Get Contacts and Calendars on Your iPad the Easy Way

With all of the wireless products coming out these days, doesn’t it seem pretty old-school to have to fumble around with cables and synching with a desktop or laptop to get your data on a mobile device? The Palm Pre may have been a marketing flop, however it showed us a glimpse of the near future where we no longer have to link up to a PC to keep our contacts, calendars and such up to date and at the ready.

The last few updates to iTunes and even the Apple mobile OS’s have allowed for some synchronization with information sources other than iCal and Address Book, however it seems that for the time being, Apple wants us tethered to our PC’s with our mobile devices.

Earlier this year, I decided to move my entire contact database, calendar and tasks to Google’s free Gmail system which has allowed me to have completely accurate and up to date information perfectly duplicated on nearly all of my mobile devices. The process was fairly painless and has simplified my mobile life considerably.

Enter iPad: Now that I have joined the iPad toting ranks with my recent 3G iPad purchase, my first goal was to get my information onto it so I could start using it to its fullest potential. With Address Book and iCal in sync with my Google account, I had the latest information on my iPad, however any changes I made on my iPad would not sync back to Google until I performed and full synchronization when I returned home.

After looking into the perplexing problem, I discovered links all over the web with how to do this with a wireless setup directly on the device. Most of the information I found was either out of date, confusing to follow, missing steps or did not pertain to iPad. I did learn enough to get it working and decided to do a step-by-step guide to share how to set this up easily.

Step One:
First and most importantly, connect your iPad to iTunes and perform a full synchronization. It is essential to make sure your iPad has a chance to perform a back-up of all of your data before any changes are made. The following steps are easy and pose no threat to your data, but let’s just error on the side of caution before any system changes are made.

Step Two:
It seems obvious to say, however you will need to have a Google email account for this particular exercise. If you do not have one, you’ll want to head over to Google and get a Gmail account. In my example, I already had my data on Google with a clean iPad. Your situation may differ, however a sync with Google is two-way so whatever is on your iPad will go to Google and Google to iPad, etc.

Step Three:
On your iPad, go to Settings, then Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Tap on Microsoft Exchange to create a new account. On the account information pop-up, enter your full Gmail address (ie. in the email address and user name fields. Also enter your Gmail password and a description of what account this is or stick with the default. Don’t worry about the Domain field, it stays blank.

When you tap Done, your iPad will verify your account which can take a few minutes, especially if your account information was entered incorrectly. You will get a message, “Unable to verify certificate” during this process. Simply accept to continue. After your account is verified, the Account Information box expands out to ask for two more bits of info. You will now see, Server and Use SSL pop into view. I recommend keeping SSL on for keeping your data encrypted over a wireless network. For the server, enter; and press Done once more.

The last step here is another easy pop-up that asks you what data to sync. You can select, contacts, calendar and email. I left email turned off since the iPad has native Gmail support built in. Tap Save and that completes the setup for your contacts and calendar sync with Google.

Step Four (optional):
If you have and use multiple calendars within Gmail, you’ll quickly notice that only one is showing up in the calendar program on your iPad. This last step is done on the iPad browser and allows you to select all of the calendars you’d like to see and use on your iPad.

Using your iPad’s Safari Browser, enter into the address bar. You’ll need to sign into your account, then you will see your iPad entry in the field along with any devices set up with Google Sync. If you are having trouble at this stage, make sure Java is enabled on Safari. Select iPad from the list by touching the entry listed.
Now simply tap the check boxes for each calendar you want to use and tap the Save button on the right. Once you go to calendar, the Google calendars will sync and populate.

Notes of Caution:
When you enter into your address book on the iPad, your initial sync may take some time depending on the number of entries you have in there. I highly recommend being on a WiFi network for the initial sync as well.

I initially experienced a problem with contact sync where my contacts were duplicated. The problem was replicated on both my Google account and the Address Book on my Mac. Fortunately, both services have an option to merge duplicates which cleared up the problem. I deleted the Exchange account on my iPad which cleared all of my contacts and entered this procedure again and the duplication did not come back. The only difference between the first and second sync I performed was that the first time was on a remote wireless network and the second time was on my own at home.

With this simple procedure, you’ll easily be able to keep your contacts and all of your calendars in sync no matter what computer or mobile device you are using.

Some Setup Screenshots:

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