Copying Contacts from an iPhone to Gmail

You’d think there must be an easy way to do this, wouldn’t you?

Icon of groupA client of mine has found herself needing to send regular emails to a group of about 40 correspondents. She has their email addresses on her iPhone, but not in her Gmail Contacts. Clearly, she isn’t going to do this from her iPhone, so she wants to do it in the way that is most natural to her – using web-based Gmail.

In concept, the problem is simple. She needs to “export” the names and email addresses from her iPhone format and “import” them into the Gmail format. We use the terms “export” and “import” when data is being moved between programs. Quite often, moving data between programs consists of “exporting” it into a commonly used format that lots of other programs can understand (including the program into which we are moving the data).

One such format is called “CSV”. This means “Comma Separated Values”. Ideally, this is the format we would like to use here as we could just take one step to export all of the names and email addresses – whether there are ten or ten thousand. Likewise, there would only be a single step to import all ten thousand into the receiving program. I’m simplifying a bit here, as there may be a messy step in the middle that makes the data go to the right place in the receiving program. But that doesn’t matter as we can’t do it anyway!

iphone Contacts iconThere does not seem to be a way of exporting contacts from iCloud in CSV format. Instead, we have to take a one-by-one approach and export each name and address one at a time in a “VCF” format. This is a format that is understood by both the iPhone Contacts system and the Gmail Contacts system. The problem is, though, that we have both to export and then import the records one at a time. Still, it’s better than manually re-entering the details.

How to do it

Ensure that the iPhone contacts are being backed up to iCloud. To do this, on the iPhone:

  • Go to Settings
  • Tap on your name (near the top of the screen)
  • Tap on iCloud
  • Ensure that the switch to the right of Contacts is ON (ie to the right)

Then, in a computer browser:

  • Go to and sign in
  • Click on the “Contacts” icon
  • Select a contact to be exported by clicking on it
  • Click on the cogwheel at bottom left and then left-click on “Export Vcard”
  • Select all other desired contacts and click on “Export Vcard” as above

At this point you have a file in your “Downloads” folder for each contact that you selected (eg “Smith, Fred.vcf”, “Smith, Susan.vcf” etc).

To import these into Google Contacts:

  • Sign in to your Gmail Contacts at
  • Down the left side of the screen, scroll down until you find “Import” and click on it
  • Click on “Select file”
  • Your downloads folder should now be presented. Click on one of “vcf” files downloaded above. This will import that contact’s details into Google Contacts
  • Repeat the “Import” steps above for all the other contacts

You have now transferred your iPhone Contacts to your Google account.

Google Contacts iconTo create an email “group” in Gmail Contacts, simply create a new “label” and drag all of the relevant contacts into this label.

To send a group email:

  • Go to Gmail at and start a new email message
  • Put your own email address in the “To:” field of the email that is to be sent to all members of the group
  • Put the label name of the group in the “BCC” field (NOT in the “To” field or the “CC” field). This protects the privacy of the group members’ email addresses
  • Compose the email and send in the normal way