The iPhone is often praised for having the most seamless desktop-to-phone experience around, but with a bit of extra setup, you can get your Android phone syncing with your favourite Windows programs just as well. Here's how to do it.
If you prefer using desktop programs to webapps, you may find the Google-centric nature of Android a bit annoying. Unlike other phone platforms, it isn't designed to sync directly with programs like Outlook or iTunes — it's designed to be used with all of Google's web services. Luckily, you can sync most of your Google data rigth back down to your favourite desktop programs, so you can keep your email, contacts, calendars, and even music up to date on both your phone and your PC.
Note: Most of this tutorial involves syncing things with Outlook. We'll be using Outlook 2010 in our instructions. Every version is a little different, but in general you should be able to follow along.
Setting Up Gmail in Outlook
Getting your Gmail in Outlook is simple. First, head into Gmail's Forwarding settings and click "Enable IMAP". Save your changes, close Gmail, and open up Outlook.
Go to File > Account Settings to add a new account. Under the Email tab, hit the "New" button. Check the "Manually configure server settings" box, hit Next, and choose "Internet Email". From there, type in your name and Gmail address under User Information. Under Server Type, your account type should be IMAP, your incoming mail server should be
imap.gmail.com, and your outgoing mail server should be
smtp.gmail.com. Under Logon Information, type your Gmail address as your username, and your Gmail password.
Then, hit the "More Settings" button. Go to the Advanced tab and change your incoming server to 933 with SSL encryption and your outgoing server to 587 with TLS encryption. Next, head to the Outgoing Server tab, and check the box that says "My outgoing server (SMTP) requires authentication". Hit OK, and then hit Next. Outlook will log you into Gmail and begin downloading all your messages. Now, you can send and receive email with Outlook, and your Outlook mailbox will always be in sync with your Gmail account on Android.
Syncing Your Contacts with Outlook
There is no built-in way to sync your Google contacts with Outlook, so we're going to use previously mentioned web service Soocial to sync the two, as it's the best free option I've found that works. Head to Soocial's home page and create an account. Then, from your Soocial page, hit "Add Gmail". Go through the steps and hit the Grant Access button when prompted. When it takes you to the setup, choose "merge Gmail with Soocial" and keep the "Mail me a backup" option checked, just in case. Hit Connect to Gmail to finish the process.
After a minute or two, you should see that your Soocial contacts list now contains all your Gmail contacts. Next, go to the "Connections" section of Soocial from the top of the page, and hit "Add Outlook". It will prompt you to download the Outlook Sync Client to your computer. Download and install the program, then start up Outlook.
In Outlook, go to the Add-Ins tab and go to More > Open Soocial Preferences under the Soocial plugin. Log in using your new Soocial account and then hit the Sync Now button. When it's done, you should see all your Gmail contacts in Outlook's address book. It'll sync periodically, so whenever you make a change on your phone or in Gmail, those changes will be synced back to Outlook, and vice-versa.
Note that Soocial is free for up to 250 contacts. If you have more contacts than that, you'll need to pay for their service, or use something like the $US15 gSyncit tool to sync your contacts.
Syncing Your Calendars with Outlook
The last thing we need to sync with Outlook is Google Calendar. Google provides a tool called Google Calendar Syncthat syncs this for us, so it should be fairly simple. Just download the app, run it, and enter your Google credentials in the main window. You'll want to stick with two-way sync, which will allow you to edit your calendar both on your phone and in Outlook. Choose your sync time and hit Save. You should then see your calendar events pop up in Outlook's calendar for viewing and editing.
Sadly, as of right now, the Google Calendar Sync tool does not work on 64-bit versions of Windows. Apart from the aforementioned $US15 gSyncit tool, the only other way to get your calendars into Outlook is read-only, which means you won't be able to edit that calendar in Outlook. To do this, go to Google Calendar's Settings and hit the Calendars tab. Click on a calendar you want to import, and then down at the bottom of the page, click the ICAL button under Private Address. Copy the link that it gives you. Then, open up Outlook's calendar and go to Open Calendar > From Internet. Paste in the link and the calendar will show up in Outlook. Repeat this for all your calendars to get read-only access to them on your desktop.
Syncing Your Music
There are a ton of different media players on Windows, and there's no way we can cover all, but we can cover a few of the most popular, most effective syncing options: DoubleTwist and Winamp.
Syncing Your iTunes Library with DoubleTwist If you're an iTunes user, by far the best way to sync your music and video library is with previously mentioned DoubleTwist. After installing DoubleTwist on your PC, it will scan your iTunes library and allow you to sync it with your Android phone when you plug it in, just like you would an iPod. You don't even need to use DoubleTwist on your phone; music synced with DoubleTwist for Windows is playable with any Android music player.
As if that weren't cool enough, DoubleTwist also offers a wireless syncing feature called AirSync. For that you will need DoubleTwist for Android installed on your phone, as well as the $4.62 AirSync upgrade. It works just like iTunes' wireless remote pairing — just hit the "AirSync" button in the DoubleTwist app, and wait for your device to show up in the sidebar of DoubleTwist on your desktop. When it does, click on it and enter the passcode you see on your phone. From there, you can configure it to sync all your music, photos and video from iTunes.
Syncing Any Music Library with Winamp
Winamp is the other great choice for keeping music in sync between Windows and Android, even if you aren't using Winamp as your main desktop player. The process is quite simple: just plug in your phone, right-click it in Winamp's sidebar, and hit Preferences. From there, you can choose what playlists to sync, whether to sync podcasts, and even autofill empty space with other songs from your library. If you're using Winamp for Android, too, you can even sync over Wi-Fi by enabling it in the settings on Winamp for Android (it should then show up in Winamp's sidebar as normal).
The great thing about Winamp is that it does a great job of importing libraries from other music management programs, and watching those folders for changes. That way, even if you don't use Winamp as your main music library, you can still use it as your syncing program, as it'll keep up with any music that you add or remove from your main library. To set up Winamp's folder watching feature, just head to Winamps Preferences > Local Media > Watch Folders. Add any folders in which you store music, check the "Rescan folders at startup" box, and it'll keep an eye on those folders for new music before syncing to your phone.
Syncing Your Photos Using Picasa
DoubleTwist will sync all your photos to your device for you. However, if you'd like to have your photos stored in the cloud, or if you aren't using the DoubleTwist method above, you can still sync your photos through Google's Picasa service.
In fact, since there isn't really a desktop photo editor that comes with Windows, you can just download Google's own Picasa software and use that to sync. To set it up, open up Picasa and go to File > Import from Picasa Web Albums. Enter your Google username and password and pick which albums to import. If you have any photos in Picasa Web Albums, it will download them to Picasa on the desktop. Now that you've signed in, you can upload any of your local albums by clicking on them and hitting the Upload button on the bottom of the window. Any albums that you upload to Picasa Web Albums will be available both in Picasa on the desktop and in the Gallery on your phone.
If those photos don't automatically appear in the Gallery app on your phone, head to Android's Settings > Accounts & Sync and tap your Google account that you've associated with Picasa. Check the "Picasa Web Albums" box and they should show up in the Gallery, no problem.
Note, unfortunately, that this does not work with devices using the HTC Sense interface. All non-HTC Android devices should be fine, as well as any HTC phone running a custom ROM like CyanogenMod. HTC Sense users will, however, be able to sync their phone with Flickr, which you can in turn sync to your desktop using the previously mentioned FlickrSync program. Keep in mind that DoubleTwist, mentioned above, will also sync photos to your device (though it won't sync them to the cloud first).
It certainly isn't as easy to set up as the iPhone/iTunes duo, but with a bit of work, you can get your favourite desktop programs syncing seamlessly with Android. From now on, your email inbox, address book and calendars should be the same on your desktop as they are on your phone, and you can sync all your other media with the press of a button. Got your own methods for keeping all your data in sync? Share them with us in the comments.