How Would You Fix Google's Contact Management?

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Google’s recent move to integrate Google+ into Gmail has moved the social product to an interesting new place. The move makes sense, and shows that the company is committed to making Google+ work. The two features highlighted in Jeff Blagdon’s write-up were facial recognition and contact integration in Gmail. I believe Jeff was correct that facial recognition was a big feature, but I disagree that it was the "big one". I’ve long argued that contact integration with Gmail was a no-duh feature that could bring utility to both platforms. In fact, when Google+ was launched, I was surprised they didn’t roll Gmail’s groups into Google+ Circles by default. I suppose the blowback from Google Buzz could be at least partially to blame.

All this being said, the way that circles have been integrated into Gmail is almost schizophrenic. To explain, when you open your contacts from Gmail, there are now two major groups: "My Contacts" and "Circles". Given that I have a "College Friends" circle and a "College Friends" contacts groups, why not offer to merge these two groups? I don’t treat my circles any different than I treat my contacts group, so why should Google? One reason could be for those using Google+ as a news gathering tool. For example, I have a Google+ Circle titled "Following" that contains all those I follow for news-gathering purposes. Integrating these people as contacts would not make much sense and would simply clutter my actual contacts. To solve this, perhaps an "Exclude Circle from Contact List" option would allow for these types of "contacts".

The benefits to this type of contact management are huge – email management by circles, a contact management system that is fun and easy to manage, label mail by circles, and one source for your contacts. This is not an easy change to make, though there are some things that could make it easier. For one, prompt people to move their contact groups to Google+ circles. Currently, management of circles must be done inside Google+. I’d love the option to move (not copy) the "College Friends" group into the "College Friends" circle. Currently, the only way to do this is to use the Circles page in Google+ and add them one by one. Also, make it valuable to use Google+ Circles as your contact groups. If I could automatically label mail from certain circles, or manage mail by circles, I’d be hooked.

So I ask you all – what changes would you make to how contacts are managed in the Googlesphere? Any suggestions for Android contact management?