Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar using Funambol for FREE

moto-q.pngI have a love/hate relationship with my MOTO Q smartphone. I love it because it helps me stay connected on-the-run, because it has a big keyboard, and because I got a great deal on it.

I hate it because it runs Windows Mobile 5, which has crashed a few times so badly that I’ve had to reset my phone, wiping out all my information.

There’s a big problem with Windows Mobile – Microsoft wants you to use their Activesync software to backup your contacts, calendar, and other files. That’s all fine and dandy, but surprise, surprise! Activesync only interfaces nicely with Outlook. Linux/Mac users, and Windows users who dislike (or can’t afford) Outlook are locked out in the cold. Sorry.

This is a HUGE problem, especially for potential GNU/Linux adopters. Here’s a typical scenario: Joe User hears about this “Linux” thing and decides to give it a shot. He tries it, likes what he sees, and is considering switching full-time, but then Joe decides to plug in his Windows Mobile-based smartphone or PocketPC. Uh oh. Nothing happens. Joe User is savvy enough to do a little searching, but quickly realizes that syncing his Windows Mobile device to Linux is going to be about as easy as convincing Microsoft to switch to a UNIX-based kernel!

Ever since I bought my phone, I’ve been looking for an easy, free way to sync my contacts and calendar without using Activesync and Outlook. I’ve spent many hours researching and testing a handful of methods, with varying amounts of success. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post tutorials on a few of my findings.

I only have two requirements:

  1. The method must not require Outlook or Activesync (or Windows Mobile Device Center, or whatever Vista calls it).
  2. As the self-proclaimed ruler of the free world, I require that the entire process be FREE. No subscription services, one-time fees, or anything like that.

Let’s get started!

Method One – Funambol

funambol-logo.pngOne possible solution that I’ve found is by using Funambol (http://www.funambol.com). According to their site, they are the world’s leading mobile open-source project. I can’t verify if they’re truly the world’s leading project, but I DO know that they offer the easiest syncing solution that I’ve tried so far.

Step One – myFUNAMBOL Portal

If you are so inclined, you may download their server software (for Windows or Linux) and run your own sync server. For the rest of us, they offer the free myFUNAMBOL Portal. The portal is currently in beta, and they claim that sign-up is by invitation only. However, I had no problem registering directly for an account.

Create and activate your myFUNAMBOL account. Once activated, you should receive a message like this:

funambol-success.png

You may also choose to synchronize e-mail with Funambol by giving it your e-mail address and e-mail password. Be sure to register your correct phone number with Funambol, since this is how you are going to receive the phone plug-in.

Your new myFUNAMBOL portal should look something like this (click for larger view):

funambol-portal-default.png

Step Two – Install the Phone Software

Now that the portal is working, it’s time to install the Funambol client onto your phone. From inside the myFUNAMBOL portal, choose Profile, and then drill down to the Phone option. Verify that the information is correct, and then from the drop-down list at the bottom, select Download Funambol Windows Mobile Plug-in to my phone. See screenshot below.

funambol-dl-wm-plugin.png

You should receive a text message with a link to the plug-in, or you can choose to download the CAB file directly by browsing to this link on your phone – http://my.funambol.com/me/funambol-sm-plugin.cab.

funambol-wm-plugin.png

Once the plug-in is successfully installed, you just have to configure it.

Step Three – Configuration and Initial Sync

wm-funambol-login.pngYou’re almost done. The final step is to tell the Funambol client on your phone how to connect to the myFUNAMBOL portal. Enter the credentials for the account you created. The server location should be filled in for you automatically.

Once the Windows Mobile plug-in is connected to the web portal, all that’s left to do is start syncing.

Chances are high that you can just press the Sync All button to have your information sent to the portal. If you want to specify which elements to sync, choose Menu → Settings.

See the slideshow below for a visual overview of the Funambol plug-in on my MOTO Q.

There you have it. Once the initial sync is finished, log back in to your myFUNAMBOL portal and verify that your Contacts and Calendar settings have been updated.

Try it out. Add or delete a contact via the web portal and press Sync All again from the Funambol phone plug-in. The changes should update on your phone. Also, any contacts or calendar information that you add on your phone should update in the web portal. Nice.

Other Thoughts

Naturally, to make your phone sync with Funambol, you need Internet access on your smartphone or PocketPC. My mobile plan has unlimited data access, so this works well for me. If you pay for all data access, consider setting the Sync Method to Manual so as to not incur costly data charges.

For me, the main purpose of Funambol is to backup my Contacts and Calendar without Activesync or Outlook, and it does the job with aplomb. If Windows Mobile crashes and forces me to do (another) hard reset, within minutes I can reinstall the Funambol plug-in and reload my critical information. It gives me peace of mind. The best part is that it doesn’t matter what operating system your computer is running. You can still keep your information in sync.

For you Windows/Outlook users out there, you’ll be pleased to know that Funambol also offers an Outlook plug-in to synchronize your Contacts and Calendar. If you throw Google Calendar Sync (for Outlook) into the equation, you can create one lean, mean, syncing machine!

As I mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time researching this lately, and in the coming weeks I plan to post a few more tutorials on syncing Windows Mobile information without Activesync or Outlook, including information on making it work with Thunderbird and Google Calendar. Stay tuned for my findings.

In the meantime, if all you need is a simple, elegant, and FREE method to backup your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar over the Internet, Funambol has you covered.

- Brian Bondari

If you found this article helpful, please subscribe to our feed for future updates.

25 thoughts on “Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar using Funambol for FREE

  1. Thanks for the nice tutorial! However, I think I’ve just found a better one that suits all your requirements. It’s simply an exe that runs on the device. It asks what to backup, and stuffs all data in a single file, which you can later move onto your pc. It passed my first test successfully. I took a backup of my contacts, then I deleted a couple of them, and then restored. They are all back! It also asks what to do with the duplicates. It does its job, no more, no less. I found that great.
    And of course the link: http://www.dotfred.net

  2. Ercan – thanks for the comment, and for the link. I’ll take a look at that application. From what I read on the website, it sounds handy for producing a simple backup that can later be restored.

    The beauty of Funambol is that contacts and calendar are always in sync with the server. It’s a “set and forget” process. It looks like the PIM backup application has a “scheduled” backup option, but I have to always remember to e-mail the backup file to myself, lest the phone crash (or get lost/stolen) and take my backup file with it.

    Still, other options are always great. Thanks for pointing out this piece of freeware. I had not run across it yet.

  3. At last. Here’s the program I was looking for. I wrote to the developers after I installed and successfully ran Funambol today:

    Hey guys, this program is just amazing. It does just what I wanted all the other programs to do but couldn’t get them to do … and for free …! This is already a program I won’t be able to do without in conjunction with my Treo 700w. Awesome job. I can finally use Outlook, the web and my phone in harmony.

  4. Great article. I have recently joined the WinMo 6 family and I wanted a remote syncing solution that didn’t require me finding a hosted Exchange Server (a bit of overkill for one person).

    I see that you mention that Funambol has a server solution. I went to their site and found both the PPC .cab and Outlook plug-in but didn’t see how to set it up on my own personal server. Is that a ‘paid for’ item or a free d/l? If so, can a link be provided?

    Thank you.

  5. Drew – The server bundle is available at the top of their downloads page. It’s called the PIM & Email Bundle, and it’s available for both Windows and Linux servers. Documentation is included in the archive.

    Before I discovered the myFUNAMBOL Portal, I started setting up my own Funambol server, but discovered that it was overkill for my meager needs.

  6. I have almost (99%) been using your solution for a while now but instead of using Funambol servers I use the free Scheduleworld Funambol server (scheduleworld.com).

    I installed the same Funambol plugin on my phone and I sync with the Scheduleworld server my contacts, calendar and todo’s. After that I open up Thunderbird and I sync from the server using the SyncSW (Scheduleworld) Thunderbird addon and I have the same on my PC and my phone. I also export my contacts in CSV from Thunderbird and I import them in my GMail account online.

  7. I´ve been usign funambol-Scheduleworld solution to sync with thunderbidr-lightning combo (sick of using outlook) with my moto q (windows smartphone). The problem I have is that to synchronize it is needed to launch funambol sync each time i want my phone to be in sync.

    Activesync automatically syncs outlook PIM information when i put the phone on the craddle. Anyone knows a way to automate funambol sync like activesync?

  8. Great setup, concise article. I would be all for using the myFunambol portal except that it seems to only support one email account, and I need multiple (3 IMAP accounts, actually.) I’m comfortable with Linux server setups so I’ve configured an Arch Linux Funambol server and it’s running great, but I can’t get my WinMo 6 phone to connect to it.. more tinkering required, I suppose. Anyone know the ports required? I have 8080 forwarded. Or maybe I just have the “Server Location” URL wrong.

    Pedro, you should be able to configure the Funambol plugin on your smartphone to make use of the “push service” instead of synchronization, this is what you want. It has to be enabled on the myFunambol portal as well.

  9. Great product and I don’t have to deal with Active Sync , but still using Outlook. I have not installed the Outlook plug-in and just used my phone and Funambol. I check NOTES in the settings and it did sync it. But where in the Funambol portal will my notes appear.

    Thanks once again…great article

  10. I just wanted to say a quick thank you. With all the problems going around about WMDC 6.1, I’ve spent 25+ hours trying to get my ActiveSync to work to no avail. I lost all my contacts and calendar entries off my phone weeks ago and couldn’t get them back until now! Not only could I take them from Outlook to Funambol to my phone, but now I’ll never have to deal with WMDC again! A thousand times over – thank you.

  11. THANK YOU! THANK YOU. Using winmobile 6.1 and wasted hours to try to get activesync or other sync tools to just get my outlook contacts synced. This is the best and FREE!

  12. I lost all my contacts last September (all 250 of them) when I used ActiveSync to back up my contacts from my phone. It backed up 10, then froze. I had to unplug the phone and try again. When I plugged it back in, it started syncing automatically.

    I assumed it was syncing my contacts, and it did. BUT WAIT! I only then had 10 contacts on my phone! You see the default setting is to sync from the computer to the phone, so when it got plugged in again, it synced all 10 contacts to my phone, and deleting the other 240. I was ENRAGED! I could not believe a piece of technology in 2008 could be so god-aweful and delete all my contacts! But it did. I will never again touch ActiveSync. BE AWARE of ActiveSync!!

    I just used the Funamobl system and it worked great. I only had it sync my contacts, because my email is already synced with my Gmail account via IMAP, and my iCal takes care of my appointments. If I really wanted to have a calendar on my smartphone I would just use Google Calenar to sync everything.

    Oh, I also deleted the new Funamobl email account they setup. Hopefully that avoids any ads on my phone. I am not looking forward to that. Also I copied and pasted the contacts from the online account into an Excel file (looks aweful but works) so that way I have them all backed up in case something bad happens. I only wish I had seen this post when it came out and not 9-10 months later :(

  13. While Funambol is a good, free alternative to Activesync… it is missing some KEY features, such as different scheduling options for pulling email from the server for different times of day. Also, when you are in “Flight Mode”, Funambol gives an error message every 10 seconds, which does not allow for any useful applications to run at the same time. As well, it eats battery life. I’m lucky to get a full day’s worth of battery when running Funambol, as opposed to 4 or 5 days when running Activesync.

    Funambol has a LONG way to go.

  14. This funambul stuff is cool. I will give it a try. Anyway, for your issue I would suggest SPB backup software for ppc. It won’t only restore your contacts, but also all installed applications and so on within minutes, as long as you regularly do your backups. It is really a beautiful piece of sw for ppc.

  15. I can’t seem to install it on my smartphone. I am not using data plan from my carrier. I have wi-fi on my phone and only use it. Could this be the reason?
    I would love to use this program as activesync is driving me crazy.

  16. It seems good for all the Windows Mobile users.
    But I am trying to develope application in which i would like to use the Funambol protocol for communication. So please let me know if any code samples OR reference.
    Thanks in adv.

    Regards,
    Amit R

  17. Great posts, thank you very much for putting this information together!

    Don’t forget to use the Funambol Mozilla Sync Client for Thunderbird!

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/thunderbird/addon/8616

    Unlike the “proprietary” SyncSW add-on, this can be set up for any Funambol server – MyFunambol for example. Using it you can sync your phone, Thunderbird and MyFunambol without having to use Plaxo!

    After all, having your PIM data on the servers of free-services should always be kept to a minimum!

  18. However, the portal says it’s only a 90 day free trial. So presumably we have to pay after that to do this?

    Neil

  19. myFunambol is great but has the same draw back as some other sites like syncme.se and others. I cant export my data to a file! I feel as locked in as ever. Does having a server on my personal laptop help, I wonder?

  20. Funambol is excellent for calendar and contacts. For those looking to sync data, such as pictures and videos, Dropbox.com is the best program available.

Comments are closed.