several people holding syncronizing phones at a table

Here’s an overview of how to share and sync iPhone contacts with another iPhone or iPad using iCloud :

  • Create a new, generic e-mail address to link with an Apple ID. For example: familyshared123@gmail.com
  • Create a new, shared Apple ID which will contain the shared Contacts in the iCloud Account.
  • Add the shared iCloud account to your iPhone or iPad
  • On your device: Enable the Contacts from the shared iCloud account.
  • IMPORTANT: The shared Contacts must not contain an entry that represents you or the person you are sharing with (see the explanation in the detailed instructions below).

How to Share and Sync iPhone Contacts

How would you like to share and sync your iPhone contacts with another family member’s iPhone?

Imagine this scenario:

Your niece’s phone number changed last week. Your daughter already updated the contact information found in her iPhone. Neither one of them remembered to tell you.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your contacts automatically updated when this happened?

In reality, you can share and sync iPhone contacts by using Apple’s free iCloud services.

If you’re already using your iPhone or iPad, then you already have a personal iCloud account with Contacts.

Our goal today is to show you how to share common Contacts with a family member and/or friend. However, this does not mean that they will have access to what is already in your Contacts list.

We will be creating a new, empty Contacts list. Everyone sharing these Contacts will add to them as needed.

For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to be using three iCloud accounts. Moreover, you can easily substitute an iPad for an iPhone. Both the iPhone and iPad use the same kind of Contacts app.

We’ll name the three iCloud accounts in the following manner: (1) iPhoneYours, (2) iPhoneTheirs and (3) iPhoneShared.

  • iPhoneYours will represent the iCloud account already on your iPhone, naturally.
  • iPhoneTheirs will represent a single family member’s or friend’s iCloud account on an iPhone. Additionally, other family member’s iPhones may be added to the mix, if desired. Simply repeat the related tasks for “Start Here – Share Contacts” (below) for every additional family member or friend.
  • iPhoneShared will represent the iCloud account that will contain the shared Contacts. In reality, this account “belongs” to everyone. In this case, share this account’s user name and password with everyone involved.

To begin with, let’s create a new, generic e-mail address that will link to a new Apple ID. This will be for iPhoneShared.

How to Create the Generic E-Mail Address

Why create a new e-mail address? Simply put, this avoids confusion and does not complicate an already existing account. Additionally, Apple will not allow a single e-mail address to be the main access to multiple Apple ID accounts.

Also, during the Apple ID set-up process, Apple sends confirmation messages to the chosen e-mail address. This may be confusing if that e-mail address is already in use for something else.

Let’s keep things simple and choose your favorite e-mail provider and create a brand new e-mail address with them. We will verify the new Apple ID account with this e-mail address.

We used Gmail to create our e-mail address for today’s tutorial. However, you may create a new e-mail address using iCloud, Yahoo, or whatever provider that you prefer.

VERY IMPORTANT: The e-mail address that you create should not already be in use. Also, it should not already be linked to an existing Apple ID.

For example, we created a new e-mail address with Gmail: iPhoneShared123@gmail.com

Now, we’re going to create the new, shared Apple ID. This Apple ID will contain all of the iCloud account information that will allow you to share and sync iPhone contacts.

How to Create the Shared iCloud Account

There are a couple of ways to create a new iCloud Account. We’ve chosen to use the web browser today. Point your browser to: https://appleid.apple.com/account

Apple ID creation to share and sync iPhone contacts

Enter all the relevant information and submit the form.

Also, be sure to share the iCloud account’s user name and password with everyone who will be sharing contacts. They will need this information later on.

A verification code is sent to the linked e-mail account.

Form to enter Apple ID verification codeNext, retrieve the verification code and enter the code in the provided space to continue.

Once you have logged in, you will see your new Apple ID information displayed on the screen.

This next step is optional. If you’d like, you can head over to iCloud to take a look at the future shared Contacts list.

You can access iCloud here: https://www.icloud.com

iCloud sign in page, using Apple ID

Enter your Apple ID and password that you created above to gain access.

Several screens will appear before you can access the Contacts list:

iCloud account online apps screen, selecting Contacts

From here on out, we’ll refer to these Contacts as iPhoneShared Contacts.

Get Ready to Share and Sync iPhone Contacts

At this instant, there aren’t any contact entries in iPhoneShared Contacts. Before we add anything, let’s go ahead and add the iPhoneShared Contacts to iPhoneYours and iPhoneTheirs.

Once the shared iCloud account’s contacts are added to your iPhone or iPad, you will easily see when new entries are entered, updated or removed.

The following steps will apply to both iPhoneYours and iPhoneTheirs. So, once you have completed adding contacts from iPhoneShared to one device, come back to “Start Here – Share Contacts” to add contacts to another device.

Start Here – Share Contacts

To add iPhoneShared Contacts to another device, grab that device and access the Settings app …

iPhone main screen, settings app to share and sync iPhone contactsIn order to access Contacts, Tap Settings

iPhone settings contactsFor iOS 7 and below:

Go to: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars

For iOS 12 and above:

Go to: Settings > Passwords & Accounts

iPhone settings add new account

Select: Add Account

iPhone add new iCloud accountChoose: iCloud

iPhone iCloud, Apple ID entry to share and sync iphone contactsEnter the Apple ID and password for the shared iCloud account (iPhoneShared) created above.

iPhone Apple ID password entryIn our case, we’ll enter iPhoneShared123@gmail.com.

Once you’ve added the shared account and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, you’ll see something like this:

iPhone iCloud account items: mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, notesThe apps: Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders and Notes.

Whatever is toggled on, or green, will be downloaded to your device.

Since we’re focusing on Contacts, let’s disable everything else and just leave Contacts on. Your screen should now look like this:

iPhone iCloud Apple ID, contacts only selectedTap Save to keep your changes.

iPhone iCloud Apple ID entered in order to share and sync iphone contactsAt this point, the account will appear in the list with the others. You can tap it to see what you have chosen to download and sync.

Tap the Home button to go to the main screen.

iPhone home screen showing Contacts appLocate the Contacts app and tap to open.

iPhone local contacts displayedIn the upper right hand corner tap “Groups” to reveal the selected Contacts you’re using for your device.

iPhone selected contacts groups with check markYou should see a check mark next to:

  • All iCloud – this represents all of your original, personal contacts on your device.
  • All “yourfamilysharedcontacts …” – this represents the contacts to be shared across devices. This is the shared iCloud account you created.

Make sure that both Groups are selected. They should each have a check mark next to them.

In the meantime, you need to make a decision. Ask yourself:

“When I add a new contact, where do I want to put it?”

If our goal is to share contacts, then new contacts should automatically be added to iPhoneShared Contacts, right?

Let’s configure our device so that the iPhoneShared Contacts is used as the default account.

iPhone home screen, Settings app selectionIn order to access the “Default Account”, Tap Settings.

iPhone settings share and sync iphone contactsFor iOS 7 and below:

Go to: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars

For iOS 12 and above:

Go to: Settings > Contacts

iPhone settings contacts default account selectionFor iOS 7 and below:

Scroll down to the CONTACTS section and tap “Default Account”

For iOS 12 and above:

Scroll down and tap “Default Account”

iPhone default contacts account personalInitially, your personal iCloud account will be selected as the Default.

iPhone default contacts account shared for syncingLet’s change that and select the shared account as the Default Account.

As a result, by selecting the shared contacts account as the Default Account, when a new contact is created, it will appear across all devices.

In summary: You now have two Contacts Groups. One containing your original, personal contacts. The other containing contacts to be shared across devices.

End Here – Share Contacts

If you would like to add shared contacts to another device, go back to “Start Here – Share Contacts” and repeat the above steps. Otherwise, continue on to the next section below.

Now that you have shared contacts to all devices, let’s see the sharing in action.

Share and Sync iPhone Contacts in Action

Take any device that contains the iPhoneShared Contacts and add a new contact entry.

iPhone contacts app verify sync sharingTap the Contacts app.

iPhone add new shared contactTap the “+” button at the top right to add a new contact.

At this point, we’re going to add one new contact each in iPhoneTheirs and iPhoneYours.

Phone new shared contact creationWe’ll name the new entries in such a way that we can tell where they originated from.

Tap “Done” to close and save the new entry.

iPhone screen after new contact createdTap the top left button “All Contacts” or “Contacts” to view all contact entries.

iPhone viewing newly shared contacts for syncingIn fact, you will now see both new contacts automatically appearing on any iPhone or iPad that is sharing these Contacts.

In like manner, try adding a phone number or changing the name on one of the contacts to see what happens between devices.

Wait, you’re not done yet!

Contacts are syncing across devices. No more worrying about being out of the loop when friends or family update or add new contacts. Nice.

However, if you were to stop here, you might be in a little trouble.

First, your device Contacts needs to know who you are. In addition to that, you need to understand this important point:

For anyone sharing contacts – Your personal contact information should not appear in the shared contacts list.

But … why?

  • In the first place, you wouldn’t want your information to be inadvertently changed by someone else if it’s in the shared contacts.
  • Secondly, your personal information has an effect on how Messaging, Siri and other apps function.

After all, here’s the structure that everyone sharing contacts needs to adhere to:

  1. Do not add your personal contact information to the shared contacts list. If it’s there, please remove it.
  2. Make sure that your contact information only appears in your personal iCloud contacts. If it’s not there, please create it.

At this point, you’re probably asking, “If everyone does this, then how can we see each other’s contact information? All of us would have removed our contact info from the shared contacts!”

That’s a good question and observation.

To overcome this problem, each personal iCloud contacts app needs to have an individual contact entry for each person who’s sharing contacts, including your own.

This shouldn’t be too difficult to maintain, since you will be sharing contacts with someone who is either a very close family member or even closer friend.

Keeping their contact information up to date should come naturally, as you will most likely be one of the first whom they inform when their phone number or address changes.

To help you see what the Contacts Groups should look like when you’re done, here are some example screenshots:

Two iPhones, one displaying shared and one personal contactsNotice that your contact entry, as well as your family/friends, does not appear in the shared contacts list.

Once you have your contacts in order, it’s time to confirm that your device(s) know who you are.

How to Set the “My Info” for Contacts

It’s very important that your device has the correct “My Info” selected in your Contacts.

After confirming that your personal information is only located in your iCloud Contacts, not the shared contacts, proceed with the following:

iPhone home screen, Settings app selectionIn order to access the “My Info” selection, Tap Settings.

iPhone settings share and sync iphone contactsFor iOS 7 and below:

Go to: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars

For iOS 12 and above:

Go to: Settings > Contacts

iPhone settings contacts my info being displayedFor iOS 7 and below:

Scroll down to the CONTACTS section and tap “My Info”

For iOS 12 and above:

Scroll down and tap “My Info”

iPhone all contacts selecting default when share and sync iphone contactsSelect your personal contact entry.

iPhone all contacts my info main contact selectedOnce selected, your personal contact information will appear under “My Info”, identifying you.

To be sure, you have just avoided many potential headaches now that you’ve identified yourself to your device.

In Conclusion

As can be seen, it will take some time and configuring if you want to share and sync iPhone contacts. However, in the end, you’ll have a seamless way of sharing contacts with family and friends that will always be up to date.

It’s nice to know that contact updates and additions to your personal iPhone or iPad can happen automatically when changes are made on another family member’s or friend’s device.

After all of this, there may still be some lingering questions that need to be answered, such as:

  • Can I populate the shared contacts with hundreds or even a thousand (or more) entries?
  • How can everyone just dump all of their contacts into the shared contacts list?
  • How to eliminate duplicate entries?

If these are the kind of questions you have, let us know. We’d be happy to outline the best way to go about this in a future post.

By the way, besides Contacts, all of the steps above may also be used for sharing:

  • Mail
  • Calendars
  • Reminders
  • Notes

Once your group of sharers agrees on what to share, each one can enable what they want in Settings.

If you run into any problems, please be sure to let us know so that we can do our best to assist you.

Enjoy the sharing!

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