Android to iPhone: How to transfer contacts

android-to-iphone

Setting up a new phone can be a daunting process, especially if that new phone is an iPhone and your old phone was an Android. Just ask me. As an Android user for over three years, I was steeped in Google’s ecosystem. Naturally, my first question upon acquiring my first iOS device: how do I transfer my contacts from an Android phone to the iPhone?

It turns out both Google and Apple provide all the tools necessary to make the process as painless as possible. In this article we will discuss transferring and syncing contacts using a Mac, a Windows PC, iCloud, or directly using CardDAV.

Transfer Contacts from Android to iPhone on Mac

If you own a Mac laptop or desktop computer, Apple provides one of the most direct paths for transferring contacts from an Android phone to the iPhone. You won’t need to purchase or download any special software. You will only need:

  • your old Android phone,
  • your new iPhone (and USB-to-dock/lightning cable),
  • and a Mac running OS X and iTunes.

The first step is to make sure your Android contacts are backed up to your Google account. You can do so by navigating to Accounts under the Settings menu of your Android phone and tapping “Google.” On the next screen, select the Google account you wish to sync. You should now see a menu like the one pictured below.

android-contact-sync

Make sure the box  next to “Contacts” is checked off to allow the phone to sync your current contacts with your Google account.

Next, we want to sync our Google contacts with Apple’s Contacts app on your Mac. This is easily accomplished by accessing the Preferences menu of the Contacts app and clicking the Accounts tab.

apple contacts google sync

Select “On My Mac” from the list of options and check the box next to “Synchronize with Google.” You will be prompted to enter your Google account info. Once done, your Google contacts will be synced with your Mac address book.

For the final step, connect your iPhone to your Mac using the included USB-to-dock (or USB-to-Lightning for iPhone 5) cable. If iTunes does not launch automatically, open it now.

sync-contacts-itunes

Under the iPhone settings and sync dialog, navigate to the “Info” tab. Check the box next to “Sync Contacts.” You can choose to sync all contacts or only selected groups.

Finally, perform a sync between your computer and iPhone. Your entire contact list should now be available on your iPhone just as it was on your Android.

Transfer Contacts from Android to iPhone on Windows

The process for transferring contacts from Android to iPhone using a Windows PC is largely the same, except we will use Microsoft Outlook instead of the Apple Contacts app.  You will need:

  • your old Android phone,
  • your new iPhone (and USB-to-dock/lightning cable),
  • and a Windows PC with Microsoft Outlook and iTunes.

After syncing your Android phone with your Google account, export your contact list by logging into GMail, navigating to your contacts, and selecting “Export…” from the “More” drop down menu.

gmail-export

On the following dialog, select the contacts to export and choose Outlook CSV for the file format. Save the file to your computer (it will be named contacts.csv by default).

gmail-export-outlook

Next we will import our Google contact list into Outlook. Do so by opening Outlook and navigating to File > Open > Import > Import from another program or file. Then click “Next.” When prompted to select the file type to import, choose “Comma Separated Values.” Click “Next.” Under the “File to Import” dialog, browse to the .csv file you created and click “OK.”

Outlook will ask how you want to handle duplicate contacts. Choose an option and click “Next.” Choose a destination folder, typically the Contacts folder, and click Finish. Your contacts will be imported.

To sync contacts with your iPhone, connect to your PC using the provided cable. Open iTunes, navigate to the main iPhone dialog and click the “Info” tab. Check the box next to “Sync Contacts” and choose Outlook as the source from the drop-down menu. Determine which contacts to sync, and perform a sync between your PC and phone. Your old Android contacts should now be on your iPhone.

Sync Android contacts with iPhone using CardDAV

Alternatively, you can bypass the need for a Mac or PC by setting up your iPhone to sync directly with your Google contacts. We do so by using a CardDAV account. Don’t worry, if you have your contacts synced to Google, you already have this capability. No special software or hardware is required, otherwise.

As with previous methods, start by making sure your Android contacts are synced to your Google account. After doing so, proceed to the next step.

From the Settings menu of your iPhone, navigate to Mail, Contacts, Calendars. On the next screen, choose Add Account.

add-carddav-iphone

Select Other and choose “Add CardDAV Account.” In the following dialog, enter “google.com” as the server name, your Google account name and password, and a description. The result should look something like the following:

carddav-iphone

Select Next at the top of the screen to complete the setup.

In order for changes made to contacts in your iPhone to sync directly with your Google account, you will need to make it your default account. Do so by scrolling to the “Contacts” subsection of the Mail, Contacts, Calendars settings menu and select the Default Account option. Choose your Google account to set it as the default.

Sync Contacts Using iCloud

icloud-sync-mac

Mac users can also enable iCloud contact sync under the main OS X Settings. This will keep your contacts synced across your phone and computer automatically. After syncing your Google contacts with your Mac as described above, enable this option to move your address book to the cloud.

It is important to note, however, that enabling this option will then disable Google account sync in the future, meaning contacts will not stay up to date across both services. Do so only if you plan to move away from using your GMail contacts.

iphone-contacts-icloud

After you have synced your contacts with iCloud, you can set up your iPhone to automatically sync contacts over-the-air. Do so by enabling Contact sync in the iCloud settings of your phone. Now any changes made to your Mac or iPhone address book will update automatically across devices.


If these methods prove unsuccessful most major carriers provide their own backup assistant applications to help ease the transition between devices. For those having a difficult time transferring contacts, a visit to your wireless provider’s nearest retail outlet might be the best solution. Typically carriers can perform the service onsite.

Hopefully, though, the process of transferring contacts is a painless endeavor, and if you follow the instructions above the power of cloud sync will make moving contacts between devices even less of a struggle in the future.

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