Android Advice: Shared Home Phone Numbers
One of the things that has always annoyed me with cell phones is that there is no good way to handle multiple people having the same home phone number. Android’s contact manager allows multiple contacts to share the same number (because the database is not indexed by phone number, like on many older phones). This still wasn’t perfect for me, however. When a phone number shared by multiple contacts calls, the first match (sorted alphabetically A-Z) is displayed on the caller ID screen and in the call log. Fortunately, this consistency means we can manipulate the system to display a custom name. The following steps illustrate the technique:
- 1. Lets say we have a theoretical family: John and Jane Smith. They each have a cell phone, but live together and therefore share a home phone number. They each are added in Android with their mobile number as their primary number, and their home number as their secondary number. Both can be called at either their home or mobile number from the contact list. When a phone call is recieved from their home number, Jane Smith is displayed in the caller id and call logs because she is first alphabetically.
- 2. For this technique to work cleanly (without any additional clutter), you must have your Android contact manager set only to display “My Contacts” (this settings is under Contacts > Menu > Display Group > My Contacts)
- 3. Log into Gmail and switch the contacts view
- 4. Create a new group to put these combined “metacontacts” (I called the group “Metacontacts”)
- 5. Force your G1 to synchronize contacts (Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Data synchronization > Uncheck and then recheck “Contacts”)
- 6. Tell your G1 to synchronize this new “Metacontact” group (Contacts > Menu > Edit sync groups > Check “Metacontacts”)
- 7. On your Gmail Contact Manager, in the “Metacontact” group, press the new contact button (person with a +)
- 8. Enter the name you want to display when the number calls (ex: “The Smith Family” or “John and Jane Smith”)
- 9. Add some form of symbol in front of the contact’s name to cause it to be first alphabetically. I used a period because it takes up the least space, and then put a period at the end as well for symmetry ( .The Smith Family. )
- 10. Add the shared home phone number to this new contact
- 11. Press the save button
- 12. Press the “Groups” button and then click “Remove from… My Contacts”. This will prevent the contact from showing up in Android’s contact list, but because we chose to synchronize the “Metacontacts” group, it will still be in Android’s database when it does a caller ID lookup.
- 13. Repeat steps 7-12 for each custom home phone number contact
- 14. Force your G1 to synchronize contacts again (Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Data synchronization > Uncheck and then recheck “Contacts”)
- 15. The new custom contact name will now show up in the call logs and when the number calls, but each individual contact (ex: John and Jane) will still have the number stored, so you can call their home number by clicking their name in contacts.
It works almost perfectly for me, but there are few caveats to this method that you should be aware of:
- Every time you change the combined contact (“metacontact”), it automatically readded to the “My Contacts” group and you will have to remove it
- The combined contact (“metacontact”) will have the symbol you chose (in my case, a period) in front of their name, so if this bothers you, this isn’t the technique for you