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Moving iPhone Contacts to iCloud the Easy Way!

2012 March 6
tags: addressbook, contacts, excelcontacts, icloud, iPhone, mobileme, Productivity, Tuesday Tips
by Andrew   

iphone gtdAre you tired of the hassle of trying to get MobileMe contacts into iCloud?  Does the “advice” provided by Apple make you increasingly frustrated?  I was.  Here’s an easy (and inexpensive) fix that is sure to work.

If you’re using MobileMe on a MSWindows computer with Outlook 2007 or higher, you probably don’t need this fix, but I recommend you take a look at it anyway because this is much easier than a Windows backup.  And safer.  If you’re using a Mac machine to back up your iPhone, you probably don’t need this, either.  But, I’m not a big fan of having to plug my phone into something to back it up, so I’ll recommend this for you, too.


The Problem

The problem is Apple’s advice for transitioning contacts from MobileMe to iCloud consists of a lot of useless hassle and BS.  Why?  I’m not sure and no one I’ve read or talked to seems to know, either.  It is a simple matter to tell the MobileMe-to-iCloud transition tools to move the contacts.  But it won’t.  Ever.  Their solution to that?  Use Outlook 2007 or later to back up the contacts from MobileMe, then resync them into iCloud when you back up your phone with iTunes.  Why would I want to do that?  I wouldn’t!  I intentionally don’t install Outlook on my machines at home, and I don’t want to use a computer-based backup when I can backup to iCloud.

Unfortunately, that’s the only solution they offer.


The Solution

Fortunately, there’s an easy and inexpensive solution, and it will serve you well down the road to make periodic backups of your contacts off of iCloud, which is a good idea anyway.

This process took me less than ten minutes from start to finish, including the time to install the app and move the contacts.  And it works beautifully.

Here are the steps:

  1. Install ExcelContacts.  The app, written by Sam Yu, beautifully exports all of your contacts to an Excel-compatible format using several different export options that provide convenience for anyone.  They include email attachment, wifi transfer, USB, and Dropbox.  And the app is fast.
  2. Export your contacts.  Select the options in ExcelContacts that you want to use, and export your contacts.  If you want tea or coffee or something, go get it, but don’t expect the app to be busy when you return.  Thousands of contacts can be exported before you have time to make tea.
  3. Verify the export.  You don’t have to do this step, but I recommend opening the file in Excel or another compatible spreadsheet application to be sure all of the contacts are in there.  You can verify this quickly by checking to see if the total number of contact rows equals the total number of your contacts.
  4. Transfer anything else you want moved via MobileMe-to-iCloud.  I’m not going to tell you how to do this.  Typically, the Apple transition tool works.
  5. Turn off MobileMe on your iPhone.  This is the step where you make MobileMe stop messing with your phone.  When you toggle off the Contacts option in MobileMe’s profile in Settings, it will ask what you want to do with the contacts already on your phone.  Delete them.  Really.  Do not keep them.  Once this is done, the only contacts on your phone should be any that were created after you turned on iCloud and made it the default Contacts location.  Go to Contacts and verify this is the case.
  6. Import from ExcelContacts.  Go to the app and import the contacts file you saved in step 2.  If you have set up iCloud correctly on your phone, all of your contacts should now be in the iCloud addressbook and no others (unless you intentionally set up another addressbook).  From this point forward, all of your contacts should be backed up to iCloud and should be replicated on every device using that AppleID that also has iCloud Contacts turned on.


Voila! Contacts moved from MobileMe to iCloud quickly and painlessly.  I wish I had known about this app three months ago.  It isn’t very productive to fruitlessly search for a function that Apple should have provided.  I mean, really?!, Apple’s solution to moving your contacts from a phone they made to a service they offer is to use Microsoft Windows and Outlook?! At least they didn’t suggest you go buy a Windows phone as a solution…


Take care, and enjoy life,


6 Responses Post a comment
  1. May 25, 2013

    Hi Andrew,
    Wow this is a great tip too! I've been following those steps and I noticed the App is actually called "Contacts<->Excel", I'm going to get the lite version just to check it out! I also found another free app called 'My Contacts Backup' i think its a similar service, but it exports in a *.vcf format.

    Thanks for sharing though!

    • Andrew permalink
      May 25, 2013

      Thanks! I’m glad you found the post useful. They’ve changed the app name a couple of times. I appreciate the tip-off about the name change.


  2. Bobby T permalink
    April 6, 2013

    Andrew, I am about as far from being an ipnone geek as one can be, so please bare with me. Currently, my contacts are saved and backed up to my yahoo acct. My notes are only saved to my phone. I only have one email acct (AOL). These are the ONLY 3 things I need backed up and saved to the cloud. I just decided (after a few months) to start using icloud as a back-up. I believe all my settings are correct. The only things NOW going to the cloud are my apps and ONE contact, MINE. I am VERY confused by terms like mobile me etc. In addition to you above article, must I also REMOVE my yahoo acct for my contatcs? I'm wonderign if it's causing a conflict? I'm PETRIFIED I'm going to lose all my contacts as I did when switching from iphone 4 to 5 and had to start ALL OVER, even tho I have an itunes acct. PS…of ALL the web sites I've viewed regarding this issue (and there are PLENTY, yours sees to be the best) PLEASE HELP……

    • Andrew permalink
      April 6, 2013

      Hi, Bobby! I understand your frustration. I had a similar problem in the beginning, and have heard the same from lots of others. The only difference is usually the providers.The first step to safety of the contacts is to use ExcelContacts as I describe an email the contact file it creates to yourself. That way, you always have the contacts in your email even if the device dies.The problem that I suspect you’re having on the phone is your iPhone thinks all of your contacts belong in the Yahoo group, which it won’t back up to iCloud. You need to edit the ExcelContacts file and change the group name for the contacts to iCloud, and then import them to your phone. You’ll have them all duplicated, but only until you delete the Yahoo contacts after you verify they’re in iCloud.That can be fairly tedious, though. You can also simply open the file in Excel or a compatible spreadsheet application to confirm all of your contacts are there. Then, you can safely delete the contacts from your phone and import them all from ExcelContacts. Andrew

  3. Aris St James permalink
    December 2, 2012

    Thanks for this great information! Before following your guide for consolidating my contacts under icloud, I had over 100 contacts on MobileMe and 26 on icloud. Previously I tried, unsuccessfully, to work with apple staff to consolidate my MobileMe contacts with icloud. I ended up with hundreds of duplications and many missing contacts. It was a nightmare! I finally settled with switching between icloud and MobileMe contacts and often getting confused in the process. It is such a joy to see the contacts and same number on all if my devices! Thanks so much

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