Technology can be fickle, and frankly, one of the most annoying aspects of changing phones is ensuring all your contacts are transferred over to your new device. In the olden days, this meant manually typing in countless names and phone numbers. Today, our smartphones can do most of the work for us. This guide will show you how to move contacts from iOS to Android and vice versa, so you can move between platforms without the hassle. Your best bet? Google Contacts and Apple’s iCloud.
Exporting contacts from iCloud
If you have enabled iCloud on your iPhone, backing up contacts is incredibly easy.
Sign into iCloud on your computer as you would normally and click Contacts. Once you get to the next screen, select All Contacts in the top-left corner and hit Command+A or CTRL+A to select all contacts. Afterward, click the gear icon at the bottom of the page and click Export vCard. Once the ensuing window opens, select all of your contacts again with Command+A and right-click on any contact. Choose Export vCard, name the vCard, and choose your desired save location.
Your contacts will download as a VCF file you can either email to yourself, or directly import to Google. Once you activate your new phone — of any type — set up your email account and import the vCard from your email to upload all the contacts. We recommend saving the email containing the vCard, as it now serves as a cloud-based backup of all your contacts. It’s also a good idea to save them to your desktop, just in case your phone meets with an untimely accident.
Transferring with Google Contacts
First, you’re going to need a Google account, which will simplify moving contacts between platforms. If you don’t have a Google account, quickly sign-up for one with Google — you’re going to need one for your Android smartphone anyway. Before you even touch your new Android phone, log into Google Contacts in your browser. Down on the left hand side you should see an Import contacts… option. Click on it, the click Choose file, and navigate to the vCard that you saved from iCloud.
If you had a Google account prior to this process, you will notice your contacts list is now much larger and likely has some duplicates. If you see duplicate contacts, you may need to spend some time deleting or modifying them. It’s best to do this manually, but Google does offer a Merge contacts tool which is designed to do the same thing. However, it’s not always the most accurate.
If you want to give it a try, go to the More button outfitted with the downward arrow, located near the upper-left portion of the window while viewing your contacts page. The drop-down menu gives you the option to Find & merge duplicates. Selecting this option tells Google to automatically search your contacts for duplicates.
Transferring contacts to your new phone
Now that you have your contacts in Google organized exactly how you want them, it’s time to put them on your phone. If you haven’t powered up your new phone yet, the transfer will be easy. When you first boot up your new phone, it asks if you want to sync your phone to a Google account. Simply enter in your account information and your phone will automatically import all the contacts from your Google account — no manual upload necessary.
However, if you already turned on your Android phone and didn’t sync it with a Google account, head to the Settings menu and find the Accounts or Accounts & Sync option that shows you every account synced with your phone. At the bottom of the page you will see a button labeled Add account, where you can now enter your Google login. Once you select your Google account, it will sync all your contacts to your phone, along with Calendar, Chrome, Gmail, and whatever components you choose to sync.
If you’re switching from Android to iPhone, just hop on your new phone, and go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account > Google. Enter your Google login info and your iPhone will automatically sync the contacts housed within your Google account. If you want it to stay synced and include any new contacts you add, then you’ll also need to go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Contacts > Default Account and select your Google account.
Wasn’t that easy?
Given the current popularity of Google’s services, it’s a breeze to transfer contacts to any new phone. Not only does your Google account sync your contacts in Android, but also does so on Windows Phone devices, too. We review phones all the time, and without Google, the process would be insanely painful. There might be other one-time use options which will get the job done, but if you are able to keep your Google contacts up to date, switching smartphones is a walk in the park.
Get an App
If you are in a pinch and need to transfer your contacts fast, there are plenty of apps which help make the transfer easy.
Our favorite of the bunch is My Contacts Backup for iOS and Android, an efficient and easy-to-use app. After downloading and installing the application, tap Backup to create a backup file of all your contacts. Once the backup completes, email the contact file to yourself. When you get your new phone, open the email and click on the VCF attachment, which allows your phone to import the contacts. Once you’re done, save the email in your inbox in case you decide to switch phones again. The app also gives you the ability to set up automatic backups of your contacts, which we recommend scheduling after the application downloads.
Updated 8-24-2015 by Simon Hill: Removed outdated iTunes method and added a new, simplified method along with screenshots.
Updated 10-13-2014: Added an instructional video.
Updated 9-23-2014 by Rick Stella: Updated to reflect software and hardware changes in iPhones and Android phones.