages interface.

DOES THE MIND NOT BOGGLE?

How to Manually Import Contacts to the iPhone

  1. Export your selected contacts from wherever they are in .vcf format
  2. MMS them to your phone number
  3. Import that vCard from Messages

Steve's dead. I'm transcribing all of my contacts onto 100% cotton paper with chemically inert ink, and you should do the same.

Footnotes:

For all that it appears to be a JS abomination running on the iPhone, the Google Mail application routinely trounces the Apple Mail application in searching, rendering, speed, and more or less everything one would want from an email application on the phone.

Isn't it funny that a 'power user' only uses a tiny fraction of the surface area of the App Store's offering, and that the average consumer will just let their phone sit there with push notifications for everything enabled and commensurately miserable battery life? As always, knowing what idiocy to not engage in is the wunderwaffen.

Which is not to say that I'm using the thing because I like it. What, you think that fab staff enjoy going to work in bunny suits? Give me a break…

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