The time-honored way to trade digits with a fellow smartphone user is to send a simple “Hi it’s me!” text. Once that’s done, your new friend will have your number sitting in their text-message inbox, their number will appear as an outgoing message on your phone, and you’re all set—well, sort of.
While you now have your friend’s number and they have yours, that’s all you’ve got. You’ll have to enter names, titles, addresses, and everything else manually—assuming you even have that information.
Now, maybe you don’t care if, say, your babysitter has your office fax number, or perhaps you don’t want your business colleagues to know that your AIM username is “MiniMe.”
But for those times you do want to be sure that your new friend—or your (hopefully!) next boss—has all your numbers and email addresses, sending them your iOS or Android contact card is the best way to go, and it’s easier than you might think.
Send your contact card in a text message
We’re not going to use any trendy mobile apps (like the late, lamented Bump), nor will we rely on newfangled software features (like iOS’s Airdrop) that won’t work across phone platforms.
Instead, we’re going to using a feature that pretty much any mobile phone, smart or not, has in its arsenal: text messaging (or, to be more specific, multimedia messaging, a.k.a. MMS).
You’ve probably used text messages plenty of times to send snapshots to friends and loved ones, but you can send contact cards via text, too.
If you send your own contact info in a text message, most iPhones and Android phones will be able to parse it into a contact card that’ll work in the respective Contacts apps for Android and iOS.
Here’s how it works, in general terms…
Open your contact card in the Contacts app (or launch the Phone app and tap the Contacts app near the right side of the screen), then tap the three-dot menu button in the top-right corner of the screen.
Tap Share, then pick your messaging application of choice. In my tests, I found that Google’s new Messenger app did the best job of both sending and receiving contact cards.
Launch the iOS Contacts app (or open the Phone app and tap the Contacts tab at the bottom), then select your own contact card at the very top of the list. No contact card for you at the top of the screen? If so, tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > My Info and select your own contact card.
Scroll down almost all the way to the bottom of your contact card, tap Share Contact, then tap the Messages button.
Once that’s done, both Android and iOS will paste your contact card into a new text message. On iOS, just type the name or number of the recipient into the To: field and tap Send. For Android, you’ll get the (handy) option of sending the contact card in an existing message thread.
Receiving & saving a contact card
If you’re on the receiving end of a texted contact card, it’ll arrive in your messaging inbox just like a normal text message.
For Android, tap the message to open the contact card, then tap the + button in the top-right corner of the screen to add the card to the Contacts app.
For iOS, tap the card in the Messages inbox, scroll down to the bottom of the card, then tap either Create New Contact or Add to Existing Contact. You may get a third option—Update Contact “[name of contact]”—if iOS recognizes the name of the contact you just received.
Note: In some cases, certain fields in a given contact card might get lost in translation between Android and iOS. For example, iOS dropped a nickname I added to an Android contact card, replacing it with a jargony note that read “X-ANDROID-CUSTOM: vnd.android.cursor.item/nickname.”
Getting to your contact card quickly
Sure, it’s easy to share your contact card via text message once you’ve got it sitting open on your Android or iOS screen, but getting it there can be a hassle, particularly if you’re trying to trade numbers with someone while you’re standing on a busy sidewalk.
That said, a couple of tricks can make pulling up your contact card a tad easier.
One easy way to make your Android contact card stand out from the crowd is to “star” it as one of your favorites. Just open your contact card in the Contacts app, then tap the star button at the top of the screen. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to get to your contact quickly by tapping the Favorites tab.
There’s an even better way to keep your contact card handy, though: by tacking it to your phone’s home screen.
Open your contact card in the Contacts app, tap the three-dot menu button in the top-right corner of the screen, then tap the Place on Home screen option. Doing so will put an icon for your contact card (complete with your face, assuming you’ve selected a head shot) directly on your home screen, just like the icon for an app.
Now, just tap that contact icon on your home screen and head straight for the Share option under the three-dot menu button.
Unfortunately, iOS won’t let you paste your contact card directly onto the home screen. There are still a couple of things you can do to keep your contact info front and center (more or less ).
First, make sure you’ve got the Contacts app on your main home page or in the home-screen app dock (the strip of four apps along the bottom of the home screen). That way, you can quickly launch the Contacts app whenever the need arises—and when you do, you’ll see your contact card sitting prominently at the top of the list. Tap your name, scroll all the way down, then tap Share Contact.
The second thing you can do it turn your own contact card into a phone favorite. Open your contact card, scroll down to the very bottom, then tap Add to Favorites. Now, go to your Favorites in the phone app, tap the little information icon next to your name, scroll down again and tap Share Contact whenever the need arises.
Bonus tip: Tap the Edit button in the top corner of the Favorites screen to rearrange your contacts—handy if, say, you want to bump your own contact name to the top of the list.
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.