Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Sync iPhone Contacts With Gmail Contacts

Warning: These instructions are only for Mac users that sync to Address Book. I don't know the dynamics if you're syncing your contacts with Exchange, or otherwise syncing on a PC.

Once you set this up, when you're in Gmail and go to address any email Gmail will include all of your iPhone contacts in the list of contacts that it searches to auto-fill any of the address-to fields. Also you'll be able to search your contact database no matter where you are using Gmail's flexible contact search. This is nice given that iPhone doesn't yet have a contact search feature.

You sync iPhone contacts with Gmail contacts by telling Address Book to sync with Google Contacts, the ones used in Gmail. There are actually three stores to sync up:

1. iPhone
2. Address Book (Mac)
3. Google/Gmail Contacts

The sync between iPhone and Address Book is already solid and automatic. The rest of this post is all about the sync between Address Book and Google Contacts.

First I want to say that I did have problems when I first sync'd. The problems were between contacts that I already had in Gmail that also related to contacts I had in iPhone. I got duplicate entries. It was problematic to get those cleaned up so I ended up simply deleting all my Gmail contacts, cleaning up everything on iPhone, then syncing. All was well after that.

Once sync'd up my tests showed that when you add, delete, or edit a contact on any of the three stores the changes are indeed reflected on the other two.

So here are the steps I recommend:

1. Delete all of your Gmail contacts by going to Gmail, going to Contacts, selecting "All", and then clicking on "Delete contact" button.

2. Now in Gmail click on "My Contacts" and uncheck the checkbox that says, "Automatically move suggested contacts into My Contacts if I frequently email them." This should avoid unwanted and sometimes duplicate, contact entries on your iPhone. It also forces you to explicitly add new contacts.

3. Now's a good time to optionally clean up your contact list on your iPhone.

4. Now go to Mac Address Book and tell it to sync with Gmail. On your Mac open Address Book, go to Preferences, check "Synchronize With Google", click on the button right there that says "Google...", and enter your Google username and password.

5. Sync your iPhone using iTunes.

Wahlah. You should now see all your contacts under "Contacts" in Gmail. From now on all three stores should automatically keep up with any change to your contact list no matter whether the change is originated on your iPhone, in Address Book, or in Gmail.

The sync will occur from now on every time you Sync your iPhone with iTunes.



Curtis said...

when I add new conacts to gmail or make changes to existing contacts they don't sync to my iPhone. Changes made on my iPhone do sync to gmail. Any ideas?

Forsyth said...

Not sure.

You might try focusing on getting it to work only between Address Book and gmail contacts first.

That's where the gmail sync is happening anyway.

If you add a new contact to gmail contacts does it make it to Address Book?

The syncing done between gmail and Address Book is through Mac OS X's Sync Services and are supposed to maintain a "continuous sync" between the two. See here (#6):

Maybe the "continuous sync" isn't so "continuous." Maybe Address Book only syncs with gmail when you open it up or something. I don't know.

Maybe it syncs at regular intervals.

Try adding a contact to gmail and then reopening Address Book to kind of force a sync between gmail and Address Book.

Does that work?


mkvakin said...

I tried to sync the contacts from gmail to iPhone. Now I have 2399 contacts. It is impossible to use the address book.

Anonymous said...

You might want to install "Contacts Cleaner" iPhone app to clean them up

Forsyth said...

mvakin, Are there duplicates? Were there around 2,000 contacts already in gmail? Are they mostly "junk" emails that gmail kept automatically?

PaulD said...

Thanks for the benefit of your experience Forsyth. Can I suggest you be more specific in your instructions about what store you are working on in each step? i.e. "Click on Contacts" - is that on the iphone or gmail contacts ?

Forsyth said...

@ Paul. Thanks for the suggestion. I just added the verbiage you requested.

marianne said...

my gmail contacts sync with my iphone but when I make a change on my iphone and sync it does not change contacts on my pc - what am i doing wrong?

Forsyth said...

Marianne, Does the change you make on your iPhone appear in your Mac Address Book?

Marianne said...

Forsyth, I don't have a Mac. I am talking about my Google/Gmail contacts on my pc.

Forsyth said...

Cool Marianne. As the first paragraph indicates, these instructions are only for use with a Mac. The approach depends on a feature in Mac OS Address Book for it to work. Good luck in your quest!

Mercy said...

I get the feeling I'm going to feel dumb asking this, but my Address Book on my Mac does not have a single contact in it. It's not been touched at all (meaning I haven't added or deleted anything out of it) since I bought the laptop, so I'm at a loss on how to sync everything together... I know you wrote that it's automatic, but is there a manual way to add the contacts from my iPhone to my Address Book in order to sync with Google?

Mercy said...

And when I say manual, that's in a "please don't tell me I have to type everything in, I'm begging you" sort of way.

Forsyth said...


I think you're in luck : )

First a warning: I've never done this with your specific situation so I'm *nearly* 100% confident that an "empty", brand new Address Book on a new Mac wouldn't trump (i.e. overwrite) the contacts on your iPhone.

If concerned at all you might sync first on another machine, perhaps one that you've been using.

Here's what I would do,

1. Open iTunes

2. Connect your iPhone to your Mac

3. If it starts a sync automatically that's fine. After the sync open Address Book and see what you've got. If your contacts are there, you're done. (BTW if you don't want sync to start automatically each time you plug your iPhone in then under the "Summary" tab uncheck the checkbox labelled "Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.")

4. If a sync didn't start automatically or your contacts aren't in Address Book then,

a. highlight your iPhone under "Devices" in the left column in iTunes.

b. Under the "Info" tab select "Sync Address Book Contacts".

c. Select the radio button "All Contacts"

d. Click the "Sync" button -- bottom right

That should do it.

Don't know how "manual" this is, but...

Good luck!

nathan said...

For those who use: Gmail + iPhone + PC (XP) and have accidentally lost their contacts on gmail, but still have them on their iPhone.

to get contacts back in gmail-
1. in iTunes- Devices>Info>Contacts
Switch to Windows Address book. make a copy (always merge data). Click Sync

2. Switch (back) to google contacts
Click Sync. Merge data.

3. Log out and in your gmail. check contacts. They should be there.

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial
This is another one

Just in case

Diana said...

How do I remove or delete groups I don't want in my mac address book? Thanks!

Forsyth said...

Hi Diana, Go into Address Book, highlight the group, then Edit menu, then "Delete Group". The group will go away but the addresses in them will not. (Probably "Backspace" key as a shortcut on Mac keyboard -- not at one at the present -- but Delete key works on PC keyboard.) Assuming here you're asking about Address Book solo, and not about a syncing issue.

Don said...

If you're looking for a way to sync your iPhone contacts with Gmail while maintaining your groups, you may want to try Contacts Sync With Groups For Gmail at the iPhone App Store. You can read about it at: