One of the most common issues I come across with business users and Android smartphones is Exchange contacts and calendars not syncing. This can be very frustrating, especially since not every Android device is created equally. With different release numbers, different provider platforms (Motorola Motoblur vs. HTC Sense vs. Samsung Galaxy), and even different installations of Exchange, it can easily become a chore to keep this feature working.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to walk through some of the troubleshooting tips for syncing Exchange contacts and calendars on your Android smartphone.
Correct account type
I have seen instances where users have set up their company email on their phone as an IMAP or POP account. When this is done, the contacts and calendars will either not be able to sync or will suffer from sporadic syncing.
When you set up an account on Android, depending upon the type of Android device you have (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, etc.), the correct account type might be called something different. Here are the correct types, according to device manufacturer (all phones listed below run Android 4.0 or later):
- Samsung: Exchange ActiveSync
- HTC: Exchange ActiveSync
- Motorola: Corporate Account
If you're attempting to sync to an Exchange server with any type of account other than the above, delete the current account and re-create the account with one of the above types.
Make sure sync is set
During the setup of the account, you are asked what you want to sync and how often you want to sync it. I've seen accounts set up with contacts and/or calenders not included in the sync process. To make sure sync is enabled for both contacts and calendars, do the following:
- Open Settings
- Tap Accounts and Sync
- Tap on the Exchange account
- In the Data and synchronization settings (Figure A), make sure everything is checked
- Tap Sync Now
Sync settings on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S III.
If both are set, and your contacts or calendars are not syncing, do the following:
- Unset both
- Tap Sync Now
- Set both
- Tap Sync Now
Make sure Exchange contacts are displayed
With Android, you can set which contacts to display. You might find that your Exchange contacts are hidden. To find out, follow these steps:
- Open the Contacts app
- Tap the menu button
- Scroll down and select Contacts to display
- Select Exchange
Now, you should see only your Exchange contacts. If they appear correctly, go back and select All contacts, and see if they remain.
Create a new contact/appointment from phone
I have also witnessed this strange fix. A client came to me with this very problem. I went through all the motions of fixing the issue and nothing worked. It wasn't until I added a test contact and calendar appointment from the mobile device that everything started working.
Blow away your account
Many wince at this idea — but remember, we're talking Exchange, so you won't lose any data. If you have tried to set and unset your sync options and it just won't work, delete and re-add the account. Make sure you do this when your mobile is connected to Wi-Fi, so the syncing will happen automatically (and do so much more smoothly).
If all else fails, there are third-party software titles that will more than likely help you around this issue. Two particular titles are better suited for business users.1. Missing Sync
Missing Sync works via USB, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. This tool helps keep your Android in sync with your desktop Outlook. Don't be fooled though, this isn't an ActiveSync solution. And while the Android app is free, the required desktop client will set you back $29.95 (USD) for the personal edition.
Missing Sync allows you to sync:
- Call log
- SMS/Text Messages
Touchdown is probably one of the best solutions for this issue. If you're looking for a single app to access your Exchange email, contacts, calendar, and tasks, Touchdown is it. The app costs $19.99 (USD), but it's a highly configurable application for Outlook power users.
Touchdown features include:
- Support for Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks (and Notes and SMS syncing for Exchange 2010 servers)
- Numerous options
- Custom notifications
- SD card support
- Widgets: Email, Tasks, Calendar, Universal Widgets
- Secure: TouchDown supports Exchange ActiveSync policies, such as PIN, Remote Wipe, Data encryption and Storage card encryption of corporate data
- Corporate Data Separation
- S/MIME: Send and receive S/MIME signed and encrypted emails
I've seen plenty of instances where the built-in Android contacts and calender would fail, and the Touchdown app would succeed every time.
No one wants to deal with syncing issues on a mobile device (especially when you're on the go). Give some of these fixes a try and see if they don't solve your contacts/calendar woes.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.