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How to transfer your contacts between iPhone and Android

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 focus on moving contacts from iOS to Android, but the main principles of this guide will help out with other platforms.

Jump to a backup option:

Transferring with Gmail and iTunes

First, you’re going to need a Gmail account, which will make moving contacts to any platform simple. If you don’t have a Gmail account, quickly sign-up for one on Gmail’s homepage. Before you even touch your new Android phone, plug your old iPhone into your computer and open iTunes. Then, find the Info tab on the menu bar at the top of the window. In the drop-down menu next to the “Sync Contacts With” box, select Google Contacts, and then type in your Gmail account information in the window which appears. This allows Gmail and Apple to update your contacts so all of the names, numbers, and emails from your phone’s contacts are now stored in your Google account.

Note: For those of you switching from Android to iPhone, simply plug in your primary phone, navigate to the Contacts page, click the Menu button, and select “Merge with Google.” Now all your phone contacts have ported over to your Gmail account.

We suggest you then log into Gmail to modify those contacts before syncing them with your new phone. If you had a Gmail 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 have a “merge contacts” tool which attempts to do the same thing, it’s just not always accurate.

If you want to give it a try, got to the “more” button with the downward arrow, located near the upper-left portion of the window while on your Gmail contacts page. The drop-down menu gives you the option to “find and merge duplicates.” Selecting this option tells Google to automatically search your contacts for duplicates.

Transferring Contacts

Now that you have your contacts in Gmail 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, this process 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 Gmail information and your phone automatically imports all the contacts from your account. We told you it was easy.

However, if you couldn’t wait and already turned on your phone, but didn’t sync it with a Google account, head to the settings menu. There, you want to select the “Accounts & Sync” option which shows you every account synced with your phone. At the bottom of the page you will see a button labeled “Add Account,” where you’ll now enter your Gmail login. Once you select your Google account, it will not only sync all your contacts to your phone, but it also automatically sets up your email too.

Note: For those switching from Android to iPhone, just hop on your new phone, enter the Settings menu, select the Mail, Contacts, Calendars tab, and then click Gmail. Enter in your Gmail login info, and your iPhone will sync with all those contacts you just moved into your Gmail account.

Wasn’t that easy?

With the popularity of Google’s services, namely Gmail, it’s a breeze to transfer contacts to any new phone. Not only does your Gmail account sync your contacts in Android, but also on Windows Phone 7 devices, too. We review phones all the time, and without Gmail, 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 Gmail contacts up to date, switching smartphones is a walk in the park.

Related: Best Android apps

One-time use options

Use iCloud


If you have enabled iCloud on your iPhone, backing up contacts is incredibly easy.

Sign into iCloud on your computer and click Contacts. Once you get to the next screen choose All Contacts at the top left and hit Command+A to select all contacts. Click the cog wheel 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 then choose where you’d like it saved.

Your contacts are downloaded 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.

Related: Best iPhone apps

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 transferring easy.

My Contacts Backup

Our favorite of the bunch is My Contacts Backup for iOS/Android, an easy to use and efficient app. After downloading and installing the application, press Backup to prompt the app 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 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 10-13-2014: Added an instructional video.

Updated 9-23-2014 by Rick Stella: This guide has been updated to reflect software and technological changes in iPhones and Android phones.

[Image courtesy of Pedro II/Shutterstock]