Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Sync-ing your iPhone’s Google Contacts/Address Book got you sunk? Fear not!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, December 23, 2011

2/26/12 Update: Be sure to read also “The Ultimate iPhone Apple Mac Google Contacts Address Book iCal Calendar iTunes sync post


Some folks have expressed difficulty synchronizing their contacts on their iPhones with iOS 5.

That should NOT be a problem.

Because iOS 5 has incorporated features into it that make synchronization seamless and virtually invisible, losing a note, email, address or contact is a thing of the past.

However! To take advantage of those built-in features, they must be turned ON! It’s a bit like a light bulb. While a match light  or candle will light up a room in a dark environment, the light switch must be turned ON to keep a room lit for any length of time.

There’s genuinely nothing complicated about any of this. Literally.

So, let’s go through this step-by-step, so that you can get the greatest benefit from your iPhone. And just to be clear, you’re probably reading this because you have had some difficulty, for one reason or another – perhaps you say you’re not “computer savvy.” It doesn’t make any difference, because I hope to clear up the uncertainty, whatever the cause. This tutorial is presuming that you ARE already updated to iOS 5 – although most of the information is also applicable for lower iOS’s – and that you have and use contacts in some email type of program and/or an address book.

NOTE: If the only place your contacts exist is exclusively on your iPhone, you will need to change that BEFORE you proceed, or do anything else.

Step 1.
Back up your contacts! Back up your contacts! Back up your contacts!

iPhone selected in iTunes

Step 2. Select your iPhone in iTunes as shown above.

Step 2.
Connect your iPhone to iTunes with the sync cord. Select your iPhone in the LEFT hand side of the page under the “Devices” heading.

NOTE: It would be good to check for, and eliminate any duplicates. Google’s Gmail can do this automagically, once you select that tool in the Contacts > More > Merge contacts. Many other address book apps can merge to eliminate duplicate contacts, as well.

Step 3.
Under the “Info” heading – which is the second item at top of iTunes page – the first boxed item is “Sync Address Book Contacts” which allows you to choose from “All Contacts,” or “Selected groups.”
Select your email service – either online such as Google’s Gmail, Yahoo!, or on your machine (such as connection to a work-related Microsoft Exchange email server and the client/app Outlook on your machine) – and how you want to arrange contacts who are outside your groups.

Part of the beauty of the system is that it’s possible to create several contact lists. For example, one list might consist of co-workers or colleagues, another might be family, another friends, another neighbors, while yet another might be clients.

In this example, since I use Google, I have chosen the option to “Sync Google Contacts.”

iTunes Sync Address Book Contacts

Step 3. Choose your options in iTunes Sync Address Book Contacts.

Step 4.
Open Address Book. Select the account(s) you want to synchronize. Here again, it’s best to select the SAME accounts as in iTunes.

Another part of the beauty of the system is that it supports several different email accounts. For example, you may have one email for work, another for family, another for casual Internet use – signing up for services/websites, etc.

Address Book Accounts sync

Step 4. Choose which account to synchronize with in Address Book Accounts sync. Other accounts may be set up in the Accounts column by clicking on the + sign and following the on-screen instructions.

Step 5.
Customize your iCloud settings. On your iPhone, open “Settings,” open “iCloud,” and select either On, or Off for a.) Mail; b.) Contacts; c.) Calendars; d.) Reminders; e.) Bookmarks; f.) Notes; g.) Photo Stream; h.) Documents & Data; i.) Find my iPhone.

NOTE: What is iCloud? iCloud stores your music, photos, documents, and more and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices.

iCloud is so much more than a hard drive in the sky. It makes it quick and effortless to access just about everything on the devices you use every day. iCloud automatically and securely stores your content so it’s always available to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC. It gives you access to your music, apps, latest photos, and more from whichever device you happen to be using. And it keeps your email, contacts, and calendars up to date across all your devices. No syncing required. No management required. In fact, no anything required. iCloud does it all for you.

With iCloud, your entire address book is on whichever device you’re using, anytime you need it. Say you add someone to Contacts on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. iCloud automatically pushes the new contact to Address Book on your Mac or to Outlook on your PC. So you don’t have to connect your device to your computer to keep track of all those names and faces.

Bookmarks, Notes, Reminders
iCloud stores the web pages you’ve bookmarked, notes you’ve written, and reminders you’ve created. It’s all there, everywhere you go. So when it comes to your devices, you can switch things up without mixing things up.

iCloud works great with popular applications including Mail and iCal on a Mac and Microsoft Outlook on a PC. But if you happen to be away from home without your computer or one of your iOS devices, you can access your mail, contacts, calendar, and documents — ad-free — from any computer at icloud.com.

Step 5. Customize your iCloud settings.

Step 5. Customize your iCloud settings.


NOTE ALSO: If you own an Apple-branded computer – i.e., MacBook Pro, iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, etc. (any Apple computer except those which are iOS devices, such as iPhone, iPad, iPod) – iCloud needs to be enabled/turned ON each device to allow a seamless integration. In essence, what will happen is that the device will synchronize over the air with iCloud as the “master device.” In the scenario presented above – synchronizing contacts from an external source with your iPhone (such as Google) – will be turned OFF when iCloud is turned ON. In essence, what we’re talking about is deciding which will be the master source: external contacts (such as Google contacts), or contacts on your iPhone. If you want your external contacts on iCloud, FIRST synchronize as mentioned above, THEN turn on iCloud. Here’s the message that pops up on the MacBook Pro (or any other Apple Computer).

iCloud sync & Google contacts

NOTE ALSO: This is the computer System Preferences>Internet & Wireless>iCloud. FIRST sync Google contacts, THEN turn on iCloud, because Google sync will be turned OFF if you use iCloud for contacts.

Step 6.
Click on the “Sync” button on iTunes (located in the lower RIGHT corner of iTunes). Your contacts from your Address Book, Google contacts, or other non-iPhone source will be synchronized with your iPhone.

Step 7. (Optional) Once your contacts are synchronized, turn ON iCloud on your Apple computer.

FINAL NOTE: If you use a Macintosh/Apple computer, be certain to select the Google sync AND iCloud options in the Address Book preferences.

Address Book iCloud Sync

Address Book iCloud Sync

13 Responses to “Sync-ing your iPhone’s Google Contacts/Address Book got you sunk? Fear not!”

  1. gregml said

    That major annoyance with this method is that if you have groups already setup through Google (Gmail), they do not sync to your Mac Addressbook, nor will they sync with an iPhone. You’re forced to make your groups all over again in the Address Book app.


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi Greg! Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts!

      I have NEVER had to make my groups all over again in Address Book. NEVER! And, I have NEVER had even the first moment’s problem with syncing my Google Contacts with my iPhone. As a matter of fact, my contacts existed on Google Contacts almost exclusively, and on my iPhone. I did not use Address Book. When I synchronized Address Book with Google Contacts, they everyone appeared “automagically.” And, FIRST, I eliminated duplicates in Google by merging them.

      By selecting “Synchronize with Google” in Address Book > Preferences > Accounts > On My Mac Local, that automatically pulls from Google. By using that method, I have NEVER had to manually add from my Google contacts. NEVER. I have NEVER had to manually add from a Google contact. NEVER. To be certain, iCloud should be set up LAST. All other contacts should be synch’ed FIRST. What iCloud does is to establish a “master” device. In this case, it is the iPhone. The path is iPhone > Address Book > Google Contact. BEFORE iCloud is used, the path is Google Contacts > Address Book > iPhone.

      The way to check that is to add a separate and unique test contact in each of the three – Google Contacts, Address Book & iPhone – and see where they appear and when. As well, the Groups is important, because on the iPhone, it differentiates between who and where, by ID’ing either “All Contacts,” “All iCloud,” or “All from My Mac.”

      I have done that – added a separate and unique test contact in each of the three – Google Contacts, Address Book & iPhone – and what I observed is what I wrote about. The Google Test Contact appeared in Address Book & iPhone/iCloud, the Address Book test contact appeared in iPhone/iCloud but did not appear in Google, and the iPhone/iCloud Test Contact appeared in Address Book, but did NOT appear in Google.

      Again, in essence, iPhone & Address Book do not send/sync TO Google, but rather receives/syncs FROM Google. It all goes to iCloud, which appears on iPhone and in Address Book.


  2. but once you finish this process you describe, what happens if you add a contact via Google Contacts or Gmail? This contact will now be out of the loop, since your phone will sync to your Mac address book, and the Mac will sync to iCloud. Your phone will also backup to iCloud. How will they find this new contact in Gmail?


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi Glenn! Thanks for reading, and for your response. Maybe this will help answer your question. I had that question, too. So, what I did was to 1.) Add a unique and separate contact to Google – which I called “Google Test Contact”; 2.) Add a unique and separate contact to Address Book – which I called “Address Book Test Contact,” and; 3.) Add a unique and separate contact to iPhone – which I called “iPhone Test Contact.” Because of the way I set up the preferred contact – that being from iPhone – the unique Google Contact was automatically added to Address Book, but has not yet showed up on iPhone. (I add the following as a caveat; I will be without my MacBook Pro for a period of time, so I purposely made the settings so that contacts added from iPhone will go to iCloud as a PRIMARY source.)

      The following also happened: The unique Address Book contact showed up in iPhone, but NOT in Google (it never does, anyway – Address Book always pulls from Google); the unique iPhone contact showed up in Address Book; and the unique Google contact showed up in Address Book.

      Know also, that in Address Book preferences I have activated the “synchronize with Google” option for “On My Mac/Local” -AND- activated “Enable this account” for iCloud as an account, which is file path Address Book > Preferences > Accounts. Now, to “further muddy the waters…” in the General Preferences (file path may either be Address Book > Preferences > Accounts > iCloud > Edit Account –OR– as System Preferences > Internet & Wireless > Mail, Contacts & Calendars > Gmail) I have selected Mail & Notes, Calendar & Chat, while in iCloud I have NOT selected Mail & Notes. (The reason why, is that IMO to activate Mail & Notes in iCloud would simple eat up too much of the free 5Gb iCloud space.) But, I have selected the following items in that menu: Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Documents & Data, Back to My Mac, and Find My Mac.

      Take note of the DEFAULT ACCOUNT in this screenshot of the Address Book Preferences.

      Now… if that’s all muddied the waters, then I have succeeded in this response! *LOL* But seriously, if I could boil it down and simplify it, the whole synching thing is merely determining which will be the master device. In my case, for the time being, I have chosen the iPhone to be the master device. But either way, iCloud, iPhone and Address Book can and always will pull from Google. What the synch does is determine where Address Book – and by extension iPhone & iCloud – also pulls from as master source. Again, since I will be without my MacBook Pro – but have my iPhone – for a period of time, I have chosen to make the iPhone the master source. This has worked for me. I hope this explanation helps. Please do test for yourself, and let me know what you have found that works for you. Thanks again!


  3. […] Sync-ing your iPhone’s Google contacts/address book got you sunk? Fear not! (warmsouthernbreeze.wordpress.com) […]


  4. milehigh22 said

    hey wsb,

    thanks for the help for setting this up. problem is, i cant get it to sync between all three lists – iphone, google, and address book (i am on a macbook pro). i want ext contacts (google) to be the master, so that when i create a contact in gmail or on my iphone, that contact shows up in all 3 lists. i tried the steps above, and i can neither get address book to pull the google test contact, but i can get the address book and iphone test contacts to sync over icloud. so, what steps am i not doing in the right order? what should the default account account be in the address book preferences? thanks for the additional help!


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hey MH22! Thanks for reading and for your question. I have some good news! Even before you had written your question, I have been in the process of writing an additional sync post. Hopefully, it’ll be through in a couple of days. In it, I’ll address the questions that you have, as well as questions other readers have had. Thanks!


  5. nope said

    This is fine, assuming you can use icloud. Apple has seen fit to block those of us that can’t uprgade from Leopard, due to other required software that WON”T work on snow leopard or lion yet. This needs to be written for Apple Leopard users with Google Sync and iPhone 3GS.


    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Thanks for reading and for your comment! Yes, you are correct that Leopard does not support iCloud. Presumably, you missed the free upgrade that Apple offered Leopard owners in June in preparation for transition to, and integration with iCloud. However, that does NOT mean that syncing cannot be done, because it can. Did you also read “The Ultimate iPhone Apple Mac Google Contacts Address Book iCal Calendar iTunes sync post”? The method presented in this post is NOT dependent upon iCloud – nor in “The Ultimate iPhone…” post. The method presented is INDEPENDENT of iCloud. You may refer to Step 6 in this post. To be clear, this post is about syncing Google contacts with iPhone. Judging from your post, it seems to me that you may be confused about the purpose of iCloud and this post. Again, this post is NOT about iCloud. It is about syncing Google contacts & Address Book with iOS5.


  6. bypass icloud said

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    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi BPIC! Let me see if I understand what you’re saying.
      If folks do NOT want to:
      • Use iCloud (to back up all information on iPhone – including apps, pictures -AND- the Find iPhone app)
      • Use iTunes (to download movies, music, apps or books)
      • Use FaceTime
      • Use iMessage
      then folks should just just completely skip/omit creating an Apple User ID, and hack the iPhone.
      Is that it?
      What are you?
      Oh yeah… thanks for sharing with us all how utterly stupid that idea is.


  7. […] example, some shortsighted mental midget thought it would be kewl idea to share with you, dear readers, that it would be a good idea to hack the iPhone and completely bypass the […]


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