Last Updated: August 10th, 2012

GTKA4.0 is back! (That's right. We're cool enough to abbreviate now.) Welcome to Part 5: Contacts. The Contacts app has seen the biggest change of any app from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich. Everything is different. It's not even called "Contacts" anymore, It prefers to be called the "People" app. We've got a lot to cover.

Unfortunately, unless you have a Nexus device (I don't), it's almost impossible to get a hold of a fully functional, stock Gingerbread contacts app. The closest I can get is a non-syncing emulator, which doesn't have enough options, and the Cyanogenmod 7 contacts, which has way too many options. So don't flame me too hard if my Gingerbread approximation isn't 100% accurate. But hey, who cares about Gingerbread? The whole point of this article is the new contacts app.

I will also probably talk a lot about Google+, but People is not "forcibly" connected to Google+. People has an open data API for social networks, and any app can integrate with it. So don't fret about being forced to sign up for G+ or anything, you don't have to.

Deep social network integrating is the biggest new feature. It still connects to Google contacts, but if you install the Google+ app and choose to sync contacts, it will pull pictures, info, and status updates from G+ too. They also demoed Twitter and Linkedin working at the ICS unveiling in Taiwan, but I'm not on either of those networks. Facebook doesn't work, but that's Facebook's fault. Hopefully someone will write a app for Facebook integration.

Time for the About screens:

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Hmm... Neither app has an "About" screen. That's new. Ignore the branding fail, the new app is actually called "People," they just never updated it internally. We're moving from 2.3.4 to 4.0.1, both of which are just the Android version number.

Contacts List

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The Gingerbread contacts app was a hybrid of Contacts and Dialer. The new People app is just contacts. Dialer got spun out into its own app, but that's a story for another day.

As usual in ICS, we've switched from a black theme to a white one . The AMOLED battery enthusiasts won't like it, but It looks much better. People is the only ICS app I've seen that is infused with a color. The header(action bar) is light blue; every other app has a grey or black header. It's also missing the usual ICS icon/back button in the header. It looks out of place compared to the rest of ICS, almost like a 3rd party app.

Across the top of ICS there are tabs for Contact Groups, Contacts, and Favorites. At the top of the contacts list, there's a "Me" contact, with the personal info it pulled from my Google+ account. Tell me, why do I want a "Me" contact? All they said at the ICS unveiling was "this is my phone, and it should know who I am." The thing is, ICS doesn't do anything with this information. Maybe apps will use it?

I am very happy to see Google Talk status show up somewhere, It is now right below the names (the orange circle) of your contacts, along with their statuses. Very cool.

Along the bottom you have more Action Bar. There's search and add contact. More exposed menu options is always good.

I believe the dial buttons are a CM7 extra, In the Gingerbread emulator they are only present in the favorites tab. Sorry about that.

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This is the Gingerbread contacts app in landscape. No, I'm not kidding. The contacts list just had no landscape support at all. It's really horrible when you're locked into a car dock and trying to make a quick phone call, and everything is sideways.

Luckily, the People app corrects this with a proper landscape mode. Good job on finally supporting a feature that has been around since Android 0.8. (as usual, ignore the horrific emulator landscape rendering).

You can also see the Action Bar get its cool "combine" feature going, the bottom bar merges with the top for more vertical space in horizontal mode. Very cool.

Contacts Cards

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Contact cards show up when you touch the picture of a contact. It works all over the OS, just like Gingerbread. In ICS though, the cards have gotten a huge upgrade. You now have a giant picture at the top, along with transparent bar showing the contact name and a button for the contact page on the right. You can touch or swipe through the options for easy access to everything in a normal contacts page. Social networks will show up here too, but Jessica isn't in any. She's shy.

I am having serious issues with the pictures. ICS refuses to download high resolution versions, even though I added a super high res picture to contacts. Google either needs to flip a switch on everyone's account to allow higher res pictures, or I'm not getting a full G+ sync. Hopefully Google Contacts has been keeping the higher res versions of the pictures we've all uploaded.


Contact cards are even bigger in landscape. Look at that artifacting! We're gonna need some bigger pictures.

Favorites and Groups

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The favorites tab gets a totally new layout. Instead of the normal list of contacts, you get big tiles pictures and a name. You can see more picture shenaniganry here: Jessica has a picture but it isn't showing up. Below the names you also get Google Talk status! Personally I can't have enough status dots. Put them everywhere.

That bottom action bar with one button on the bottom is really lame. They really couldn't squeeze that in anywhere else? The horizontal action bar handles the tab/button combo beautifully. I am really going to miss that hardware search button.

"Frequently contacted" shows up below the giant pictures in list form. I just haven't frequently contacted anyone.


The left tab brings up this screen. At the top you have the groups from Google Contacts, below that are my G+ circles. Tapping any one of them will bring up a favorites style screen of those groups with big giant images. The "Google" contacts will bring up their contacts page, and the G+ circles will load the Google+ app and show their streams.

Individual Contact Page

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Here's an actual contact page, and Yikes! These two screens show (about) the same about of information. ICS spends a lot of screen space on a giant picture and headings above communication type. Still, I find little reason for Gingerbread's information density. 99% of the time you are looks up a contact for phone numbers or email, both of which still end up on the first screen. No scrolling necessary.

"Connections" is the one new item; they should probably rename it "Social Networks." You'll see any social network accounts the contact is associated with.

On a social network connected contact, you'll be able to swipe left here and see social network updates from your contact. (It's not working in the emulator though, G+ crashes all the time)

Editing Contacts

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Editing contacts is the complete opposite of viewing one. Here ICS manages to condense the screen more than Gingerbread. ICS will automatically hide unused sections, so while Gingerbread is wasting space with unused "Notes," "Nicknames," and "Internet Call," fields, ICS neatly tucks them away under the "Add another field" button.

The "Done" button lives at the top of the screen now. It is pinned to the screen, (like the "Done" and "Revert buttons in Gingerbread) so you can always find it. "Revert" is totally gone. The back button will also save your changes, so the only way to cancel your changes is to hit menu and "Discard." I personally never "accidently" change a contact and need to discard changes, hopefully everyone else is the same. Really though, that header is awfully empty, there would be plenty of room for a revert button.

Just about everything has been switched around. The categories (Home/Work/Mobile) have moved to the right side, and are now in-line drop down boxes instead of full screen dialogs. The colored plus and minus buttons were axed for classier looking "x" and "Add new" buttons.

"Address" was switched from 4 separate fields in GB to 1 paragraph-style field in ICS. The separate fields in Gingerbread made entering an address more work than it should be. There's no tab button, remember, so it meant typing a small part of the address, then moving the cursor. Maps is smart enough to figure out 1 line input anyway, so I'm not sure why they ever decided to split it up in GB.


There is one new feature here: You can edit contact groups now (thanks Rita).  Touching it brings up a set of checkboxes, and you can add or remove a contact from your groups.


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It's about time we pushed that search button that's been hanging around everywhere. As usual there's the blue header and we FINALLY get to see the People icon/back button. I just love the new results highlighting (the green "Jess" in "Jessica"). It's a small touch but very good looking.

There's now an "X" button in the search field that will helpfully erase your entire search term if you'd like to start over. Other than that, it's the usual ICS polish.

There is still almost nothing to speak of options wise, you get a mostly empty screen. There's just two options, sort and display by first or last name.

Wrap Up

What a massive difference. People is now a contacts and social network aggregator. When you can combine contact info from Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in, you will never have out of date contact information.

People takes on a much more visual, picture based design. Everything looks cleaner and is more polished. There's now a proper horizontal mode. It's a nice update and a huge improvement over Gingerbread.

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • Tommy

    Contacts definitely needed an upgrade. It looks great!

  • jonathan3579

    ...but it's still a inconsistency

    • Jon Garrett

      "an" inconsistency

  • Ray

    Thanks for the great review.

    The "me" info will be useful in case of emergency, when police or EMS are rifling through your crap, trying to find out who you are.

    • mug

      And they'll be able to unlock your phone with your face even if you're unconscious!

      • Jon Garrett

        yikes !!! but that does sound helpful.

  • Balthazar B

    I suspect apps like Bump (and potentially NFC apps) will use the Me contact heavily.

  • Cliffy

    Not sure if this is related to the people app or not, but does 4.0 FINALLY give you a full picture of your contact when they call you and not just that tiny square?

    • Ron Amadeo

      I'll find out when I do the Dialer, which is probably the next (and last) article in this series.

      Somehow you can get the emulator to receive a phone call, I have to look that up still.

      • Tiago Bento

        You can make the emulator make and receive phone calls.
        See a 4-digit number on the emulator window┬┤s title? If you start another emulator (ending up with 2 emulators running) and on one emulator call the number on the other emulator┬┤s title you can call it, you can even associate a contact with the other emulator.

  • Gogol

    I hate the white background! And low res photo, look shit.

    • Ron Amadeo

      That's the fault of my rigged up emulator/beta ICS apps hybrid. A real phone will sync with G+ properly and pull down higher rez pictures.

      • Me

        I have my Galaxy Nexus, I manually entered high resolution images into Google Contacts when I added everyone to it. The contact cards show a pixelated version even on the real device :(

      • Gogol

        That is unacceptable. We should be able to attach high res image manually to each contact.

        G+ is nice, but all my contacts are not there!

        Sometimes I just dont get that design people, the white background is disconnected with the rest of dark themes of ICS. And inability to attach high res image.

        Whos that design guy name? Mathias Duarte? Duh ...

  • Mider

    Do you know if there's an option to sort the contacte by surname? I know that I can use the search button, but I'm used to surname first. Thanks.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Yes. That's an option in both. You can show contacts by last name and sort contacts by last name.

  • drodzand

    "You still can't set per-contact ringtones, or send certain contacts directly to voicemail. Cyanogenmod is open source, Google, start stealing some features."
    This isn't a CM modification. You can do it by clicking on a contact, hitting the menu key and choosing options (instead of edit). Did they remove that feature in ICS?

    • Robin

      I just checked in the Emulator... I cannot add contacts there (don't know why) but edit the "me" contact. If I open it after editing, I have "Set ringtone" and "Send to voicemail" options.

    • Ron Amadeo

      You're right! You can set per-contact ringtones and send contacts to voicemail. You just have to hit the menu button. I never thought to push it! Thanks.

      What's the deal Google? You were supposed to stop hiding options behind menu buttons. That's a big reason for the ICS redesign...

      • Andrew MacKillop

        They were, but on Nexus device with the "on screen" buttons, the menu button will appear and disappear depending on whether there is anything assigned to the menu options or not. On old devices, this wont help - we will have to helplessly push menu everywhere in hopes of something happening, but the new "on screen" devices won't have this issue.

        • Ron Amadeo

          There's no reason to not have the on screen menu button, even when you have a hardware one.

      • Drodzand

        yuck! so they are still hiding that option behind a menu button? It seems I forgot to write it in my original comment but the method of assigning ringtones per-contact is so not intuitive...hitting contact then menu then options (which is different than edit).

        But the worst of them all must be the method of joining contacts. You have to view the contact then hit menu then hit edit and then hit menu again and hit join. Who would think you can hit the menu key again when editing a contact? When I figured that out like 3 weeks after installing cm6 on my EVO...and only because I asked a friend!

        BTW, just read part 6 of the series...good stuff!

  • Stocklone

    Thank you for writing a useful article that is not link bait. Now if only the other 95% of the tech journalists could do so too.

    • Ron Amadeo

      I could go on FOREVER about the quality of Android reporting. It's why I started writing.


  • http://droid.appstorm.net Rita El Khoury

    Ron, can you please look again to see if you can actually add a contact to a group from ICS? Because from the screenshots, while editing a contact, it looks like you can add them to a group from the phone (without the need to do it from the Contacts website), a feature that is SORELY missing from Android so far, all the contacts apps I've tried, and only exists in MIUI from what I've seen.
    If ICS finally adds that, it'll be a MAJOR boon for many users (just do a google search for "how to add a contact to a group on android" and see the frustrated forum posts)

    • Ron Amadeo

      ...Yes you can. Thanks. I updated with a picture.

      • http://droid.appstorm.net Rita El Khoury

        Thanks, that's awesome news :)

  • Joe

    Is that really Jessica Alba's number?

    • http://www.twitter.com/standateeze Aash

      Thank god.. I was just going to write that so many comments and no Jessica Alba. What's wrong guys?

    • Ron Amadeo

      Yes. We are good friends.

  • mike

    Meh too much white for me. I prefer the color scheme of honeycomb. I prefer darker colors and the extra power savings are nice too. Not a huge fan of all the large tiles, reminds me of WP7.

    My favorite parts were the Jessica Alba parts :p

  • Barton

    Can you add a high quality photo to a contact manually? Most of my contacts doesn't have a g+ profile. I have pictures for most of them added manually on gmail, but the quality there sucks exactly the same as Alba's pics here. I have a Sense phone, which allows me to add better photo directly on a phone, but does stock ICS has that option?

  • Rob

    Not feeling the white background either. I hope they'll be an option to change that in CM9. :-)

  • Tim

    Hello,can you please confirm whether you can REALLY sync Facebook and other contacts with the People app in ICS? Your reply will help me decide between Galaxy Nexus and Note. Funny, I know!

    • Dr. Anand

      I too need to know this.. This is very important to me, on some other reviews its mentioned Facebook is not integrated with People app..

      • Ron Amadeo

        Its not integrated with Facebook (it's not integrated with Google+ though, either).
        There are new social APIs. Any app can plug into People. The Facebook app just needs an update to work with it.

  • Ben

    Slightly off topic question but does it seem right that my contracts app is over 14mb? I'm on a nexus one with pathetically little internal storage so space is precious and contacts is the largest one. I even erased all the photos associated with contacts thinking that might be causing it but no change. Thanks in advance for any suggestions. Too bad I won't be sewing Amy

    • Ben

      Seeing any official ICS update, maybe it'll finally push me over th edge to root and try cyanogen.

  • Franz

    Great article guys!
    I have an OT question: Does anybody have unformation if Gmail 4.0 will released for Gingerbread?

    It looks so great...

    • Ron Amadeo

      It would be a lot of work.

      Gmail (and every 4.0 app) makes heavy use of the Action Bar, which is supported in Android 3.0 and up. They would either have to backport the Action Bar APIs (which they did for fragments, and that would really make a lot of sense to speed up Action Bar adoption) or rig up a fake Action Bar solution (like they did for the Twitter app).

  • FtBastrd2

    hmm i'm not sure but i think i saw Jessica Alba in your contacts list...

  • badmofo

    No option to change all the white-ness? I prefer dark tones too.. :(

  • tanyehzheng

    On contacts editing page, the done button is at the far top left of the screen. Considering how big the Galaxy Nexus is, it'll be hard for a normal right handed person to tap on it single handedly!

  • SK

    I like almost everything about the ICS changes. Even got convinced that losing hardware button is not bad.

    But I hate how the "..." menu/more action buttons are on the top for some apps and almost always on top when in landscape mode. This is going to cause a lot of RSI and sore thumbs for Android users since they will have to stretch their thumbs to reach those button when using the phone single-handed. I'm almost exclusively single-handed with my phone -- so it's going to hurt even more :-(

    And in some apps that bar is in the bottom -- that's again inconsistent. I wish Google had an option what will put both the bars (the soft button and the action bar) at the bottom through out the OS. And in landscape, combine them both.

  • ughx

    what about phone number format, not all countries uses the us format.

    I use the international format without the dashes nor spaces eg. +xxxxxxxxxxx

  • JayCreations

    The "Me" entry is useful for me. I have a contact entry with all my info and I use it to send it to people as a contact card.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Hey, that's an idea.

  • Paul

    Can you Please do a review on the Calendar as well.

  • http://www.skype.com chand

    I need skype for lg gt540 1.6 vision

  • Matt

    Could you clarify the position with Facebook sync?

    You said... "Facebook doesn't work, but that's Facebook's fault. Hopefully someone will write a app for Facebook integration."

    Then... "People is now a contacts and social network aggregator. When you can combine contact info from Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in, you will never have out of date contact information"

    • Ron Amadeo

      "When" meaning in the future, when Facebook sync works. It doesn't now, it probably will in a few weeks.

  • GraveUypo

    "As usual in ICS, we've switched from a black theme to a white one . The AMOLED battery enthusiasts won't like it, but It looks much better."

    no it doesn't. in fact it looks like something out of facebook, and in the exact opposite of the color scheme i'd like. it'll probably hurt your eyes at night with that useless white background and bright colors, and wont help shit during the day (since its contrast that matters for visibility, not "brightness" per see, and white on black has the exact same contrast as black on white)

    i hope there's a way to invert colors or something.

    • Ron Amadeo

      Apparently there is HUGE demand for a dark theme, so I'm sure someone will make a rom or something.

      Personally I'm very interested in the battery difference.

  • Zaeem


    A darker theme would look great on my Galaxy S (supposing that we get ICS).

  • coder

    "branding fail"?? Where's the branding fail u speak of? If you're suggesting that the Contacts tab should be updated to People tab then you're very, very confused...Contacts tab contains people who ARE your contacts, while Phone Log can contain people who ARE and AREN'T your contacts, capeche?

  • Bruno BEAUFILS

    Well People is a social aggregator, but what if I do not want it to be so. I do not trust cloud for such sensitive data as personal informations.

    I should at least have the choice to use it as a simple address book, which seems not being possible anymore with any apps.

    It seems that I can not use any simple contacts app for that simple purpose : storing contacts data information on the phone and nowhere else.

    On my cyanogenmod9, I tried, among other, GO Contacts EX, but each time I add a contact it disappear from it after a while and appear in People App.

    But there is a worse, when I add it again, then it disappear again from GO Contacts EX, but appear twice in People App.

    I now am forced to use Google services (Google+ for instance) for that kind of informations. I thus do not know where my informations are stored and can not split "public" ones from "private" one.

    That is a shame and a serious step back from privacy point of view :-(

  • Sambhav

    I upgraded from android 1.6 to android 4.0, by changing phones. The backup file from previous version is not compatible with the newer version. How to import contacts, any help?

  • RightSaidFred

    Perhaps it never actually ocurred to Google that some of my "People" are in fact entities like BankWest or Hollard Insurance.... I still prefer it be called Contacts !