Cellphone Synchronization (March 2003 issue)

Have you ever wished you had an easy way to edit the contacts in your cellphone? Have you ever gone through the painful process of re-entering all of your contacts into a new or replacement cellphone, using just the cellphone's keypad? FutureDial ( has developed a solution to these vexing problems. It's called SnapSync, software that synchronizes your cellphone contacts with Outlook on your PC.

There are 170 million cellphones in the USA, and the average life of a cellphone is 18 months and dropping. That's a gigantic potential market, yet FutureDial has almost no competitors. The reason is that it takes a substantial amount of effort (and a large dose of engineering smarts) to support even a fraction of the approximately 150 currently available cellphone models. SnapSync currently supports 85 different cellphones, with another 21 listed as "coming soon" on their website. FutureDial has been able to reach this 70% penetration level by developing extremely close relationships with ten cellphone OEMs (Audiovox, Ericsson, Hitachi, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sanyo and Siemens - with Panasonic and Sharp coming soon) and with five major wireless carriers (AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon).

SnapSync is very easy to use. Once you've connected your cellphone to your PC and started the program, the cellphone is automatically recognized (no configuration!), and then two information panes appear (see the screenimage). The left pane contains the list of contacts retrieved from your cellphone, and the right pane contains the list of contacts retrieved from Outlook 98, 2000 or 2002 (XP). The panes can be sorted by clicking on any column. For example, the cellphone contact list could be sorted by name (the way it appears in the cellphone), while the Outlook contact list could be sorted by company.

The basic functions of the program are as follows:

  • Edit, add or delete cellphone contacts
  • Save or restore the cellphone contact list to/from a file
  • Combine the current cellphone contact list with a stored backup file
  • Copy selected Outlook contacts to the cellphone contact list
  • Synchronize all Outlook contacts with the cellphone contact list
  • Export the edited cellphone contact list to the cellphone
  • Transfer the cellphone contact list to a new cellphone
  • Print the cellphone contact list
SnapSync accesses up to seven cellphone numbers from each Outlook contact (home, work, mobile, pager, data, fax and other), plus the contact's email and web addresses. The only significant restriction in SnapSync's use of Outlook data is that names can only be transferred to the cellphone contact list in the format "FirstName LastName." However, since the cellphone contact list can easily be edited, names can be manually changed to "LastName, FirstName" if that's what you prefer. While Outlook is currently the only contact manager supported by SnapSync, FutureDial expects to add support for other contact managers such as Lotus Notes, Act, Goldmine, etc.

I tested SnapSync with a two-year-old (already obsolete!) Ericsson T28z cellphone on Cingular Wireless. This ancient cellphone (available on eBay for $35) can hold only 80 contact names (limited to 12 characters each) with only one telephone number for each contact. In contrast, the latest SCP-5300 Sanyo cellphone (as a typical example) sold by Sprint can handle 500 contacts with seven telephone numbers per contact plus 300 email and web addresses.

After a straightforward installation process, SnapSync version 1.7 worked fine even with my ancient Ericsson cellphone. Reading 33 contacts from the cellphone took 27 seconds via serial; reading 1,100 contacts from Outlook took 32 seconds (but only 15 seconds the second time I ran the program, probably due to OS or Outlook caching). Exporting the contacts to the cellphone after editing took only seven seconds.

I purchased my Ericsson serial PC-to-cellphone cable from a discount cellphone accessory store on the web for $30, but FutureDial sells their own branded cables (serial or USB) for all 85 supported cellphones on their website for the same $30.

SnapSync runs under Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP. It's available at cellphone stores (e.g., Sprint), CompUSA, Radio Shack and on the FutureDial website, where it costs $30. FutureDial is considering expanding their distribution into the traditional PC channel (e.g., Fry's Electronics). Currently FutureDial only supports US cellphones, but expansion into the rest of the world is likely in the future.

Although SnapSync currently accounts for the majority of their sales, FutureDial also sells two related products: SnapDialer, software that allows using your cellphone as a wireless modem for your PC, and SnapMedia, software that allows editing and transferring musical ringer tunes and graphic images to your cellphone. See for more information.

The bottom line for me is that I will never again have to do 36 button-presses to enter "Blickenstorfer". With SnapSync I can synchronize my cellphone as easily and as often as I synchronize my PDA. Thank you, FutureDial.

Based in Silicon Valley, Geoff Walker is Pen Computing Magazine's Technology Editor and a consultant with Walker Mobile. Geoff, who hovers on the border between marketing and engineering, is currently focused on pen-enabled mobile products. He can be contacted at

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