7 Tools for Syncing Friends’ Facebook Photos with Your iPhone Contact List

If you’re a Facebook user and own an iPhone, there are several tools that can help you synchronize information on your Facebook friends with your iPhone contact list. Here are a few of the better apps we’ve seen so far that you may want to take for a spin.

Vringo, at left, and Photo Phonebook, below, are free iPhone applications that allow you to assign your friends’ Facebook profile pictures to your iPhone contacts. While it is normally pretty tedious to take pictures of your friends and manually assign them to contacts in your phone, these apps provide automatic matching and syncing capabilities between Facebook profile pictures and iPhone contacts. When you receive a call, the caller’s most recent Facebook profile picture is displayed on the phone screen, giving your contacts greater control over how they’re represented in your phone.

Vringo gives users greater control over the syncing process, allowing users to review suggested matches before assigning pictures to contacts. With Photo Phonebook, there’s a higher probability that pictures are erroneously assigned to contacts. However, poor photo quality is a shared complaint across users of both apps: the photos are often overly stretched or compressed. Another similar app to explore is MyPhone+, which is currently unavailable for download due to a bug in the latest version (v1.3).

FriendSync is a paid iPhone application ($1.99) that syncs not only Facebook profile pictures, but also other data such as your friends’ names and birthdays. Like Vringo, FriendSync automatically suggests matches, but allows users to customize options beforehand and manually adjust syncing as needed. One of the many options FriendSync makes available to users is the ability to customize the image size of a picture when an incoming call comes in. Note that iPhone user reviews repeatedly express the app as being quite slow.

There are also free tools, including Fonebook (for PC users) and AddressBookSync and FacebookSync (for Mac users), to sync Facebook data with Outlook and Mac Address Book contacts before syncing with the iPhone. All of these apps sync Facebook profile pictures and birthdays with your computer’s contacts. AddressBookSync even tries to sync the current locations of your Facebook friends, and FacebookSync’s previous attempt to sync phone numbers and email addresses from Facebook got it into trouble with Facebook’s Terms of Use, which prohibits the syncing of private contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and chat names.

Facebook’s strict terms is one of the reasons why the majority of Facebook-iPhone syncing apps focus on syncing photos and birthdays as opposed to more practical data like phone numbers and email addresses.

In general, there seems to be a healthy demand for tools that sync Facebook friends with iPhone contacts, largely because the overlap between users’ Facebook friend list and iPhone contact list is significant. Developers working to meet this area of demand need to ensure that the next versions of syncing apps deliver better photo quality, greater reliability (e.g., faster upload times and fewer crashes), and increased control over syncing preferences and permissions (e.g., allowing users to review automatic matches before syncing and customizing photo image size).