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We have a great number of Android dedicated task devices (as in, no user login) managed by Microsoft Intune. These phones do have the ability to call other phones on a private GSM network.

We want to push a centrally-managed contact list (GAL) to these phones, but since there are no signed-in users (and thus, no licence), we would love to be able to do this without using Outlook.

Does anyone here know of a good (and cheap) solution for syncing these contacts?

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    Welcome to Software Recommendations! Would setting up a server for CardDAV (guess a simple one like BaÏkal would suffice) and using an app like DAVDroid (both open source) on the devices suffice? Most contact solutions on PC should support CardDAV so you could edit/manage the contacts centrally. If that would work for you, I'd exand the idea to an answer recommending appropriate software.
    – Izzy
    Oct 17, 2023 at 6:58
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    Any solution that would meet the requirement of centrally distributing a set of contacts to android devices that are essentially user-less would be great
    – AnalyticaL
    Oct 17, 2023 at 8:00

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You'll need two components here, so I recommend for both ends.

First, you need to manage the contacts "server-side". I myself use Nextcloud for this, as it covers some other needs of mine (like file sharing, cookbook, calendar, bookmarks and more, easily extensible via Nextcloud Apps). So should you need more than just contacts and calendars, it will be worth considering – otherwise it might be a bit "overblown" for your needs. In that case, pick something small and simple fitting those – like Baïkal which focuses on CalDAV (calendar) and CardDAV (contacts) without much FUSS around.

Both applications offer a web interface for management, both are multi-user capable. Both support different databases as backends for storing the data (MySQL/MariaDB and SQLite are supported by both, Nextcloud AFAIK also supports other DBs); depending on the size of your group, SQLite might suffice (it will suffice for a test setup so you can check them out more easily). At least with Nextcloud, calendars and addressbooks can be shared for individuals and groups, read-only or read-write – I haven't used Baïkal myself so I'm not sure if it's supported there, but according to this blog post (which includes details on how to set it up) it should. That way you could have one "admin" account to maintain the contact list, and another (or more) with read-only access, as your question suggests you need.

Now for the Android part. Here I'd recommend DAVx, which is e.g. freely available at F-Droid (or paid at Google Play). It supports multiple accounts and has additional features, but definitely covers what you need. You might want to have mass-deployment and pre-configured settings; for that DAVx offers Managed DAVx which is subscription-based, starting at around €1.49 per user and month but also has a "free tier" for non-profits as well as a "free trial" (30 days).

With the apps being open source, if you have developers to work on them you can customize where needed – and even "upstream" your adjustments if they might help other people and are not too specific to your setup.

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