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.