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If you have an Apple computer, iPhone or iPad, the included Contacts app is a powerful tool for managing your lists of names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers. The centralized directory is used for emails and phone calls, and synchronized for all your devices.

This document provides some helpful information and context as a prerequisite to better using the contacts feature on your Apple computer and devices. You can also use this information to resolve issues with duplicate entries.

Multiple Email Accounts

The Contacts app can connect to your iCloud account as well as Google, AOL, Yahoo and other accounts you may have. So, if you have contacts stored with Google, they can show up in the Contacts app on your Apple computer. To do this, you would need to add those accounts to your computer’s System Preferences > Internet Accounts list. When you add an account to an Apple computer (or a Windows computer) the account becomes a source for email, contacts, calendars, and any other available data. Some accounts have a notes capability as well.

Select iCloud for Notes Sync

When you setup your Apple, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, or other email account on your computer or device, you may be asked to enable or not use the notes synchronization.

Gmail has an odd way of saving notes from an iPhone. It will save them as if they are emails. For this and other reasons, it’s best to use only the Apple iCloud Notes synchronization and not use any other accounts for notes synchronization.

You can work with notes on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple computer. You can also go to the website to view and edit notes in a web browser. This would work on any Windows or Apple computer, as well as Linux and other devices.

An advantage to using the iCloud notes synchronization is that the iCloud system uses “push” synchronization. This means that your devices don’t necessarily need to check in periodically to discover new and changed information. Any changes on one device should be immediately replicated across all devices.

Synchronization Push or Pull

The terms “Push” and “Pull” refer to the way that data is synchronized across devices. Usually contacts, calendars, and email programs need to check-in at regular intervals to see if new items are available. That can cause a delay before new or changed items show up.

The Apple iCloud system is designed to be a Push system. That means any new emails will be pushed to all your devices. This also happens with any new or changed notes, calendar items, or contacts. This can help reduce conflicts where a change has been made on two different devices prior to a synchronization.

The main point here is that anyone using an Apple computer or device will probably want to use the iCloud sync service for contacts, calendar items, and notes unless there is a compelling reason to choose another service.

How Duplicate Contacts Might Show Up

If you’ve connected to multiple email accounts on your device, you may see duplicate entries in the Contacts app. This is because the Contacts app is showing all of your contacts from all accounts displayed as a single list. If that is the case, then you can choose to not show the duplicates.

On an iPhone, you would tap on Groups (in the top left), and make sure that you only have one source of contacts selected to display. Remove any checkmarks for the accounts that might be showing duplicates.

Having multiple sources of contacts can create some confusion since updates in one list won’t show up in another.

Google Gmail Enthusiasts

If you are someone who exclusively or predominantly uses Gmail for your emails, and you use the Google website to check your Gmail emails, this means you are probably using Google contacts (perhaps without realizing it).

If you have an iPhone, it’s possible that your names and phone numbers are maintained as a separate address book synchronized with Apple iCloud. Whereas names and email addresses are stored in Google. That works okay, but some people would like to have a consolidated single contacts list with all names, emails, phone numbers, and mailing addresses in one place.

If you are primarily a Google enthusiast, using Google Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Chrome, you may want to use these services and apps on all your devices. Your bookmarks, browsing history, contacts, calendar, and other data will be synchronized across all your devices.

However, if you mostly use the Apple Mail program, and lookup contacts from the Apple Contacts address book, then you won’t need to rely on Google Contacts. You can use the Apple apps and iCloud for sync services.

Cleaning Up Duplicate Entries in Apple Contacts

If you are seeing duplicate contacts, and you only have one email service that you are synchronizing with, it could be that your address book actually has duplicate entries.

The Apple Contacts app has a feature that automatically can find duplicate entries and merge them. From the Contacts app, under the Card menu (at the top of your screen when in the Contacts app) you can select the option to “Look for Duplicates…” and the system will scan all of your contacts to discover duplicates. Then you will be given the option to merge duplicates. If you use this feature, you will not be given the option to compare any specific cards. The system will merge all duplicates automatically.

Note: If you are importing contacts, you might be given an option to compare any duplicates, but the find duplicates feature does not offer this opportunity.

Cleaning Up Duplicates in Google Contacts

Google Contacts has a duplicate finder and merge feature. To use the feature, follow these instructions:

  1. Go to where you will see your full list of contacts.
  2. In the left column, toward the top, choose the Merge & Fix option.
  3. Some instructions will appear based on what needs to be updated.

Disabling Google Contacts

When initially setting up your iPhone, or perhaps at some point along the way, you may have enabled Google contacts along with the iCloud contacts. It would be better to use one or the other service for your contacts. If you decide to use only the iCloud contacts synchronization, you can follow these steps:

  1. Go to where you will see your full list of contacts.
  2. In the left column, choose the option to Export and select vCard (for iOS Contacts).
  3. Export all of your Google contacts to a vCard file.
  4. From the Apple Contacts app on your Apple computer, under the File menu, choose Import and import the vCard file created in the previous step.
  5. Review any duplicates, or choose to merge all if you are comfortable doing so.
  6. You will end up with all of your contacts combined into the Apple Contacts app and synchronized with all of your Apple devices.
  7. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > and tap on your Gmail account. Then tap the Contacts switch to change the setting from green (on) to gray (off). You can delete any Google contacts from your iPhone because they already exist in your Google account, and they have also at this point been merged into your Apple Contacts address book.
  8. From this point onward, you can use the Apple computer, iPhone, iPad, and the website to manage your contacts.
  9. This choice assumes you will be using the Apple Mail program on all of your devices, thus making it easy to select recipients when addressing an email. This also means that you will use the consolidated Apple Contacts address book for all communications — even emails using different services like AOL, MSN, Yahoo, etc. It’s an easy way to maintain a unified address book for all services.


This document will be updated and improved as comments, questions, and suggestions are received from readers. Feel free to contribute feedback using the contact page. [Contact]