If you're looking for a smarter, more organized, and just all-around better way to manage your pile of contacts, Contacts+ for Android is your best option. It brings a number of features to the table that don't just give you a way to quickly get in touch with people, it actually helps you keep up with them.
Uses your phone's contacts, including your Google contacts, which are all seamlessly imported.
Syncs contacts from any email accounts on your phone (including Google Apps accounts.)
Features standard list views or large, photo-centric grid views that bring your friend's pictures front and center.
Pulls in contact information from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and more to give you a complete profile of your contacts, including their most up-to-date contact information, recent activity on social networks, their birthday, shared photos, and more.
Automatically pulls in profile photos from Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and automatically grabs shared photos from Google+
Ranks contacts by importance, most contacted, or by "Starred," which gives you a way to highlight the people you want to see, even if you don't talk to them often
Allows you to easily edit any errant contacts from within the app, instead of shunting you to the origin of the contact card.
Identifies and merges duplicate contacts.
Includes a built-in dialer and SMS app, so you can directly call your contacts or send a message without leaving the app.
Long-press on any contact portrait to bring up quick buttons to call or text that person.
Includes a built-in browser so you can view Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or any other connected social account within the app, instead of being pushed out to the native app or a web browser.
Displays a history of all interactions with the contact, including emails, direct messages, social media interactions, phone calls, and SMS messages.
Call, email, or SMS a contact with a single tap.
Stores and synchronizes your contacts across multiple devices (including Gmail or Outlook) automatically and in the cloud, so you always have up-to-date contact information.
Optimized for phones and tablets, with larger, full-screen views available for tablet users.
Features light and dark themes you can select to suit the amount of light in the room, or your personal preferences.
Includes a contacts and home screen widget.
Reminds you of your friends' birthdays with a notification so you can call or text them to wish them well.
Where It Excels
Contacts+ really won our hearts a few months ago when we stumbled onto it, and since then it's only gotten better. Since our previous favorite, Smartr Contacts, got eaten by Yahoo when they acquired Xobni, the company that built it, we'd been looking for a replacement that got the job done just as well, and Contacts+ does the job just as well, if not a little better. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Google Contacts is long-overdue for an overhaul, and while the default contact manager for Android phones is passable, it doesn't offer quite the same level of features that a more robust app like Contacts+ does. The app is completely free, ad-free, and gives you quick access to any contact you need to look up, either by search, or by viewing your recent or most relevant contacts.
Contacts+ does a great job at emphasizing the social elements of keeping in touch with your contacts, and we really like how it pulls together all of their social networks and updates into one view, just a tap away from their actual contact information. As soon as you open the app, any person you need to communicate with is one tap away (or less if you want to call or text, then you can just long-press their photo). Another tap and you're up to speed on their lives and what they've been doing lately. The goal of the app isn't just to be an address book, although it's exceptional at that (you can search quickly, sort your contacts by the people you communicate with most often or the ones you want to see first, and more), but to also be a tool you turn to regularly to keep up with your friends, communicate with them, and stay in touch with the people that are important to you.
Just one small way Contacts+ proves the point is by notifying you when one of your friends' has a birthday. You get a notification in the notifications bar, and the app reminds you to wish your friend, mom, cousin, or old high school friend a happy birthday. It's a little thing, and definitely not a banner feature compared to all of the others, but it drives the point home.
Where It Falls Short
Contacts+ has a few caveats. First, when it comes to Android, the app relies on your Google Contacts. if your Google Contacts are a mess, or if you have old contacts that you used to email all the time but now never do, Contacts+ may be smart, but not smart enough to sort that out for you. You'll inevitably see people in your contatcts list or grid with no profile image and little additional information associated with them. The app does go out of its way to only show you people in your grid you have phone numbers and additional detail for, but still, this is as much Google's fault as it is anyone else's. Tidy up your Google Contacts and merge duplicate entries before using the app, or at least after you've installed it. Contacts+ does a great job at merging duplicate contacts if you forget to do it up front.
Second, while its contact manager is fantastic, the dialer and SMS tools included with Contacts+ leave a little to be desired. The dialer has a cramped interface that's easy to fat-finger and difficult to use, especially compared to stock dialers, and the SMS app is solid (and I really love the pop-up notification when I get a new text), but it's nothing to write home about. Some people may love having all three of those things bundled together, other people might hate it. Still, even if you do hate it, you can still use your preferred dialer and SMS app—Contacts+ doesn't stop you.
Don't discount your built-in address book and Google Contacts. You already have it, and on most Android devices, you can merge disparate contacts easily and add social network profiles to a single contact card so you can see all of a person's information in one screen. The trick here is that in order to do this, you need to have the right social network apps installed on your phone, and you have to allow them to sync that network's contacts with Google Contacts on your phone. That can get a little tricky at times, but it works. You don't get relationship history, current updates, photos, or contacts organized by relevance and importance, but it definitely gets the job done. Depending on the phone you have, your OEM may have even included a really nice contacts manager.
DW Contacts (Free, 2.1+) looks pretty rough around the edges and definitely won't win any design awards, but it is fast and tries to incorporate a number of features above. You get contact images and a nice grid layout for your contacts, an "events" tab that's ideally used for birthdays and anniversaries, a built-in dialer, drag-and-drop contact organization, long-press contact options, and more. The app also includes a built-in call filter, so your contacts can only call you at certain times, you can silence your phone at night but still let important calls through, block all anonymous calls, and so on. It'll even keep track of how many minutes you have left on your billing cycle.
GO Contacts (Free, 2.0+) deserves a mention, if for no other reason than its incredible popularity. Again, it's more of a contacts and dialer replacement, and its claim to fame is the fact that it's customizable and you can download skins and themes for it, but it does offer some functional features as well. You can search contacts easily, drag and drop them into custom groups, dial or SMS by typing a portion of your contact's name, and easily merge duplicate contacts. Aside from that though, its focus is on form, not the kind of function we're looking for here.
There are tons of contact managers that are essentially replacements and skins for the built-in contacts and dialer apps that we didn't mention, because we were looking specifically for tools that replace your address book with something more functionally useful. Even so, we're sure to have missed some, and there's definitely something to be said for the variety of built-in contact managers different manufacturers include with their devices. On one phone, you may hate it because it's bare-bones and ugly. On another device, it may be beautifully fast and functional. Check yours out before you replace it.