Edit: this is still true even after multiple iOS updates.
I use MacOS 10.13.6 (on MBP15" 2014) Contacts.app to sync to my iPhone 7 (lots of room available) running iOS 12.4.1 (current) (12.2 when I asked the question originally).
The phone will no longer update contacts except through iCloud, which I do not use for contacts.
The problem is this. I wipe out all the contacts on the phone, computer, iCloud, etc. Wipe out some files in library (everything with addressbook/contacts), some iTunes caches, the last backup of my device... BUT when I go to Sync contacts with iTunes:
1) the groups it shows ARE NOT the groups currently available in contacts! Contacts might even be empty, or could have updates ready. 2) Even if I say "replace all info for next sync only" it... RESTORES from some random snapshot of contacts that apparently exist >somewhere<...? What the frack!?
Now, I have gotten it to sync only the "me" card or not... but then the next sync it didn't take any of the contacts after restored the db on macos...
Temporarily I'm using iCloud, but I'm not going to maintain it, so it's only getting the most recent updates... and none of the groups...
I've gone under "Card... Look for duplicates"... I manually removed some weirdness in the contacts DB too, and things started looking better, but still no luck...
I've wiped/restored the iphone, and then in iTunes the SAME version of the groups is there and restoring gives the same old random version of the contacts db... so this indicates it should be on the Mac somewhere right?
It will only restore from some weird version of the contacts database... So, my question, after trying tons of protocols (on various fora that all sounded promising) for wiping this stuff out, including iCloud related stuff... all of which seems to have some effect... just not the desired effect... I just want to know:
where is this cached or snapshot-version of contacts AND groups that is completely bulletproof! and that iTunes/ios/mac/macos/iphone/hand-of-deity has decided is the only set of groups and contact cards the phone will get?! (Outside of only using icloud). Can I delete them to fix this?