for years I have been using the Contacts app to track addresses. I use Gmail as my main address book so it seems to either copy the Google user avatar to the contact card, or if a matching Facebook user is found, it will sync their profile picture. What I am wondering is where does iMessage get its user avatars from? They are definitely different from what is in my contacts, especially since many of my contacts lack them but for other iMessage users out there (presumably with iPhones) a different use avatar is shown. I presume that is the avatar that they are using on their iPhone or possibly with iCloud. That's all well and good, but is there a way to get the Contacts app to use those images for syncing and to have them overrule either the Google or Facebook avatars?

What is also interesting is that Messages on my iPhone or iPad uses the avatars from Contacts, not what it gets from iMessage like the MacOS version. I would like to control the behavior- ideally by deciding which avatar to pick for a given user, but I would setting on a scheme that is used for all users. For example, unless the user has their own iMessage avatar, use their Facebook Profile, and saving that, use their Google avatar. Does anyone know if this is possible?


  • It looks like with 10.12.2 Contacts you can select which picture you want to use, though it doesn't seem to include the picture included in iMessage. Strange.
    – Darf Nader
    Dec 28, 2016 at 2:07

1 Answer 1


I don't know of a solution where you can prioritize where the contact information is pulled from, but I would imagine your default is your locally saved contact.

I recommend you to save all of your contacts into one place, possibly create a new gmail account, and pull all of your locally saved contacts, facebook contacts, and other gmail contacts into this new account.

After that I would remove all of your other contacts from your device by going to Settings > Contacts > Accounts and then removing all of the accounts.

After that I would add your new source of all of your contacts and only use one, to ensure that's where it is coming from.

Please reply to this if it is confusing.

Source: Happened to me before.

  • I understood you and you can select the picture in Contacts in 10.12.2 but you still cannot get it to pull the picture from iMessage which is odd.
    – Darf Nader
    Dec 28, 2016 at 19:29
  • Very odd. Is this with certain contacts only or is it just a random occurrence? Dec 28, 2016 at 19:30
  • Oddly, it affects any people who are registered in iMessage. The user's iMessage profile pic takes precedence over what is in Contacts. This is fine- I just wish I could save that person's picture in my contacts or at least have the option to. It's strange that it doesn't.
    – Darf Nader
    Jan 4, 2017 at 1:44

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