Sync an N97 with a Mac over-the-air with Google

Right, buckle down, this is a fairly involved process to setup (although automated entirely once it’s going). And I’ve been quite wordy so it’s a long read. Get a cup of tea and a biscuit in. Oh, and I say N97, it should apply to any recent s60 phone.

IMPORTANT: First things first. You’re going to be screwing with your important contacts and calendar data. The nature of syncing means that often the fields used for data by Nokia/Google/Apple are different, so things may go wrong, and you may loose data. I am not responsible for this! And backup your data first!

Back up the Calendar and Contacts on your N97. You can do this with PC suite to a PC, or to the devices memory card. If anyone’s got a good link on backup/restore then post in the comments.

Backing up Addressbook (different in SL, see here)

Backing up iCal (and a different method as iCal is different in SL)

Backing up Google Calendar (I think that’s the right link, I didn’t need to do this)

Backing up Google Contacts

Finally, if you use google talk, make a list of your contacts. (I don’t know if there’s a way to automate this).


Right, first off it makes sense to explain my setting, what worked for me, and some limitations. I have an N97, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook and a Google account and want to keep them all in sync. In general, the “master copy” for me is the phone, and the rest are just backups, but it’s nice to be able to add data to the machines and have it sync to the others automatically.

I tend not to use gmail via the web interface, instead I connect (on my phone and laptops) via various mail programs over imap. Why is this important? Because if you use the web interface, gmail will add anyone you correspond with as a contact, which will then sync to your other locations. This may or may not be an issue for you.

Another issue is the different fields used by the different apps to store data – this is more of an issue with contacts. When I initially set it up I had problems with surname/firstnames being reversed, and other such things. But then I had a fairly odd contacts setup I won’t go into here. What I will say is, once it’s setup and everything’s in sync and the data’s ok, it seems to stay ok. With the calendar, the only issue I’ve come across is with alarms, see here for details. Also I seem to have a few issues with anniversary type events (birthdays) but that might be a hangover in my data from previous syncing with other devices.

I’ll briefly explain the process I went through, and my starting point:

I had all my data on 1 mac, cleared the contacts in Google, emptied the calendar. Empty contacts and calendar on the N97.

  1. Synced mac to google.
  2. Synced google to n97.
  3. Synced other mac to google.
  4. Deleted all contacts, calendar data on both macs, and google
  5. Cleaned up the data on the N97
  6. Resynced everything

Obviously step 4 onward was a bit extreme. I expect if you just clean up the data and resync it should be fine. And anyway, if it all goes tits up you made backups like I told you yes?

Getting started

First up, understand this. There are 2 parts to the operation:

  • Syncing your mac with Google.
  • Syncing you N97 with Google.

I’ll cover them in turn.

Software Setup

OK, two things to setup software wise.

On your mac: Start address book, go to preferences, general tab. Can you see a “Synchronise with Google” option? If the answer’s yes, well done, skip this part. SNOW LEOPARD UPDATE: You should be able to skip this section on SL.

If not, then you need to make this option appear. Sadly Apple in their wisdom decided only the true believers with iPhones should sync with google, and the option only appears if you’ve attached an iPhone or iPod touch. So the easiest thing to do, if you have access to one, is to plug in an iPhone/iTouch, let iTunes start, then eject it, and restart address book – the option should be there.

If not, or you don’t have access to one, you can add the file for the menu option yourself. Here’s a good how-to. If you don’t have the plist at all, then I’ve exported an ASCII version of my file here so you can recreate it:

    Devices =     {
        43F9146D367EF1D1 =         {
            Connected = 2009-08-13 12:55:10 +0100;
            "Device Class" = iPod;
            "Family ID" = 10003;
            "Firmware Version" = 256;
            "Firmware Version String" = "3.0";
            ID = 43F9146D367EF1D1;
            "Serial Number" = 9C7270AQ301;
            "Updater Family ID" = 10003;
            "Use Count" = 1;
    "" = 1;
    "conn:128:Last Connect" = <c6a9bdae>;

Note that I've changed the serial number and ID, so that might not actually work. And you'll need to use plist editor to save that as the correct XML.
On your N97: Have a look in Applications->MfE, is mail for exchange already installed? If yes, you can skip this. If not, there are two ways to get it. First, the install .sisx is in c:\installation\MailForExchange_S60_5_0.sisx so you could try running that. Second, you can make it install by adding an email account with the wizard, make up an email address (NOT a gmail one), set the type as exchange, let it do it’s stuff, then you can delete this profile from MfE later, or edit it to the gmail one.

Part 1: Sync your Mac with Google

Two things to do here, contacts and calendar.


Addressbookthis link has most of the info, read it. But basically, you just go to preferences and enable the “Synchronise with Google” button. But read the link for all the Caveats.

Check your google talk at this point, as google say :

Due to an interdependence between Gmail and Google Talk, removing or replacing contacts in Gmail may require you to reauthorize some contacts for chatting in Google Talk. This can also happen if contacts are merged or deleted and then synced.”

This is why I told you to note them earlier.

Note that syncing will now happen whenever you load the various apps on your mac. However, changes you make to the info that is then pushed up to google can take 10-15 minutes to show in the gmail interface to your contacts. But the changes are there at the backend, if you sync something else – say your N97 – then the changes will propagate.

Part 2: Sync your N97 with Google

Right. This is gonna be done with Google’s support for exchange, and Mail for Exchange (MfE) on the N97. Have you got a backup before we begin?

nice video at the nokia blog.

And Google’s instructions.

Those instructions are basically right, the hurdle you might fall at is getting MfE on the phone in the first place, see my instructions above.

You can set the auto-syncing in MfE, but then you can also force a manual sync through the menu option. Don’t forget to set the access point/destination up, and remember this does use a little bit of data, so consider the costs on your data plan.


We’re pretty much done. Assuming you set MfE to sync automatically, now everything will be kept up to date without you needing to remember to do anything. Great. However, I’d recommend at this stage just going through your info on the N97, checking it’s correct and editing as necessary and then force a manual sync. Then check your data everywhere else too (remembering google’s web interface can take 10 mins to catch up). And if it’s all gone wrong, at least you made backups like I told you, right?

If you ever want to check it’s been syncing correctly, just fire up the MfE app on the phone. It will then tell you when it last synced, and if you double tap that, it brings up a log telling you what was synced.

Any improvements you want to this article, want to see screenshots, or links to add, or just to thank me – fire away in the comments.


3 Responses to “Sync an N97 with a Mac over-the-air with Google”

  1. […] for syncing calendar and contact info between an N900 and a Mac, via google. It’s based on my previous post for the N97. The mac side of things is the same, as are all the warnings. So go read that article first and set […]

  2. […] too much on this is a waste of my time – people come here because they want to know how to solve problems and do cool things. But thought I’d jot down a few thoughts from the notes I took, […]

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