So you know a few people. Okay, you know a lot of people. And you need to keep in touch with these people. Of course, your iPhone has a built-in Contacts app, but isn’t there anything a little more friendly and fun?
Of course there is! It’s Groups – drag and drop contact management. Groups is really just a pair of rose-tinted glasses for the built-in contacts app. When you update contact information in one, you’ll see those changes in the other. For me this works nicely, because the Contacts app syncs with Google Contacts.
In this review, I’ll be a taking a look at the interface of Groups and investigating the functionality on offer.
Creating Groups and Smart Groups
When you first open Groups, you’ll see that several groups are available by default. These are all smart groups. A smart group filters your contacts based on criteria; obviously, if you change a contact’s details so that it matches the criteria, it will show up in the group. Then, of course, you have regular groups. You can create these, then drag and drop contacts into them.
Smart groups have an extra edge on them: when viewing a smart group, the contacts are sorted by whatever criteria the smart group has, if applicable. For example, if you have a smart group that collects all the contacts that have the birthday field filled, this group will be sorted by month, and not by the default Last Name.
So, how do you make a new group? Press the plus sign above the group tabs. You’ll be asked if you want to create a new group, smart group, or contact. A new group requires a name; if you’re making a smart group, you’ll then be able to set up the particular filters you want.
Once you’ve created your groups, you want to drag your contacts into it. To do so, just tap and hold a name until a little rolodex card pops up. Then, drag it into the group you want. It’s easy to move multiple people at a time: just tap and hold two entries at once. You can then highlight the ones you want, then drag them to a group. The number to the right of each contact tells you how many groups (not including smart groups) that contact is in.
Performing Actions on Groups
Tap and hold a group’s tab, and you’ll see a number of group management options.
You can quickly email the whole group; when you first hit “Mail Group” you be asked to choose either ‘To All, ‘Cc All,’ or ‘Bcc All.’ After you choose one, you can fine-tune your selection by changing it for certain addresss, choosing between multiple email addresses for folks with more than one and removing people from the list.
Hitting compose will open a new email message with the appropriate details filled out.
It’s also useful and fun to view the group on a map. You can also send the contact details of the group in a few taps.
Memory lapses happen to the best of us, but Groups has your back. The search bar at the top can help you find your friends fast. You can tap the keypad button to the left of the search bar to do a reverse look-up; start typing the phone number, then tap a person in the filtered list to give them a phone call.
Groups has a wide range of settings and preferences. From the settings panel, you can easily tweak them all.
Choose whether to show contact photos, what the default mail behaviour is (To, Cc, Bcc, always ask), or manage your groups. When managing groups, you can toggle groups on or off, choose their color, and select their sort order.
Integration with Callway
The creators of Groups have also made Callway, “a super fast smart dialer.” If you use Callway, Callway will use your groups. This integration makes it an application that is certainly worth looking into.
After using it for about a week, I opened Groups to find that all my groups had disappeared. I’m not sure if that was my fault or the app’s, but it was an unpleasant surprise.
Also, there occasionally seems to be some discrepancy in the smart groups feature. For example, I currently have 103 contacts in Groups. Smart group “Email : is set” has 102 entries, and smart group “Email : is not set” has 103 entries. This problem also occurs in a number of other Smart Groups. I’m sure this will be fixed before too long, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone else using Groups has noticed this.
On the whole, Groups is a great app. It does exactly what it says it will: makes managing your contacts a breeze, and brings a range of extra functionality to managing those you keep in contact with.
It’s likely worth your five dollars if you need to stay in touch with a large number of people, and regularly send group emails. If you have a fairly simple phone book, you’re likely best sticking with the standard contacts app!