Understanding Googles Other Contacts

Google Contacts is designed to help any Google account holder with an easy way to manage their contact list, similar to other contact management tools. However, you may see some strange address records that show up in your address book. These are called “Other Contacts.” In this tutorial, I’ll explain what are “Other contacts” and what you can do with them.

Two Contact Repositories

The nice thing about Google Contacts is that the contact record is accessible either through an app on your phone or webpage. If you’re a new Gmail user, you may be surprised that there is a dedicated page showing your contacts. You can find it at: https://contacts.google.com/

When you glance at the left navigation panel, you’ll notice there are two links for contacts. The first is the main Contacts section. It contains people you’ve manually added to contacts or imported records from a CSV file or vCard.

Google Contacts panel with Other contacts highlighted.Pin
Other contacts appear lower portion

The second repository, Other contacts, is just above the Trash link. If you use lots of contact labels, you may miss it.

What are “Other contacts”

This last group, called “Other contacts,” is a separate contact repository and often confuses people. Google may automatically create these entries. For example, if you sent an email to some support address, that email address would show in “Other Contacts.” You didn’t explicitly save the email address, but Google did based on your Gmail settings. 

This contact creation is done as a convenience for you so that the email address can appear as an auto-complete entry. The thinking is these email addresses are not frequently used, so they aren’t a priority. And, unlike default contacts, you won’t see a contact count.

In addition, any Google contact that you elect to “hide” will move from the Contacts area to Other Contacts.

On mobile devices, such as Android devices, you might not see the navigation entry and list of contacts. This is because these contact types don’t sync. However, if you use the search bar, you can find the desired contact record.

As with regular Google contacts, if you click the entry, you will see the contact details. However, it’s quite limited. Sometimes, you’ll see an image associated with an email. Often, you’ll see a generic colored icon if you’re using the “comfortable” display list setting.

Interacting with Other contacts

By design, there are limited actions you can take on these contacts. For example, you can add a photo or contact labels. However, you can’t add more information or custom fields. Furthermore, the Edit button doesn’t show. 

You can quickly move an entry from “Other contacts” into your main contacts by clicking the Add to Contacts icon.

Other contacts example with Add to Contacts button highlighted.Pin
Add to Contacts button

After you move a contact, you can edit its details or star it.

Moved contact with Edit button.Pin
Edit button now shows

There are several ways to move other contacts to your main address book. You can also do this on one record or several. Sometimes, the easiest way to start is if you have a mobile phone. While it doesn’t sync these contacts, it does highlight addresses you email a lot. So these are probably good candidates to move. The disadvantage is you can’t edit the contact at the same time.

Contacts App

On your mobile phone, go to your Contacts app. Click Merge and fix. In the middle of the screen is a link for Add people you email often

Mobile app with Add People you email often.Pin
Add people you email often

A list will appear. You can either Dismiss an entry or click Add contact.  

Desktop

The desktop provides more options because you have additional display options.

  1. Go to https://contacts.google.com
  2. Click on Other Contacts toward the lower left.
  3. Click the 3 dot More actions button.
  4. Select Display density.
  5. Choose Compact mode.
  6. Click Done.

Your contact list should now have the contact icon replaced with a checkbox. This allows you to select one or more Google Contacts.

Compact display mode and selected contacts.Pin
Multiple contacts selected
  1. From the toolbar at the top, click the Add to contacts icon. It’s the one with the + sign and person profile.

Deleting Other Contacts

After seeing the list of Other Contacts, some people may wish to delete all of them. The process is easy. However, the contacts won’t show in Trash like your main Google Contacts. Instead, you’ll need to do a special recovery process.

  1. Click Other Contacts from the left pane.
  2. Click the icon or checkbox for the first item on your contact list.
  3. Click the triangle to the right of the blue square icon on the mini toolbar.
  4. From the drop down menu, select All.
  5. Each entry should be checked and to the far right will be a selected record count.
  6. From the mini toolbar, select the 3 dot More actions button.
  7. From the drop-down menu select Delete.
  8. On the Delete selected contacts? dialog, click Delete.

Based on how many entries you have, it may take a bit to delete. During this process, the contact list will display in a lighter color.

Stop Creating Google Contacts

Some people prefer not to have Google automatically add contacts. You can easily turn off this feature within your Gmail account settings.

  1. Open your Gmail page.
  2. From the top right, select the gear icon.
  3. From the top of the side panel, click See all settings.
  4. On the General tab, scroll down to Create contacts for auto-complete.
  5. Select the radio button, I’ll add contacts myself.
  6. Scroll to the bottom and click the Save Changes button.

In this tutorial, I have outlined how Other Contacts are created and differ from your main contacts. Now, you should have enough information to decide if you wish to move some to your main database, delete them, or turn the feature off.