I have successfully sync Google Gmail contacts with iPhone on Windows XP/7, and I believe this guide should work perfect for Mac  users too.  Before you start, please (1) backup your Gmail contacts. Select “All Contacts” and choose your preferred export format. I export to all 3 formats, since different format suits different applications. (2) It is advisable to backup your contacts on your iPhone via iTunes or iCloud too.

Exporting Gmail contacts

Exporting Gmail Contacts for Backup

Instructions on Setting Up your iPhone for Syncing

Setting up Microsoft Exchange on iPhone

For full instructions, go here.  Note that when you are adding the Gmail account, you should choose Microsoft Exchange. Do not choose “Google Mail”. A lot of people fail because of this. If you are using a 2-step verification for your Google account, remember to generate an application specific password, otherwise the login authentication for the email account will fail.

Known Limitations:

  • Only up to 3 email accounts per contact can be synchronized
  • Phone number synchronization is limited to 2 Home numbers, 1 Home Fax, 1 Mobile, 1 Pager, 3 Work (one will be labeled ‘Company Main’) and one Work Fax number.
  • For iOS 4, many users are seeing an auto-lockout and password requirement, if the device is left idle for more than one minute, so don’t let it go idle while syncing.

When you Microsoft Exchange is about to sync your contacts, it will prompt: “What would you like to do with your existing local contacts on your iPhone?”. Choose “Keep on My iPhone”  to sync all your contacts.

Quoting from the Google Sync guide:

If you want to sync only the My Contacts group, you must choose to Delete Existing Contacts during the Google Sync install when prompted. If you choose to keep existing contacts, it will sync the contents of theAll Contacts group instead. If there are no contacts on your phone, the latter will happen — the contents of your All Contacts group will be synced.

Sometimes I wish software developers can come up with more creative names and won’t confuse normal users. You should take note of the following differences:

  • My Contacts – refers to your Gmail contacts
  • All Contacts – refers to ALL your contacts on your iPhone. This includes all the contact groups on your iPhone.

If you choose the option to “Keep on My iPhone” and sync all the contacts, the next time you add a new contact on your iPhone “All Contacts”, it will be sync’d to your Gmail contacts (i.e My Contacts). At the time of writing, adding a new contact to “All Contacts” will not appear on your iCloud. Similarly, adding a new contact on your iCloud contact group, will not appear on your Gmail contacts.

Currently, only contacts can be synchronized, syncing of Gmail Contact Groups is not supported yet. Please give me a heads-up should I forget to update when it’s supported. A big thank you in advance!

If this guide had helped you in anyway, please tweet, like it, or even +1 to it, to indicate that it worked and share with more people. Before I wrote this article, I did a quick search, and Google doesn’t return any solutions on syncing Gmail contacts with iPhone. If it didn’t work, shoot me a comment below, and I’ll look into it. :)



Lincoln is a fan of Apple products, loves red wine and traveling. He blogs on internet marketing, social media, wordpress tips & guides, and using technology to maximize efficiency. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook for regular updates.

3 Responses to How to Sync Google Gmail Contacts with iPhone

  1. Robin says:

    Pretty useful tutorial to sync gmail contacts with iPhone. :) Cheers and thanks bro.


  2. Brian says:

    This seems to be the best post. WHY are only 3 contacts emails/phone numbers syncing? Some people (including me) have multiple emails/phones, and I need them? Is there a fix/plug-in update that will allow for me to do this that you know of? Thanks so much.

  3. Brian, this is a known limitation. If you’ll go to the Google Sync support page and scroll all the way down to the “Other issues” section, you’ll read the following:

    Limited Contact Information. The iOS device can synchronize up to 3 email addresses. Phone number synchronization is limited to 2 Home numbers, 1 Home Fax, 1 Mobile, 1 Pager, 3 Work (one will be labeled ‘Company Main’) and one Work Fax number.

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