How to use Gmail to manage contacts on an iPhone

When I first moved to an iPhone, I lost all of my contacts after an update to iOS (good old iTunes and its corrupt backups). I had just gotten the phone, so there were not many contacts to lose, and I had them backed up in an excel spreadsheet. But I learned not to ever trust Apple with my data.

After doing a little bit of research, I discovered that I could use Gmail to manage my contacts, which is a great solution because it integrates with iOS 4+ really well and also because it gets my contacts online.

This is optional, but if you already have contacts in your iPhone you’ll want to import them into Gmail. Unfortunately the easiest way to do this is using iTunes (after this is done if you have iOS 5+ installed you’ll only need iTunes to sync music and ringtones).

You can use iTunes to upload existing Contacts from your Apple device to Gmail. Only the following information can be uploaded:

  • People’s names and job titles
  • Company names
  • Email and postal addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • IM names, including the type of service
  • Notes

Other information, like custom ringtones and photos, are not uploaded. Please sync them to Outlook first.

Contact Upload Instructions

  • Connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your computer using the USB cable.
  • Open the iTunes application.
  • Select your iPhone and click the Info tab.
  • Check the Sync Contacts with option and select Google Contacts from the drop-down menu.
  • Click Configure and enter your Google username and password.

  • Press Apply to sync your device with iTunes.
  • Once you’ve checked that your contacts are available on the web, disable iTunes Contacts sync with Google. If you don’t do this, you’ll see duplicate contacts on your phone.

Now that you have your iPhone contacts in Gmail, you can setup Gmail using an Exchange connection and specify that account for default contacts creation.

Getting Started

1. Open the Settings application on your device’s home screen.
2. Open Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
3. Press Add Account….
4. Select Microsoft Exchange. iOS 4.0+ allows multiple Exchange accounts. However, if you’re on a device that doesn’t let you add a second account, you could also use CalDAV to sync Google Calendar and IMAP to sync Gmail.

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Enter Account Info

5. In the Email field, enter your full Google Account email address. If you use an address, you may see an “Unable to verify certificate” warning when you proceed to the next step.
6. Leave the Domain field blank.
7. Enter your full Google Account email address as the Username.
8. Enter your Google Account password as the Password.

Notes about passwords:

9. Tap Next at the top of your screen.
9a. Choose Cancel if the Unable to Verify Certificate dialog appears.
10. When the new Server field appears, enter
11. Press Next at the top of your screen again.

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Enable Mail and Calendar

12. Select the Google services (Mail, Calendar, and Contacts) you want to sync. To receive and respond to meeting requests on your device, both Mail and Calendar need to be turned on, and New Invitations needs to be enabled in your Google Calendar settings.

To enable New Invitations, sign in to your Google Calendar using the web browser on your phone or computer. Go to Calendar Settings > Calendars > Click on the Notifications for the calendar you want to sync. Under Email check New Invitations (and any of the other Invitation settings you want enabled), and click Save.

13. Unless you want to delete all the existing Contacts and Calendars on your phone, select the Keep on my iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch) option when prompted. This will also allow you to keep syncing with your computer via iTunes.

If you want to sync only the My Contacts group, you must choose to Delete Existing Contacts during the Google Sync install when prompted. If you choose to keep existing contacts, it will sync the contents of the All Contacts group instead. If there are no contacts on your phone, the latter will happen — the contents of your All Contacts group will be synced.

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Set Gmail as the default account for new contacts

To do this, select Settings  >  Mail, Contacts, Calendars  >  Scroll to the Contacts Section  >  Default Account  >  Change FROM On My iPhone TO (whatever you named your Gmail account).

Now, whenever you create a contact on your iPhone, it will automatically sync to Google!

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