How to import vCard files to iPhone contacts

I recently found myself in a bit of a situation. My sister’s iPhone died about a week ago and she had not backed it up in quite a while. She had added a lot of contacts since her last sync with iTunes, and was alarmed at the possibility of losing this data.

I had just bought an iPhone forensics toolkit and was eager to try it out, so I used it to extract information from the iPhone to my drive. I probably should have read the options of the program more carefully, because the default options I chose ended up extracting each iPhone contact into a separate vCard (.vcf) file.

Apple was kind enough to replace the phone; the replacement arrived a couple of days ago. The next step was to restore the contents of the old phone. The forensic software had created separate folders for each major category of data on the phone (contacts, photos, music, etc) so it was a relatively easy task to point iTunes to these folders and sync most of the content to the new phone.

The contacts, however, were another matter. I have my own contacts set up on Outlook (this is on my Windows machine) and did not want to disrupt the existing contacts by importing my sister’s contacts into Outlook and then syncing through iTunes.

So I began to look for alternative ways to do this. One of the main problems was that each contact was in a separate file. It would have been extremely inefficient to deal with these files on an individual basis. So the first thing I did was to consolidate all the files into a single .vcf file.

I did this by issuing the following command from the DOS prompt while in the folder containing the .vcf contact files:

copy *.vcf contacts.vcf

This command combined all the vCard files into a single file, contacts.vcf. My next step was to import this file into the iPhone’s contacts. To do that, I took advantage of Google’s implementation of Microsoft® Exchange ActiveSync®.

First, I imported contacts.vcf into my sister’s Gmail account. Next I set up an Exchange account on the iPhone and pointed it to my sister’s Gmail account. This automatically synced all contacts to the iPhone.

In order to setup a Google Exchange account on iPhone, you need to do the following. First, you need to go to the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” page on your phone’s settings and choose “Add Account”. Once you do that, you will be presented with the following screen:

Add New Account

Add New Account

The screen above allows you to choose the type of account to create. You should choose Microsoft Exchange rather than Gmail at this point. Choosing Gmail will not allow you to take advantage of the contacts syncing feature. Once you choose Microsoft Exchange, you should be presented with a screen to enter your account information. You should enter your full Gmail address in both the email and username fields.

Once you have done that and entered your password, press next (on the upper right corner of the screen) and your phone will try to verify your account. The screenshot below shows the verification phase with a fictitious [email protected] account.

Account Information

Account Information

Next, you will be presented with another screen to entered the name of your server. You should enter m.google.com in the server name field and press next, again in the upper right corner of your screen, to verify your account. Below is a screenshot of the verification phase.

Server Name Entry

Server Name Entry

If everything works well, you should now get a screen giving you the option of syncing mail, contacts and calendars. I enabled all options, but you can turn off the other options if you only want to use this account to sync contacts. That’s it, your phone will now sync with your Gmail contacts.

Of course, this entire hassle could have been avoided if the phone was properly backed-up using iTunes. If a backup had existed, a simple restore from backup would have solved the entire problem. But if you ever find yourself in the situation of wanting to import vCard contacts to your iPhone without going through Outlook, or other supported mail clients, you can always use Gmail to sync your contacts.

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37 Responses to How to import vCard files to iPhone contacts

  1. Cullen says:

    Check out here:
    http://creiapp.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-app-1-vcard-backup.html

    Bulk import VCFs to iphone in a few minutes. It supports all the fields like: Home phone, mobile phone, Office Phone, Birthday, URL,…

  2. Luis Sanchez says:

    Great… Never thought about that, thanks!

  3. poseidon says:

    This is a real smart way of getting contacts from different phones; if your file is *.vcf it will transfer to the i-phone seamless…

    Thanks sherif !!!

  4. Tapan says:

    Worked like a charm. Thanks.

  5. Raven says:

    Didn’t work for me. Instead it wiped out all my contacts ON my iPhone. Now I have to enter everything back in manually.

  6. Jim says:

    Worked great for me, thanks!

  7. MoMO! says:

    Hi,

    Just email the contacts.vcf that contains all contacts to yourself and open it on your iPhone. You’ll be asked to either merge the info with existing contacts or create new contacts.

  8. BRod says:

    Worked great! Thanks.

  9. Kristen says:

    Great! Thanks a bunch! Easy to follow and worked great!

  10. stephan says:

    Well it doesn’t work… it works only when i arrived an email. Then i can import the attached vcf card…

    I have found an site. you must register and put you name … in the site… u get an qrcode with the link to ure own vcard site and there it is possible to send the vcf from the site to you… i find it great! b-card.us is the url…

    greets

  11. Benrazil Hamid says:

    Thanks man! works fine…i had tried many different ways but this one works really great…just following your instruction…all my contacts have been sync to my iPhone.

  12. Vincent says:

    Works great!
    Very very very thanks for sharing this Neotheone1981 !

  13. Nigel says:

    What a tip, fantastic, save me so much time, thanks…

  14. Simon says:

    Thanks for a great tip sequence. Loved the copy *.vcf function. I just emailed this back to my sister in-law and she imported into her Mac and sync’d her iPhone…perfect! Thanks for the clarity and effort of this post Neo…

  15. BozinT says:

    Cheers mate. Works, no problem.

  16. rsrinivashr says:

    from your PC import the contacts (gmail/other accounts) in vcard format .. send that file to your outlook as a attachment to yourself

    now go to the outlook in your iphone go to sent/inbox items and select the attachment it will ask to import the contacts.. click YES and in <1sec al your contacts added to your IPHONE :)

  17. Nellie says:

    Great tip – it worked for me! Thanks Sherif!

  18. Matt says:

    Great………..
    It works great for me.

    Thank you very much.

  19. John says:

    Upon moving from a Nokia to iPhone 5 the telco had made a mistake copying my contacts across. The list was imported as sorted by first name and only made it up to about letter M, so from first name N to Z were missing. (full sim card?) As well as that it took all first names from old SIM and dumped them into last name field in iPhone. Last names ended up in first name fields. How to swap it back??
    I went back to my Nokia PC suite where all contact still remained. Exported *.vcf’s into separate folder. Then followed the dos copy command and rest of instructions. Worked perfectly. Thank you so much. It would have taken so much time to do manually.

    But of course it didn’t solve (and wasn’t intended to) the Telco initial erroneous import. Now there were duplicates from first name A to M with first and last names revered in the respective fields.

    Found an App called “contact clean” which fixed it. Seems like many others have had the “reversed” problem so hopw that is all helpful. Thanks agasin.

  20. John says:

    PS, I did not follow the google exchange direction. Just emailed the contacts.vcf to myself (which shows in my iPhone mail) and followed rshrinivasher’s instructions. That is really fast. Thanks to all.

  21. IMRAN TAHIR says:

    Thanks Honey

  22. vivian says:

    You are such a big help!!! Thank you very much!!!

  23. srinath says:

    hi i tried to convert from individual contacts .vcf files it to single contact through ur ( copy *.vcfcontacts.vcf ) commond but its giving an error that ( copy *.vcfcontacts.vcf is not recognized as an internal or external command,operable program or batch file ). please guide me step by step DOS to create a individual .vcf files into single .vcf file

  24. izy says:

    Thanks heaps saved me a headache

  25. Spyda web says:

    Omg thank you thank you thank you so much started to dislike my iPhone I won at a bargain on eBay after trying to do this for 5 days straight thank you so much. ✌❤

  26. lee says:

    Great! Thanks for posting it.

  27. eoosoft says:

    I just changed my phone to an iPhone 5. It worked for me. ^_^

  28. chey says:

    Brilliant, i am moving 200 blackberries to iphone and this has saved me hours of work. Ta very much!!

  29. Bota says:

    A very very big THANK YOU!!! It helped me a lot.

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