Locally stored iPhone contacts?

Trying to help my girl friend with an issue that she’s having on her iPhone syncing her Contacts. She uses a Google account as her iCloud account, and has 66 contacts in Google. However, when I look at Contacts on her iPhone it shows a total of 244 contacts, with 180 contacts being on her “iPhone”. Where are these contacts being stored, and how can I move them to Gmail, so that they then sync to her MacBook Pro?


Just trying to clarify what you’re saying here: does this mean that the email account she used to register her iCloud account is a Gmail address? Or that she uses Google to store information in the cloud?

It looks like the contacts in the “iPhone” list are being stored locally. I don’t see any obvious way in iOS to move them to the Gmail account. If they were being stored on a Mac I’d use a contact manager app to do it (such as CardHop or Busy Contacts).

I just looked at Apple’s support page searching on “move iPhone contacts to Google,” and the official response is that you need to contact Apple Support for help with it.

Heya Matt, you are correct. She uses a Google account as her AppleID account, and doesn’t have an Apple nor iCloud account.

Really strange that she was able to even store contacts locally. When I look at my iPhone, that option doesn’t even exist! I’ll give Apple a call, and write up their solution here.


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So frustrating when you call Apple and the 1st level support person doesn’t comprehend that the contacts are stored locally, but insist that if I turn on iCloud syncing, which is already on, that will resolve the issue. I’ve even signed out of iCloud/Apple ID on both devices prior to calling, but still get no syncing love!

If you configure your devices to sync contacts via iCloud, then that’s how they get into the phone. If you disable iCloud syncing on your Mac, then they will sync over USB/Wi-Fi along with other content (like music, photos and files).

I assume those local contacts got in that way - sync’ed from a Mac. If you know which Mac it is, then you should be able to export them to something that Google can import (like VCard files).

Hi @Shamino, that’s interesting! I don’t think she’s ever had or nor used a Mac. She did have and used some sort of a Windows device for many years, but it died a few months ago.

So you’re suggesting that we can now plug her iPhone in to the new Mac via USB/Lightning cable, and sync that way (like we/I used to do years ago for all forms of media)?

Once upon a time, before iCloud, contacts and calendars would only sync from a Mac’s local apps. After iCloud, this message shows up on the page where that would be configured:

Note the text in the red box:

So yes, if the logged-in user is not syncing contacts to iCloud, they should sync over USB. I assume a Windows system will be able to do the same thing (using iTunes) if it is not using iCloud.

But implied in your question is about connecting the phone to a new PC/Mac, not the original one that was previously used (since that one died). If you do that, I don’t know if it will transfer the phone’s contacts to the new computer, or if the new computer’s contacts will overwrite the phone’s. So be careful and read all warnings very carefully to make sure you don’t accidentally wipe out something important.

Make a full backup of the phone before trying this sync. Maybe also consider using iMazing to make a backup copy independent of Apple’s sync services, just to be sure.