Google+ removing contacts from your circles?

I ran into a bizarre issue last week with Google+ and I finally figured out what’s happening. I had added a number of people to my circles in Google+ but I realized that they were all removed from my circles at some point. I added them again, and after couple of days, they were removed again! It turns out it was my fault combined with Android/Google/Gmail quirks.

The default setting in Android is to sync to all your Gmail contacts under “My Contacts”. This is a little annoying because anyone you ever emailed in Gmail gets added to “My Contacts” and I don’t like to sync all of those contacts to my phone. Since I don’t use Gmail, this wasn’t a big problem for me, so when I got my first Android device, I added my contacts that I phone regularly under Gmail manually and I had them all synced up nicely with my Android devices. So far so good.

The problem is that when you add someone to your circle in Google+, it also gets saved under “My Contacts” in Gmail contacts. I think it gets saved under “Other Contacts” but nevertheless, by default, you’ll get these contacts synced to your Android phone and that’s what happened to me. When I saw these Google+ contacts on my phone, I deleted them, thinking that I’m just deleting contact entries from my Gmail but actually I was effectively removing them from my Google+ circles. The other weird thing is that even though these Google+ contacts were under “Other Contacts” in Gmail, I couldn’t see them separately from “My Contacts” on my Android phone, so there was no way to not sync to these contacts.

So what did I do? First, I separated my contacts that I phone frequently under “My Phone Contacts” under “My Contacts”. That way, this list is separate from any other junk that might be added to “My Contacts” later. Then, I added people back to my circles and they in turn got added to “Other Contacts”. Finally, I changed my Android phone settings to only sync to “My Phone Contacts” and voila. I got my phone contacts on my phone and people stayed in my Google+ circles.

Everything is good now but I wish Google paid a little bit more attention to the workflow between Gmail, Google+, and Android. I think it’s weird that I can remove people from my Google+ circle by removing them from my Gmail contacts. To me, Google+ and Gmail are separate things. Anyway, in case you run into something similar, hopefully this post will provide you some understanding.

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5 thoughts on “Google+ removing contacts from your circles?

  1. I had about 5,000 people I was following on Google+. A couple weeks ago, I deleted a lot of extraneous contacts in my Gmail. Today I noticed that I only had 600 people in my Google+ circles and was very confused on what the problem was until reading this post.

    Thanks for sharing. You don’t know of a way to undo all of the removed contacts do you?

  2. “Finally, I changed my Android phone settings to only sync to “My Phone Contacts” and voila. I got my phone contacts on my phone and people stayed in my Google+ circles.” So how do you change this setting, where?

  3. This is for HTC Desire but it should be similar on other Android phones:

    1. Go to People
    2. Hit Menu and then select View to get to View Contacts page
    3. In View Contacts page, under Options, you should see Google.
    4. Expand Google and unselect everything except “Phone Contacts”

    1. This is only related to “display” settings, actually, not sync settings. Google contacts sync does not change with this setting. My Contacts db is 27 MB in size, just because of the silly Google+ Circles integration. I’ll stop using Google+ or use only local phone contacts (copying my contacts to phone, clearing contacts db and disabling contacts sync). This is the only solution I can think of.

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