Careful with contacts on Nokia N900: deleting can remove them from your Skype, GTalk and other IM servers!

Tight integration with various Instant Messaging services (Skype, GTalk, MSN Messenger, etc;) is one of the great features of Nokia N900.

It’s super convenient. I crowed about it in my first impressions review of Nokia N900.

You just enter your IM login details, and all your contacts from them appear in the address book. It might take some work of merging these contacts, especially for the incomplete profiles, but then they are there, and when you want to talk to someone, you just have to select  how – Skype, GTalk, SMS, e-mail or phone call.

It just works, and changed my communications patterns on the go significantly. These days I’m doing much more IM/Skype on the go then  ever before. Or was.

Because I just experienced a major flaw in this merged phonebook approach on Nokia N900. And lost most of my Skype and Gtalk contact list from the last 6 years in the process.

It turns out, that when you delete a contact from the address book on Nokia N900, the process does not stop with the handset. If you merged the contact’s Skype, Gtalk and mobile phone info, or if you just want to remove IM contact clutter from the phone  – N900 goes and removes that info from IM service servers too!

Recently I wanted to delete all the contacts from my N900 phonebook. And did just that. I did not find “Delete all” option at the time (It’s carefully hidden under the “Settings” option), so went about it the manual way. “Delete contacts”, then manually selecting and deleting a number of them.

In the process, I got a message saying “Deleting contacts will also remove them from the server”, but didn’t think twice about that.  I had a backup, and what do I care about contact removal from some server?

I should have. Because by the “server”, my N900 meant Skype and Gtalk servers. And promptly removed all the contacts from there. The only info from those servers that was backed up, was info for the merged contacts. Which was something like 5% of all contacts I had. The rest of the contacts on  Skype and Gtalk is just gone.

Later, when I tried to figure out what happened, I found an option to delete all contacts more quickly and safely. It’s a “Delete all contacts” option, under the “Settings”  in contacts menu. And it does not remove IM contacts. But it was too late.

Should I have been more careful at the time? Yes. And, if I was removing a single Skype contact from the list, and N900 said – we are going to remove this contact from the server, I would, probably, have been more careful. After all, if I am removing Skype contact on my PC, I fully expect it to disappear into the ether.

But N900 is not a PC. And as much as it is like a computer, as much as it has changed my communication patterns, deep down, I still think about it as a smartphone. And when I am deleting 10-30 contacts from it’s address book, some of them plain phone contacts, some of them from Skype and GTalk, I do not expect my IM contacts to be removed from the cloud too.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • christexaport

    maybe your thinking that the N900 isn't a PC was the start of the problem. In my opinion it is, only pocketable. It's Debian Linux, a desktop OS, with the Maemo UI on top to make it pocketable. So its still a PC even though it's in your pocket. Its no different than the OQO or S7 only it doesn't need a stylus

  • Idiot Proof

    Thanks for sharing this great experience with the rest of us. Now I understand why Apple makes their software idiot proof.

  • so sorry

    after reading your story i couldnt decide if i felt bad for you for losing your info or bad for you because you are a prime example of what happens when people use technology when they dont know what they are doing. this is not a fault of the phone, or computer, but your fault for not reading up on the system. even the iphone will delete your contacts off of your server if you sync contacts between server and iphone and delete a contact from your phone.

    as it stands i feel sorry for you for 3 reasons……because you lost your info, because you dont know what you are doing, and because you let us all know this by posting it on the internet. hopefully you also synced with outlook and all of the deleted contacts end up in your deleted items so you can restore them from there.

    good luck

  • JC

    Thanks for the warning, that's just the kind of thing I would do by mistake!

  • Ofer Lando

    Thanks a lot for sharing the experience – I got here while googling for N900, trying to “learn from the experienced” – and that is one mistake I would have definitly down…

  • Marco Barisione

    This will improve in the next release with a better message in the confirmation dialog. Of course if people won't read it and just blindly press yes the contact will be removed.

  • Marco Barisione

    This will improve in the next release with a better message in the confirmation dialog. Of course if people won't read it and just blindly press yes the contact will be removed.