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How to get contacts onto your iPhone - MacStore Guide

Posted on Mon, 6 Jul 2009 01:29 by Simon
How to get contacts onto your iPhone - MacStore Guide images

So you've bitten the bullet and bought yourself, or someone you know, an iPhone. Great, good purchase, you'll find it extremely useful and doubtless wonder how you ever managed without it. There are many things it'll do to help organise your life, including a few you probably didn't even know about (coming up in future guides!). One of the first things you're presumably going to want to do is copy all your contacts onto it. With an iPhone, this is extremely easy.

There are 4 ways to do this; MobileMe, Gmail (or Yahoo) + iTunes, Address Book + iTunes, or SIM card. The most integrated method is via Apple's cloud-storage service MobileMe, but for this blog I'm going to assume you either don't use MobileMe or would prefer to use a different method. Besides, if you do use their service then you can have your phone set up by the staff at O2 (or AT&T in North America).

Generally, how you go about getting your contacts onto your new iPhone depends on where they are to start with. The most likely place for this is your old phone and/or your computer-based address book e.g. your work email account. If you have the latter then great, you're already halfway there. If not, then you need to connect your phone to your computer to copy across your contacts. You can either do this via bluetooth (in which case please check the phone's instruction manual for instructions on how to do this) or a USB cable, possibly supplied with your phone (there would be directions on doing this along with the software required provided with the phone).

Address Book Method

Where you go now depends on the operating system you are using. Mac OS X users, follow a) below. Windows users, follow b) below. I suggest all readers read both parts though, as they both contain some information that may be useful to all.

a) Mac OS X

You need your contacts in the Mac address book; The Mac address book imports 'tab-delimited files', so this is the format you want to save in. If your phone software can do this, then great, but if not then save as a “comma-separated values” file (very common), which ends '.csv' and then use a spreadsheet program like OpenOffice Calc to save in tab-delimited format. You then need to import these contacts into the Mac Address Book, instructions for doing so can be found here.

b) Windows

You need your contacts stored within Windows. On XP, this service is called 'Address Book', on Vista it's 'Windows Contacts' and in Windows 7 simply 'Contacts'. There are some differences in how they all handle your contacts data, but crucially they can all import and export CSV files. If your phone software has the capability to export your phone contacts then the chances are very high that it will be able to export them in csv format. Once done, import your contacts into Windows by:

  • XP: Opening Address Book, clicking 'File' then 'Import'
  • Vista: Opening Microsoft Mail, clicking 'File' then 'Import'
  • Windows 7: Click Start, Type 'Contacts', click it when it appears. Then click 'Import' on the toolbar.

After selecting the required options, browse to your previously created contact-file (CSV) and open it. Voila, your contacts are now in Windows and accessible to Outlook etc.

Now, connect your iPhone to iTunes (I'm assuming you've installed it, unfortunately it's necessary for interfacing with an iPhone).

In iTunes, select your iPhone:


Then click 'Info';


Check the box next to 'Sync contacts with:'

Select your relevant Windows or Mac contacts, leave 'All contacts' below.

Click Sync and once iTunes is done, all your contacts are on your iPhone!

Gmail Method

You need your contacts stored in your Gmail account, which you may already have. Personally, I did not already have this, but chose this method because it meant all my contacts would be saved on Google's servers as well as my own hardware, which is a little bit of extra security in case my phone and computer are lost or stop working. Gmail will import contacts from a CSV, which you can export from phone software (see above) or your relevant operating systems internal contact-storage. While Windows can do this from the outset, Macs are incapable of saving to this format from the Mac Address Book, but there is a small and efficient piece of software available to do the job for you called 'A to G'; get it here.

To import into Google:

Once signed in, click 'Contacts' at the bottom of the navigation bar on the left. Then 'Import' on the top right-hand side. Then simply browse to your CSV file and click 'Import'.

Once all your contacts are saved in your Gmail account, open iTunes and select your iPhone.


Click 'Info';


Check 'Sync contacts with:' and change the drop-down menu to Google Contacts;


Click Sync and once iTunes is done, all your contacts are on your iPhone!

SIM Card Method

If neither of these methods work, then you can use your O2 (UK) or AT&T (US) SIM card to copy your contacts onto your iPhone. You will first need to save them to your SIM card from your old phone. They may already be saved on your SIM card, but if not refer to your phone's manual for how to do so (online help forums are also often very good on subjects like these). Then insert your SIM card into your iPhone, and after a short delay to allow your iPhone to recognise your SIM card, open the 'Settings's app;



Then scroll down to 'Mail, Contacts, Calendars';


The scroll all the way down to the bottom, where you'll find the option 'Import SIM Contacts';

iPhone iPod

After letting it finish, your contacts are now on your iPhone. The problem with this method is that most SIM cards will allow you to save at most 100 contacts, though some can now store 200. For some people (e.g. business users) this is nowhere near enough.


Personally, I found it easier to type most of my contacts into my google (gmail) account, which has the added benefit of allowing you to check and 'tidy' all your contacts in the process. Once they are in your google account you may never need to type them again as you can use them on your iPhone, export them for use in other programs (gmail can export in CSV format), or import them directly into other smart phones. Any contacts you add to your iPhone will be synced into your gmail account by iTunes, assuming you have it set up to do so. You also benefit from having your contacts saved 'in the cloud' i.e. securely backed up on Google's servers so, should a crisis happen to your phone and computer you will not lose any vital contact information.

Readers Comments
Great article... I was able to transfer my contacts from blackberry to iPhone in < 15 mnts

Thank you so much guys!!!
Posted on Fri, 27 Jan 2012 22:02 by Vijay
isn't it ironic to see how tricky it is to perform such simple things like importing contacts to an iPhone. I like most the way using gmail, muahahaha, the biggest rival is the easiest method to import contacts
Posted on Thu, 8 Mar 2012 12:28 by michi singer
Thanks for info on restoring contacts from windows - you just saved my life!! :)
Posted on Fri, 25 May 2012 12:52 by Kerry Wise
Still can't get iTunes to see outlook! It's driving me nuts!
Posted on Mon, 28 May 2012 11:53 by David
still I have problem with transferring my contacts from my notebook(Sony VAIO)to my iphone 4 I did everything as schedule but I can not import contacts to (info part) of itune to sync. please I need more help.
Posted on Wed, 20 Jun 2012 01:45 by Binayee Kurdi
The most straightforward method fo me was to export contacts from old phone PC Studio (since I was using it anyway to transfer photos etc).
One you have CSV file with your contacts it is very easy and quick to import it directly to iPhone with app "Contacts In: Import CSV Contacts". You can map phone types (mobile, home etc) and many more. Very flexible.
I found the only way that worked for me, was exporting a .vcf file, emailing it to myself and opening it on the iPhone 4s. For some reason my phone is not syncing with iTunes at all, and it also doesn't work by syncing with Exchange. but this way is easy and free!!
Great, THANK YOU, spent over a week trying to sort this out, your way worked first time.
Posted on Fri, 22 Feb 2013 08:11 by Brian
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