The new Android 2.3.3 update rolling out to Nexus S handsets brings along a bunch of cool enhancements, writable NFC tags being one of them, but it might be what the update takes away that will have people talking. The update, in an effort to push Google’s data portability schtick, has disabled the ability for Facebook to sync its data with your contacts. The reason? Facebook never used Android’s Contacts API, meaning synced data was not portable from device to device, service to service. If you uninstall the Facebook application, poof. There goes the data.
That is exactly what Google is suggesting this update does. Treat your phone and contacts as if Facebook is uninstalled, and no longer giving Facebook the leeway to use their own method of contact sync. Google is playing their hand hoping that Facebook takes notice and is forced into moving over to Android’s built-in API. Here is the company line:
“We believe it is very important that users are able to control their data. So in the over-the-air update for Nexus S, we have a small change to how Facebook contacts appear on the device. For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app. Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability. Facebook contact data will continue to appear within the Facebook app. Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data. We are removing the special-case handling of Facebook contacts on Nexus S and future lead devices. We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation — and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well.”
The good news is Google isn’t disabling the functionality in the Nexus One version of the Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread update. For now only the Nexus S won’t be able to sync contacts with Facebook, though Google mentions the feature will be revoked in other “lead devices” in the future. This most likely would stick to Google Experience devices, as most custom UIs like HTC Sense and Samsung TouchWiz feature their own methods of Facebook integration.