June 5, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka
Evaluated version: 7.0
Pros: Replaces blurry contact photos with higher quality images
Cons: Matching requires some slight tweaking to be perfect
One of the most common gripes about Android is the piss-poor handling of contact photos. Google Contact photos are stored online at a very low resolution, so caller ID photos and images in the People app look terrible. What do you expect to happen when a sub-100 pixel image is stretched to 256 or higher pixel ranges?
HD Contact Photos is one of the better solutions I’ve found for addressing this problem. While users can improve photo qualities by linking with Google+ or Facebook, these solutions come up short because not everyone in your contacts uses either service. Rather than manually change contact info and watch in frustration as the low-res images reappear when syncing contacts, HD Contact Photos overwrites the low quality image with bigger photos stored on your device. The Android 2.2+ app loads JPG or PNG photos at the max resolution a phone will allow (256px in a Nexus or 400px if rooted). It’s not a crystal-clear image, but it’s passable and a very noticeable difference from the default setting.
Once a folder containing larger photos is stored on the phone, HD Contact Photos searches for matches based on filename. An image named “Gordon Green.png” will then be applied to the contact of the same name. The matching sometimes falls short because of spelling, but there are settings to handle partial matches (“Gordon.png”) that increase detection. Matches can be bulk approved, and the app can correct associations or manually apply an image to a contact. Be careful to approve all matches carefully because in my testing, the same photo was applied to two people I know named Scott.
HD Contacts requires some extra work in the initial set-up process, but unless Google addresses this small but important detail, it’s the best way to prevent your contact photos from looking like complete crap. (Google said months ago it was working on a fix, but you probably don’t want to wait any longer.) Download the app from Google Play if you’re sick of seeing cloudy and blurry images. The basic app is free, but some premium features are unlockable only through a $1.97 USD donation to the developer.
Other supported features includes:
- Backup and restore for easy reapplication of photos (useful for frequent ROM changers)
- Importing Facebook or Twitter profile photos
- Graying out non-matches to highlight photos that need more attention
- Search for a specific contact
- Controls for partial matches, character conversions, and caching
Here are some before and after shots to give you an idea of how the app performs.
Notice one of the contacts didn’t change; that’s because I didn’t update his photo
There’s a huge difference when browsing through the People app
Caller ID is where this app shines brightest