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I have my iphone set up to sync contacts with Google. It works fine, for the most part. However, there are some contact cards that are not synced. I can find no rhyme or reason to why these are not synced yet others are.

Any ideas?

  • They appear on google.com/contacts but not on your phone? or is it the other way around? On which group on the Google website? – Jaime Santa Cruz Sep 13 '16 at 17:01
  • They appear on my phone, but not on google.com/contacts. I don't understand what you mean by which group on the Google website since they don't appear there at all. – Tim Sep 13 '16 at 17:41
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Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and check if your Google account is set as the default for contacts:

default contacts account iOS

For local contacts (not on Google) an option would be to export them from your phone, send them to yourself via mail, and import them to your Google account, as it appears that you cannot change a contact from one group / account to another directly on iOS.

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  • Yes, I verified those settings before posting. – Tim Sep 14 '16 at 19:52
  • Are iCloud contacts on or off? – Jaime Santa Cruz Sep 15 '16 at 10:00
  • ICloud contacts are off. – Tim Sep 15 '16 at 10:48
  • I can't easily reproduce your problem, do you know the origin of this non syncing contacts? What happens if you create a contact by hand on iOS, does it sync to Google? – Jaime Santa Cruz Sep 15 '16 at 11:09
  • Yes, newly created contacts sync. I've talked my brain trying to find some common trait among the non-syncing contacts. The only thing I can come up with I'd most, but not all, are contacts from my work. But, I don't have a separate contacts group for those. – Tim Sep 15 '16 at 11:13
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I figured it out!

The problem

After adding the Google account to my iPhone, some contacts that show up at https://contacts.google.com/ did NOT show up in my iPhone contacts :(

The fix

  • Go to https://contacts.google.com/ and unstar all your favorites. The star can hide the fact that these are "other contacts" that don't show up in your contact list exports. You can back this group up by giving them all a label.
  • Go to https://contacts.google.com/other and scroll through the entire list. It's pretty much every person you've ever gotten an email from.
  • Check mark every contact that has a phone number by clicking the avatar.
  • Click the "Add to contacts" button at the top (.

add to contacts button

The investigation steps I took:

  • I set up the Google account on an iPhone to sync everything including contacts.
  • Going to the iOS Contacts app, I scrolled all the way to the bottom and there the count was at 1,138 contacts. This matched up with what I saw at contacts.google.com but still there were people I could see on contacts.google.com but could not see on my iPhone.
  • I used an app from the app store to export all the iOS contacts into a .vcf file and then inspected it, comparing it to the export from contacts.google.com and to my amazement - the people were missing from both! The problem is with Google!
  • I started searching through different labels for people I knew were missing when I noticed that some of the people were designated as "CONTACTS" and some were designated as "OTHER CONTACTS". Googling for that distinction landed me at https://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/106394/what-are-other-contacts-in-the-new-google-contacts
  • Turns out that on Android and using Google Contacts you can star-favorite and search through contacts that are not part of your contact list. You can see these at the bottom left of the contacts site or go to https://contacts.google.com/other
  • The saddest part of this all - a contact you have starred or marked as favorite is NOT in your contacts list export, does not show up on your iPhone, and the only way to fix it is to unfavorite that contact, because only then you can see that it's a "Other contact" and fix it by selecting it and clicking "Add to contacts".

This is how google describes these other contacts:

People you’ve interacted with in Google products, as well as any contacts you’ve hidden from your list. These contacts appear as autocomplete suggestions to help you communicate and share. Go to your Google Account to control how these contacts are saved.

How Google should fix it on their back end

Google should probably convert every single "Other contact" that has a phone number to real contacts.

A favorite or star should always be in the contacts. And perhaps the concept of "other contacts" should be higher up in the menu at contacts.google.com and not the bottom left most. At least if the amount of "other contacts" was mentioned somewhere, I could have figured this problem out without spelunking.

I suspect the "original sin" bug might have been that contacts added by some older apps did not do whatever google contacts expected them to do. So real contacts accidentally ended up in the "Other contacts" bin by mistake. My original phone was a Galaxy S II, so perhaps the Samsung contacts app had this issue.

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