Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Answer to low resolution photos of Google Contacts is ... iCloud?

80615376737341547Recently I started using SmartSync on the iPhone. It syncs the contact information from Facebook with the contacts on the phone. One of the features of it is ability to sync the photo of the contacts. I tried that, but straight away met with a problem. The contact photos were of very low quality. Even though they have shown a screenshot of it showing a high quality full screen contact photo on the call screen, I was getting the small thumbnail on the top right hand corner.

People say that if you set the contact photo from within the phone, you get the full screen caller photo, and if you use a desktop app, you get the thumbnail. I tried assigning a photo to my Wife from within the phone, and asked her to call me. But I did not get the full screen caller photo. But then I checked the size of the contact photo, and found out that it has become a smaller low quality version.

After looking around, I found out that this was all Google’s fault. I sync contacts with Google Contacts via Exchange. Google does not support high resolution contact photos yet. It is limited to 96x96. Even if I assign a larger photo, Google will automatically resize it to fit its requirements. The photo I assigned from within the phone got synced to Google, then it resized the photo and that resized photo got synced back to the phone.

overview_titleApple’s own iCloud service does not have this limitation. They allow large contact photos. Surely there must be an upper limit. But at least you get the full screen caller photo with an iPhone 4S. So I moved all my contacts from Google to iCloud. (I intend to backup the contacts to other cloud services just in case iCloud service goes kaput or I switch from an iPhone to another brand in the future. But then I will have to find an alternative to iCloud and Google both.)


Full screen called ID in action on the iPhone 4S

You can manage the iCloud contacts from the web if you visit It looks pretty much like the address book in Mac OSX - albeit slower because it is in the cloud. Also it supports iPhone better than the rest, in that you can assign a phone number to as an iPhone, which would allow you to easily make a Facetime call and use, I believe, iMessage too.

All in all, a smooth transition. No problems at all. I also used SmartSync to sync back the higher resolution contact photos and it worked as mentioned. Happy!


  1. You know what! It could be a restriction in contacts protocol. When I sent a contact with a photo which was at least 320x200 to a dumb phone the contact photo was automatically resized to 96x96. Then again it could still be a restriction of google, because I used an android to send the contact :)

  2. it's ok the have such restrictions on a dumb phone. but smart phones, and especially google servers, it is humorous. IMHO they should have two photos on the servers and sync the most appropriate one.


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