How to export contacts

We recently published a tutorial showing different ways to export Mac contacts. Admittedly, the process is much simpler on a Mac than it is on the iPhone, mainly because there is no way to export iPhone contacts directly from the device without the use of a third party application.

In this post we will learn a basic trick about how to share one contact card with someone. We’ll also go a little deeper and learn how to export iPhone contacts to a .vcf file, and we’ll also look into exporting your iPhone contacts to an Excel file (.csv).

How to share a contact with someone

Your iPhone has a feature that lets you share a contact card with someone either via SMS, email, or AirDrop. The downside is that you can only share one contact at a time.

1) On your iPhone, go to the Phone app and tap on the name of the contact you want to share with someone.

2) Scroll down to the bottom of the contact card and select the “Share Contact” option.

share iPhone contacts

3) You will now have the option to share your contact via iMessage/SMS, email, AirDrop, and more. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will share the contact via email, so tap on the Mail icon.

4) Compose your email as you normally would. You may even email this contact to yourself if you want to use it as a backup, for example. Alternatively, you can email it to anyone. The recipient of the contact will be able to add it to his address book or email client such as Gmail.

Shared contact card

How do I export iPhone contacts?

We’ve seen how to share a single contact directly from the iPhone, but what if you want to export all your contacts? Then you’ll need an application. There are many apps in the App Store that let you transfer contacts from your iPhone. I’ve been using a couple that work particularly well. I’ll use Backup Contacts + Share for this specific section. We’ll use another app to export contacts to an Excel file down below.

1) Download Backup Contacts + Share from the App Store.

2) Launch the application and select the Tools tab at the bottom of the screen, then select Share Contact Cards.

3) Select the contacts you want to export. If you want to export all of them, tap on Select All Contacts at the bottom. Finally, tap on the Share button in the upper right corner of the screen.

4) You will be able to transfer iPhone contacts via email, SMS, or more, depending on what apps you have installed on your device. We’ll use the email option for the purpose of this tutorial.

5) A new email will be created, and a .vcf file containing all your contacts will be attached to it. If you want to use this file as a backup, you’re obviously free to email it to yourself and save it for future use. If you want to transfer your iPhone contacts to Gmail for example, you could also import the file in Gmail without a problem.

exporting contacts

How to export iPhone contacts to Excel

While you can’t directly export your iPhone contacts to Excel, you can however export your contacts in a file format that will easily be read by Excel, namely the .csv file format. In order to do that, we’ll need a different application from the one used above.

We’re going to use an app called My Contacts Backup Pro. I like this app because it allows you to export contacts from your iPhone in an Excel-friendly format, but the app design is quite outdated. Note that we could have used this app in the section above but I wanted to give you a different alternative. My Contacts Backup Pro is the most capable of the two apps, but it’s also the less elegant.

1) Download My Contacts Backup Pro from the App Store.

2) Launch the app and tap on the gear icon at the lower right corner.

3) Under “Export Type,” tap on “vCard,” then select “CSV (Excel).” Tap Done. Tap Done again to go back to the Home screen.

export contacts to excel

4) Tap on the green “Export” button. The app will then prepare all your contacts for transfer.

5) Tap the Email button.

6) A new email will be created for you containing a .csv file that you will be able to email to yourself and open in Excel.

email contacts csv file

As you can see, there are several ways to transfer iPhone contacts. Although very easy, the process does require the use of third party applications. As mentioned above, there are tons and tons of such apps in the App Store, but Backup Contacts + Share and My Contacts Backup Pro are two that I have personally used and I know they work really well. If you just want to export your iPhone contacts with any bells and whistles, then Backup Contacts + Share is your best option. If you also want to transfer your contacts to an Excel file, then you should go for My Contacts Backup Pro.

Additional tips you might find handy

  • Eni

    thank you Sebastien, this is very useful 🙂

  • Now if there was a way to back up iMessage like this 🙂

    • Siddharth Desai

      No. But you could look at Jeff’s post from couple of weeks ago about this.

    • ARX8

      Doesn’t itunes do that?

  • ChildishGambinoGotThatSwagger

    I got My Contacts Backup Pro for free last year when it went on sale. It works better than iCloud, which saves contacts I deleted ages ago.

  • rahuman

    Hey Sebastian, try “One Media Hub”, the app is free, gives about 100 mb of free. Just enough to backup contacts and messages. Then restore it back to any other IPhone / BlackBerry.

  • boecherer

    Does anyone know of a way to specify which folder to put a new (or move a) contact into on the iPhone? On the Mac you can select the folder and add or drag it to a folder, but the iPhone seems to be lacking this or is overly complicated.

    • I am not sure what you mean by “folder,” but if you mean “group,” then you should look at the posts I linked to at the bottom of this article. It shows you how to assign contacts to groups.

      • boecherer

        The terminology is a little weird since on the iPhone it says Groups at the top, but when you press that you get the Accounts (like iCloud and Exchange which I use) and in each “Account” are what Contacts on the Mac calls “Folders” but on the phone, I guess they are called Groups.

        If you’re talking about the Address Book Plus App, does that work with the same “groups/folders” that the Mac Contacts uses or does it create them only on the iPhone.

        I just tested something out and if I tap on Groups and then Hide All Contacts and then select only one “group”, then when I add a new contact, it goes into that group.

        If I then want to add a new contact to another group, I have to Hide All and select another group.

        The problem is when adding a contact from Messages when you can do Add New Contact if you get a text message from someone not in your Contacts yet, it just goes to the default group and there is no way to change it after the fact.

        Maybe Address Book Plus will help with this. What I end up doing is just remembering and going to Contacts on the Mac and moving the contact the the correct “Folder” there.

      • Yes Address Book PLus would help with that. It creates groups/folders that are the same you see on both your Mac or iPhone. So in short, if you add a contact to a group on iPhone, this contact will also be added to the group on your Mac.

      • boecherer

        Does Address Book Plus launch automatically though? For instance, when selected a new contact from messaging or email and selecting Create New Contact, will I be able to tell it which Group to add it to? If I have to copy and paste into Address Book Plus, then I can just do that with Contacts also.

        From what I can tell Address Book Plus’s main advantage is that I can create Groups while on the phone. I don’t need to do that as I can do it from Outlook or Mac Contacts.

        Sorry for so many questions. If ABP were free I’d try it, but for $1 I don’t think I need the one feature it gives me as I have groups already created and don’t need to create them on the phone – I can wait.

      • disqusted

        You mean iOS has incomplete features?! This is a first for “missing painfully obvious, basic features/abilities”! Yeah, sarcasm, naturally. Even at version 7 of iOS, it’s still painfully absent of so many practical and obvious features… and that’s why jailbreaking is the iJesus. It mends the broken and makes the incomplete whole.

    • disqusted

      As far as I’ve seen you will not be able to add or move contacts into or between folders/groups unless you first add at least one or two from OS X or iCloud (website) also will do it. Once you add folder(s) then you will be able to navigate to the “folders” area as the option will then appear. I’m sure there’s apps that will do this but that’s the fastest way to me.

  • disqusted

    Yeah. This is the way I’ve been doing it since iCloud went up! Doing it one at a time is, wow. And no need to download extra apps. Plus you can do it from any web browser even if you don’t have your phone. Like if it crashes and you want to be sure you have a backup of your 100+ contacts just in case something goes wrong.

    Once it saved my ass. I signed into iCloud on my old old 5.x device and when it went to “sync” my data with iCloud it decided its local data (none) was to overwrite my cloud data. I about shit. Thank Christ I was smart enough to backup.

  • They heard you 🙂 My Contacts Backup Pro updated

  • timberluck

    Very detailed and good advice, but it
    is a little COMPLEX for me. I prefer some easy solution. I think FoneTrans is
    good. Just several clicks, then you can transfer music from iPhone to computer.
    get this powerful iPhone File Transfer

  • WalterPinkman

    Nice tips, thank you. But Airdrop is complicated to me. I prefer to backup iPhone contacts with third-party tool like iPhone Transfer.

  • Brilliant! thanks