How to Fix It When Your iPhone Contacts Are Missing

What to do when your iPhone contacts are gone

Have your iPhone contacts disappeared? It can bring your productivity to a standstill if the missing entries are important for work or business. Fortunately, many other people have also lost contacts on iPhone and there are a variety of strategies for getting them back.

Drawing of friends sitting on a giant iPhone.
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What Missing Contacts on iPhone Look Like

People usually become aware of missing contacts when they open the Contacts app. Sometimes, one or two entries may be hidden while in more extreme cases an entire address book could be deleted.

Cause of Lost Contacts on iPhone

iPhone contacts gone missing is usually caused by an iOS operating system update, iCloud data sync errors, Wi-Fi connectivity problems, or an account disconnection.

How to Recover Missing iPhone Contacts

If you’ve lost all of your contacts, there are a variety of checks and tips that can help you recover them.

It’s recommended to work through these tips in order from simplest to more advanced as the easiest solution is occasionally the best and fastest answer to your tech problems.

Here’s how to recover contacts on iPhone.

  1. Search for their surname. If you think a contact has been deleted from your iPhone Contacts app, try looking for their surname or family name instead of their first name. You may have entered their information incorrectly or your sort settings may be set to view surnames first.

  2. Turn your iPhone off and on. An oldie but a goodie. Restarting your iPhone can fix a variety of app and data errors. 

  3. Turn off Airplane Mode. If you’ve added contacts from another device or service, your iPhone will need to be connected to the internet or your cellular network for the data to sync.

  4. Turn on Wi-Fi. If your cellular network’s signal is weak, your iPhone may not be syncing all of its data. Turning on Wi-Fi will allow it to sync data and download files faster and more often.

    Many iPhone apps and settings will only sync when connected to Wi-Fi.

  5. Enable iCloud Contact syncing. Open Settings > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud > iCloud and make sure the toggle switch next to Contacts is turned on and green.

  6. Turn iCloud off and on again. If you’ve randomly lost contacts on iPhone, a trick to get them back is to open Settings > Passwords & Accounts > iCloud > iCloud and turn the toggle switch next to Contacts off.

    This will delete your contacts from your iPhone, essentially refreshing your address book. After a minute, tap the switch on again and all of your contacts should sync again from your iCloud account.

  7. Enable other account Contact syncing. If you’ve added other accounts, such as Outlook, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Outlook and turn on Contacts here too.

  8. Check your sync settings. If you’ve lost all contacts on iPhone, there may have been a server error during a data sync. This can be fixed by making sure your iPhone is set to sync data on a regular basis every time it’s connected to Wi-Fi.

    To do this, go to Settings > Passwords & Accounts > Fetch New Data, enable Push and set the Fetch schedule to Automatically.

  9. Import from SIM card. If you’re wondering how to recover contacts on iPhone after switching phones, you may need to initiate a manual import from your SIM card. To do this, go to Settings > Contacts and tap Import SIM Contacts.

    If you have multiple accounts associated with your iPhone or SIM card, you will be asked to select which one you want to use as your source. The option to import from a SIM may also only be available in certain regions.

  10. Re-add removed accounts. If you’ve recently removed an account from your iPhone, your contacts may have been connected to it. Simply re-add the account and see if your contacts come back.

  11. Reset Network Settings. This will delete all of your Wi-Fi settings, but it has been known to fix missing iPhone contacts as well. To do this, go to Settings > General > Reset and tap Reset Network Settings.

  12. Perform an iTunes restore. If you’ve backed up your iPhone to iTunes on your computer, check your backup from within iTunes to see if your missing contacts are there. If they are, you can restore your iPhone from this backup.

If you do this, all changes made to your iPhone since that backup was created will be deleted.