Whether you’re thinking of making the jump to Android or you’re an iPhone-toting Gmail user who wants your updated contacts in the same place as your mail, transferring your iCloud contacts to Gmail is a snap, and you don’t need any third-party apps to do it.
Once you’ve moved your address book over to Gmail, you’ll still be able to access your contacts through the iOS Contacts app. Indeed, once you’ve finished the process, you may forget that the contacts on your iPhone or iPad are stored somewhere other than iCloud, and you’ll love it when a contact pops instantly into the “To:” field whenever you compose a Gmail message in a desktop browser. Best of all, your contacts will be waiting for you if you ever decide to cross the street from iOS to Android.
Export a vCard file with all your iCloud contacts
There are plenty of third-party apps and services that promise to sync iCloud contacts with Google, but we’re going to do this the old-fashioned (and free) way—using vCard files, and that means briefly jumping to a desktop browser.
Note: Google hosts a third-party tool that will do the work of importing your iCloud contacts for you, but the tool gave me an error when I tried it with my iCloud account—and besides, I’ve always been squeamish about handing over passwords to third parties, and you probably should be too.
The first thing you’ll need to do is log in to your iCloud account. Visit iCloud.com from a web browser, then log in with your username and password.
Next, click Contacts, then click All Contacts in the left column. Now click the Settings button (the one that looks like a gear) in the bottom corner of the page, then click Select All. Click the Settings button again select Export vCard. When you do, iCloud will pack all your contacts into a single vCard, which will then get downloaded to your desktop. Make note of where the vCard file lands on your hard drive, most likely in the Downloads folder.
Note: If you’re using a Mac and you have the Contacts app open when you click Export vCard, Contacts will try to immediately import the new vCard, asking first if you’re sure you want to import a bunch of duplicate contacts. Just click the Cancel button; the big vCard with all your contacts should still be sitting in your Downloads folder.
Now that you’ve got a file with all your iCloud contacts, it’s time to import that file into your Google account.
Open your Gmail account on the web, click the big red Mail heading in the top-left corner of the page, then select Contacts from the pull-down menu.
Click the More button (it’s at the top of the page above your contacts, or in the left column if you’re using the “preview” version of the new Google Contacts interface), select Import, then click CSV or vCard file. (If you’re using the preview of the updated Google Contacts, you’ll have to temporarily return to the “old” Google Contacts before importing a vCard file.)
Click the Choose File button, select the vCard file that you downloaded from iCloud, click the blue Import button, and whoosh—all your iCloud contacts are now in Gmail.
Before moving ahead, you should check to see if you have any duplicate contacts after the import. Click the More button, then select Find & Merge duplicates. Gmail will pop up a list of all the duplicate contacts it found; you can review them one by one if you wish, or just click the blue Merge button to merge all your duplicate contacts at once.
Note: If anything happens to your existing Gmail contacts that you don’t like during this whole importing process, there’s an easy way to undo the changes. Click More > Restore Contacts, then pick how far you’d like to roll back the clock. You can restore your contacts to any state they were in up to 30 days ago.
Set iOS to use your Google contacts instead of iCloud
If you’re importing your contacts to Gmail because you’re moving over to Android, then your work is pretty much done. Once you sign in to your Google account on your new Android phone, all your old iCloud contacts will simply appear in the Contacts app.
If you still want to use your iPhone or iPad, there’s a bit more work involved to get your new Gmail contacts to show up.
Tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, tap the name of your iCloud account, then uncheck the Contacts switch. You’ll be asked whether you want to remove your contacts from your iPhone; go ahead and tap Delete from My iPhone. (Don’t worry, all your original contacts are still preserved in iCloud.)
Note: You don’t necessarily have to turn off the Contacts setting for your iCloud account; the Contacts app for iOS does a solid job of combining duplicate contact cards from different accounts. If you do decide to access multiple accounts for your contacts, make sure to designate an account as the default. To do so, tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Default Account.
Now, go back to the main Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen and tap your Gmail account (or, if you haven’t already done so, tap Add Account and sign in), then flip the switch next to Contacts. All your newly imported Gmail contacts will quickly flow into your iOS device.
Note: You can also get your Gmail contacts to show up in the Contacts app for Mac. Just click the Contacts menu, select Accounts, click (or add) your Gmail account, then check the Contacts option.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.