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I don't have a Mac or Exchange (which seem to be two ways of doing this.)

When I open the iPad Gmail app (from Google) there are no Contacts and the email "to" field doesn't autocomplete. I effectively can't email unless I've memorized the email address.

I don't want to sync 1000 contacts. I just want to see a contacts link like I do when I use gmail on a computer. It couldn't get much simpler than that.

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    What about the Mail app on the iPad. Why not use it to access your gmail account. I'm doing it that way and I've had no issue with autocomplete not knowing addresses. – Richard Feb 24 '12 at 18:19
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I don't know why everyone seems to over complicate this, you don't need to export contacts and import them somewhere else nor do you need exchange. Steps to sync contacts with your iDevice are as follows:

  1. Plug your device into your computer and open iTunes
  2. Select your device in iTunes and click the "info" tab
  3. Check "Sync Contacts" and then "Sync Google contacts"
  4. Enter your google login info

Done! Contacts will sync with gmail.

  • It simplify my life I'd like the iPad to keep up to date with changes to my contacts. Also, I don't use iTunes, so this is a bit more complicated a solution that I'd like. – Clay Nichols Jan 7 '13 at 3:26
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Here is how to export your Gmail contacts to your iPad Contacts list, so they will autofill when using the Mail app.

  1. Navigate to your contacts page and choose "Export…" under the More menu.
  2. Choose All Contacts, and use the vCard format.
  3. Open the downloaded file.
  4. When Address Book asks if you're sure you want to import them, choose yes, and quit Address Book when it's done.
  5. Select your iPad in iTunes and navigate to the Info tab.
  6. Turn on Sync Address Book Contacts if it isn't already, and customize the settings how you like.
  7. Sync your iPad with iTunes.

Done! I did notice from your question, though, that you're using the Gmail app. This fix will only work if you use Mail.app; for more information regarding setting that up, see this Apple help article.

Also: if you're running Windows, replace steps 3 and 4 with the instructions on this page.

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You don't need to have Exchange.

You have to add an Exchange Account in the Mail-Settings with your GoogleAddress and password.

  1. Add an Exchange Account
  2. Username is usernamen@googlemail.com, password is password, Server is: m.google.com and Domain is empty
  3. Now you can sync your Contacts and Addresses to the iPad, too.

Your GMail App takes the contacts from the address book, and the address book gets its contacts now from Google.

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I had the same problem and didn't want to sync the contacts since its a shared ipad. If you just need an occasional contact, you can access your contacts directly via this link: https://www.google.com/contacts/#contacts

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I figured a way around it. To recap, even if you sync your google contacts on iphone, if you create a new contact on your phone or even receive a new email and want to add them as a new contact, you cannot. It won’t recognize the new email address in autofill in the “to” field because it is not yet added to gmail contacts. If you are using gmail app you cannot add new contacts. Instead, what I did is go to https://www.google.com/contacts/#contacts and copy new contact from your phone or from the new received email and add to your google contacts. To make things easier each time, you can save this page to your safari favourites. Just press the share button at the bottom (when you are changing tabs) and press add to favourites. Now every time you open a new tab you can instantly access google contacts to manually add new contacts. I went back to check and lo and behold it pops up in the autofill in the “to” field. Cheers.

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