Apple enables direct Google Contacts sync in iOS 7

By , Jun 25, 2013

iOS 7 (Settings, Gmail account)

Google last September killed native sync for Contacts and Calendars on iOS devices. The announcement was part of Google’s phasing out of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync protocol in favor of CardDAV and CalDAV, which represent HTTP-based WebDAV client/server protocols for contact and calendar items, respectively.

Now, Apple actually adopted CalDAV and CardDAV with the release of iOS 4 nearly three years ago, but setting up Google Contacts sync on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices via CardDAV was anything but hassle-free.

With iOS 7, Apple appears to have implemented native Google Contacts sync. I’m guessing the feature works behind-the-scenes via CardDAV because it requires no setup and acts as a true two-way sync. It works like a charm, really, let me show you how…

This feature was first spotted by 9to5Mac.

So, to set up your Google Contacts for seamless syncing with iOS 7 devices, you must first set up your Gmail account by hitting the Add Account section in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.

Choose Gmail and provide your account credentials on the next screen. You can optionally name your account to easily distinguish between multiple accounts on your device (for example, Chris’s Gmail).

iOS 7 (Google Contacts sync 004)iOS 7 (Google Contacts sync 005)

When Done, you’ll be taken to the next section where you can separately enable or disable syncing of your Gmail messages, Contacts, Calendars and Notes. Enable Google Contacts by flipping the Contacts switch (see the top right screenshot), which will turn it green, and you’re done.

To test two-way sync, I first created a sample entry in iOS 7 Contacts, like this.

iOS 7 (Google Contacts sync 001)

Enabling Gmail contact sync will also create a new group in Contacts labeled All Gmail. If you’re like me, chances are iCloud manages your contacts. Therefore, it’s worth pointing out that you can temporarily hide these groups by tapping Groups in the Contacts app.

From there, you can enable or disable any particular contact group that has been set up on your device. If you’ve chosen to sync your Facebook contacts with iOS, there will be a Facebook group here as well.

iOS 7 (Google Contacts sync 003)iOS 7 (Google Contacts sync 002)

Those who already sync their contacts via iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo or another provider may also want to choose a Default Account at the bottom of the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section in Settings. Setting a Default Account to, say, Google ensures that any new contact created directly on the device gets added Google Contacts.

After adding John Doe in the example above, a quick hop over to the Google Contacts website showed it under the My Contacts tab, as depicted below. Any changes made to the card using the Google Contacts web interface get carried over to your iOS devices, and vice versa.

Google Contacts sync (web screenshot 004)

I tried adding a phone number to John Doe’s card on my iPhone and the change was immediately pushed to the Google cloud. Then, I removed the phone number in the web interface and it soon disappeared in Contacts on my iPhone.

Finally, I deleted the card from iOS Contacts and voilà - John Doe was no more on Google Contacts.

True two-way sync between your iOS 7 device and Google Contacts – sweet.

I should note that native Google Sync support seems to be working for personal Gmail accounts only. Those using Google Apps for Business should use Google Sync to sync their iOS contacts.

Knowing what a pain in the you-know-what syncing contacts with Google used to be, this is Godsent.

Now two-way Google Contacts sync is just a toggle away and the hassle-free support lets me avoid the additional steps involved with setting up CardDAV sync manually.

I wonder whether Apple worked closely with Google to enable such a seamless experience.

Do you like this feature so far?

  • Share:
  • Follow:
  • Raúl Díez Martín

    The problem here is if profile pictures are going to look pixel-only after sync, like it happend before.

  • Bordel

    That’s exactly what I want to know too. Do the contact pictures still get reduced in quality and size once it syncs?

  • EbrahimAlForaih

    This is great news! Currently (on iOS6), I set ip 2 gmail accounts on my iDevice to get the functionality you describe here. One account for my contacts and calendar, and another for my notes.

  • Renato Pires

    Does somehow your groups of contacts can sync up too?

  • James Adkins

    If I already sync with iCloud and I use two way sync with both gmail and iCloud or do I have to choose just one?

    • SimonReidy

      You can sync both iCloud and Google Contacts. Once setup, toggle them on and off in the groups section of Contacts, like you can with Facebook synced contacts.

      • Jared Price

        The problem is that edits made to your Google Contacts outside of iOS will not get synced back to iCloud.

      • SimonReidy

        Yeah that is true :(

      • Florin Carata

        It’s stupid, icloud contacts are not getting sync with Gmail, all we have is a new Group called All Gmail, below the “All iCloud”. I need one single group! It’s almost useless :(

  • Niclas

    + Features
    - UI

  • Gorgonphone

    very smart move to make it easy for android users to move over to iPhone..lol

    • Brian Krespan

      I was just thinking the same thing.

  • Chris Wagers

    All my contacts that are businesses duplicate. But contacts with people names are ok. Any idea why?

    • Bob Archer

      Are they only duplicated on your phone, or also on the Google Web site?

    • xstevemurphy

      Exact same thing happened to me, duplicated only on my phone, not in Gmail. I thought it was because the phone doesn’t understand gmail’s “Company” field, so I moved all Company names to the “First Name” field (I did this in Gmail). I found that afterwards I had two entries on my phone, one with the company name in the Company field, the other with the company name in the First field. That’s when I logged into my iCloud account (which I do not use for contacts) and found that all of my gmail contact had been imported for some reason and were reflected on my phone, hence the duplicates.

      So long story short, log into iCloud and see if your contacts are duplicated there. Getting rid of them is how I got rid of my duplicates!

  • Carey Preece

    Can you directly email a group set up either in Gmail, OS X or iOS from all those places? i.e. I want to email the 24 contacts within ‘FOOTBALL’ without having to type each address/contact. I just type ‘FOOTBALL’ and all the contacts appear in To or CC or Bcc.

  • Peter

    Is there a way to sync the existing contacts on an iPhone, running ios7, to my gmail contacts? For some reason my iphone has 409 contacts and my gmail has 380 contacts, howvever, when I create a new contact in gmail , it appears on my iPhone, and vice versa. I’ve done everything listed above to try and fix this and it’s still not working.

    • Stan Burov

      The same problem
      But i even create a new gmail account and there was no any contacts before sync-tion. When i set up gmail account on my wife’s iPhone (iOS7) it still left her gmail account empty – no one contact was synced (iPhone’s contacts book has over 200 records). What is wrong???

    • imranali khatri

      dear there is no direct option to copy your iphone contacts to gmail,
      however you can export your iphone contacts via iCloud and import it to gmail contacts, then you will see all your contacts on gmail.

      • Felipe Dornelas

        but doing so do I get duplicate contacts?

      • imranali khatri

        Once you get your contacts in Gmail There is one option to Merge the duplicate contacts in Gmail You can Merge and check the duplicate contacts…all at once or one by one…this you have to do one time…then all your contacts are saved on server…..forget all about contacts then.

  • teecatin

    Just switched to iOS 7 two days ago. I was using CardDAV to sync my google contacts. Now on my iPhone 5, none of my Contact Notes appear unless I click on the link to CardDAV at the bottom of the iPhone contact. Is anyone else experiencing this or know of a fix? Also custom labels in iPhone contacts not working correctly. I create them, they appear and when I close out of the contact and reopen, they return to default labels like ‘work’, ‘other’…

    • BallardRunner

      Same issue regardless of using separate “CardDAV” setup or the newly supported method.

  • Dani Mura

    when i insert contacts in gmail it sometimes takes a lot of time to sync with iphone contacts. what is the best setting on iphone for this sync to be quicker and not to consume battery fetching all the time? thanks

  • Victor Hugo Fiorante

    That’s great. Thanks for this info. I processed this and noticed that my iphone contacts do not show on my Gmail contacts is there a way to force the existing contracts into Syncing? Thanks

  • Jen

    Do I have to make the default account gmail, in order for this to work? I was using CardDAV on my iPhone 5 & had iCloud as my default. I tried adding a contact earlier, when I still had the default still set to iCloud & it didn’t show up in my gmail account. I switched it to gmail & it showed up. What gives?

  • alfonzso

    Setting up the contacts sync is a breeze, unfortunately the iPhone sync DELETED all my Gmail contacts photos. :-( I even tried re-adding them, but as soon as my iPhone synced, the photos were gone. :-( WTF!!!!!

  • Frank

    Sadly, this is still not true syncing between Gmail Contacts and iCloud. All this does is allow you to sync your gMail contacts with the “On My Mac” group on OS X Address Book (or it simply keeps them in the Gmail Contacts Group on your iOS device). It “appears” to be seamlessly integrated because you are viewing “All Contacts” which is a merged VIEW, not a merged ADDRESS BOOK.

    They don’t merge the two in any way shape or form. So if you want to have ONE address book, this won’t work. You will literally have to duplicate your contacts manually by dragging them from iCloud to “On My Mac” in OSX Address Book and then they will “sync” to gMail Contacts. It’s not a true bi-directional sync with iCloud. :(

    • Abdul G Habibuzaman

      I think what you are saying is true. It helps in my case where I have a separate contacts list for work (in my Corporate email) and separate contacts list for personal people. Similarly separate appointments from MS-Outlook for office and personal appointments on Google Calendar. And I want to keep these separate and distinct.

  • anilyadav

    I tried using the same, any entry I make in google is pushed to iphone but it doesnt work vice-versa. can you pls help and let me know where exactly am I going wrong ?

  • Daniel

    I use CardDAV on my iPad,iPhone and MacBook and it works and syncs like a charm. I so much prefer Push as opposed to Fetch.
    Like I said it is totally hassle free, and I think Push is more battery friendly than Fetch.

  • xstevemurphy

    My biggest downside: it seems to sync ALL my contacts from Gmail, not just the “My Contacts” list, which means all kinds of people I email but don’t need to see on my phone are listed. Frustrating!

  • Gaurav

    I am completely new to the iOS environment and just setup a new iPhone.
    I would like to keep in sync all my gmail Contacts on the iPhone. (I do not have any other sources for maintaining contacts nor do I want one)

    I did the setup as per the article and I have 2 problems/questions:

    1. It says that it is a fetch option only (no push) and I can set it to a timed interval or manual.
    I left it as manual as I will not be updating them as often and would not mind if it takes some time to get it done.

    But how exactly does manual fetch work? Just closing and re-launching the contacts app? toggling some setting everytime? or something else?

    I updated some details in Gmail and waited for it to show up. Does not happen.
    However as soon as I click edit on the phone and click Done, it automatically refreshed and shows me the updates.

    And if I delete some details on the phone and save it, it reflects immediately in Gmail

    –> How do i do the manual refresh?

    2. I have my family a few others as “My contacts”, all others are tagged into different groups.
    The iOS sync only brings the “My Contacts”, everything else never shows up.
    I tried moving them to “My Contacts” and they show up.

    After that I moved them all back into their own groups. The contacts still show up on the phone.

    When I add details to the contact in Gmail, even after a refresh it does not update.

    If I add some details on the iPhone it will save the details and add that contact back into “MyContacts” in Gmail?

    can I sync the other groups besides “My Contacts” or no?

    thanks