If you wanted to sync your iOS Contacts with Google with changes instantly reflected across devices, Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync used to be your only option. As of today, Google announced that “we’re adding CardDAV to that list”, allowing for seamless contact syncing between your Google Account and third-party apps, including iOS devices running iOS 5 or later…

Those living in the Google cloud probably know that both OS X and iOS offer built-in syncing support for Gmail and Notes via IMAP, in addition to Calendar and Reminders via CalDAV and Messages via XMPP (used by Google Talk, Facebook Chat and many other popular chat clients).

CardDAV is an address book client/server protocol that manages contact data on a server. It’s built around HTTP-based WebDAV protocol and uses vCard format for contact data.

In fact, Apple embraced CalDAV and CardDAV for Calendar and Contact sharing services with the release of iOS 4 two years ago.

Announcing the news, Google noted in a blog post that using CardDAV to sync your iOS Contacts means “you’ll be able to edit, add, and remove contacts from your device and keep them in sync everywhere you use them”.

Google provides the following instructions to set up CardDAV contact sync on your device.

• Open the Settings application on your device.
• Select Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
• Select Add Account…
• Select Other
• Select Add CardDAV Account
• Fill out your account information in the following fields:

– Server: Enter “google.com”
– User Name: Enter your full Google Account or Google Apps email address.
– Password: Your Google Account or Google Apps password. (If you’ve enabled 2 Step -verification, you’ll need to generate and enter an application specific password.)
– Description: Enter a description of the account (e.g. Personal Contacts).

• Select Next at the top of your screen.
Make sure that the “Contacts” option is turned to ON.

When you’re done, open the Contacts app and give it a little until the initial sync completes.

Going forward, any changes made to your Google Contacts on the web will immediately reflect on your iOS device and vice versa. This also includes deleting or adding contacts on your Apple device.

The same set up procedure can be applied to OS X desktops.

Should you encounter issues, note that syncing via CardDAV is only available over SSL for Apple devices so you’ll need to enable this option by opening the CardDAV account you established under the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section in Settings.

From there, make sure that the Account option is turned on, then open Advanced Settings below and make enable Use SSL.

Finally, if you already sync your contacts (for example, via iCloud, Exchange or from another account), you’ll want to choose a Default Account at the bottom of the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section in Settings.

Setting a Default Account to your Google, for example, determines that new contacts created directly on your iOS device get added to that default account.

If you use Google Apps for Business, Google is recommending using Google Sync to sync your iOS contacts.

Let us know how CardDAV sync worked for you down in the comments.

  • Why do they recommend Google Sync instead of CardDAV (if you have Google Apps for Business)?

  • Igor Sela

    Nice! now it will take me ever less time to dump my Samsung Galaxy S2 and switch to iPhone 5 … Too bad I need to wait another 2 months untill it gets to ISRAEL …

    • Jim Thorstad

      While it syncs contacts from Google Contacts down to an iPhone running iOS 6.0.01 it fails to sync contacts create on the iPhone back up to Google Contacts. I followed the steps to create a new CardDAV account in iOS for the Contacts. A one-way sync isn’t synchronization at all and this is a terrible solution. Has anyone else had this problem?

      • Jena

        Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars > scroll down to the area with all of the options for Contacts > Tap Default Account > You’ll see whatever you named your CardDAV account and On My iPhone as options, select the CardDAV account. I just tested it, and the new contact that I added appeared instantaneously.

  • Cody Cutrer

    It works no problem with a Google Apps account under iOS 6, but I see no reason to use it instead of Google Sync (Exchange). It doesn’t appear to transfer any more detailed information (a “Google Voice” number in my google contacts still doesn’t transfer to the phone, and an “iPhone” number on my phone still transfers to Google as “mobile”), and it’s yet another line in my Accounts list, instead of all combined in one.

  • john

    Is there any benefit to switching from ActiveSync to IMAP/CalDAV/CardDAV ?

  • It appears CardDAV allows additional fields to sync with the iPhone, including more relationship fields than Exchange did (I now have 5 syncing, before I think it was limited to 3). Also, I noticed all 15 of my email addresses are now syncing over.

  • Johnnytucats

    Only problem I’ve noticed is contact photos of other Google users not being pushed to the iPhone like they are when syncing via Exchange.

  • Set this up, it works… but no groups, and Google is still ruining pictures attached to contacts, turning nice full-screen photos into tiny, blurry little postage stamps.

  • It doesn’t have Push option, and i can only use Fetch.

  • “better iOS contact sync”? why is it better? what was wrong with exchange. exchange was a true 2 way sync with push. CardDAV is not better… it is not better!

  • AS

    Did you know IOS 6.x use SSL1 ? SSL2 ? SSL3 ?
    Google said IOS 5 use SSL1.

  • Thanks – I struggled getting Exchange to sync contacts. This worked very well. It’s also timely, since I read Google is dropping exchange support.

  • H B

    This appears to duplicate all my contacts on my iPhone. Not good! I hope I can undo it without losing things.