How to Transfer Contacts From iPhone to iPhone

Copy contacts from your old phone

Upgrading to a new iPhone is exciting, but not if you lose the important things that were on your old phone, such as your contacts. Transfer contacts from your old phone to your new one to avoid losing phone numbers, addresses, and other contact information. There are several ways to transfer contacts from one iPhone to another, including some that are built into the device.

iPhones transferring contact cards between them
Lifewire / Alex Dos Diaz

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 9 and up.

Transfer Contacts With iCloud Syncing

The easiest methods to transfer contacts use the features built into the phone, such as iCloud. Since iCloud can keep data synchronized across all your devices, using it to sync contacts between iPhones makes it an easy choice.

  1. Ensure that both iPhones are signed in with the same Apple ID account and are connected to Wi-Fi.

  2. On both phones, open Settings, tap your name, then choose iCloud. On older versions of iOS, such as iOS 9, select iCloud.

  3. Turn on the Contacts toggle switch.

    Name, iCloud, Toggle button in iOS Settings app

    This step will upload your contacts to iCloud if they're not already there. If lots of contacts need to be backed up, it might take a while to finish.

  4. If a message appears about merging the contacts, confirm so that none of the contacts are deleted.

  5. Contacts from both phones exist on the other one, effectively syncing contacts between the iPhones.

Transfer Contacts by Restoring an iCloud Backup

Beyond contact syncing, iCloud can also make a backup of the data on your iPhone and then restore that backup onto a different iPhone.

  1. Connect the iPhone to Wi-Fi.

    The backup requires lots of data. Use Wi-Fi instead of the data included with your phone plan.

  2. On the old iPhone, tap Settings, then select your name. If prompted, log in with your Apple ID.

    Older devices may not display your name on this page.

  3. Tap iCloud, then tap iCloud Backup.

  4. Turn on the iCloud Backup toggle switch, then select Back Up Now.

    iCloud, iCloud Backup, Back Up Now buttons in iOS Settings
  5. The iPhone uploads your contacts and other data to iCloud. This backs up the entire iPhone, so it will take a while.

    You may need to upgrade your iCloud account to have enough storage for the full backup. You'll be presented with upgrade options if needed.

  6. Follow the standard new iPhone setup procedure. In the Apps & Data screen, choose Restore from iCloud Backup and follow the prompts to finish restoring the iPhone backup and copy your old contacts to the new phone.

If your new iPhone is set up, restore the backup data onto it by erasing the content and settings and choosing to restore from an iCloud backup when prompted.

Transfer iPhone Contacts Using iTunes

If you prefer to back up your iPhone to a computer rather than to the cloud, use iTunes instead of iCloud. 

  1. Connect the old iPhone to the computer you normally sync it with.

  2. Open iTunes and access the screen that shows your iPhone. If it doesn't open automatically, select the Phone icon.

    Phone icon in iTunes on Windows
  3. In the Backups section, select This Computer, then choose Back Up Now.

    This Computer, Back Up Now buttons in iTunes for Windows

    If you're asked about encrypting the backup to make your iPhone more secure, either do so with the Encrypt Backups button or decline by selecting Don't Encrypt. You can change this later.

  4. Wait while the iPhone backs up to the computer. To monitor the progress, watch the blue progress bar at the top of iTunes.

    Backing up progress bar in iTunes for Windows
  5. When the backup is complete, eject the old iPhone and plug in the new one.

  6. To restore the new iPhone from the backup, select Restore Backup and following the prompts.

If iTunes explains that you have to first disable Find My iPhone in order to restore the backup, do so through the iCloud > Find My iPhone option in Settings.

Transfer Contacts Using Web-Based Tools

iCloud isn't the only cloud-based service that stores and syncs contacts. Google and Yahoo are two other examples.

Transfer Contacts Using Third-Party Software

There's a robust world of third-party software programs that transfer contacts, usually rather quickly since they don't deal with iTunes or iCloud. My Contacts Backups is one example of a contact list backup app that works by having you email the contact list to yourself so that you can copy the contacts to your new iPhone. Just open your mail on the new phone, select the attachment, and import the list.

Why You Can't Transfer iPhone Contacts Using a SIM Card

If you've used other phones that support contact transfers from the SIM card, you might be wondering if you can do the same on your iPhone. This method backs up contacts to the SIM card and then you move the old SIM to the new phone to use the backup.

Up close SIM card
Adam Gault / OJO Images / Getty Images

It's not so simple for the iPhone because the feature isn't supported with the iPhone SIM card.