Why Are Some Of My Contacts Missing From My iPhone, iPad, or iPod? Here’s The Real Fix!

You add a contact to your iPhone and it’s supposed to show up on all your devices automatically, right? Isn’t that what out iCloud is for? How come only some of my contacts are showing up on my iPhone? Why are only some of my contacts missing? How can I move all my contacts to one place so this problem doesn’t keep getting worse?

I’ll start by clearing up confusion about “The Cloud”, explain why contacts are missing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, help you find out where your contacts, calendars, and other personal information is actually stored, and help you change some settings on your iPhone or iPad to get your contacts back under control.

A Little Background Information

When I first heard that my data was stored in “The Cloud”, I pictured all of my contacts, calendars, and notes floating around in white, puffy clouds high above our heads. I’m not sure who told who coined the term, but it is one of the greatest examples of technology marketing lingo of our time.

Why Do We Need A Cloud?

Since we all use multiple devices nowadays, it makes sense that if I add a contact on my computer, I want it to show up on my iPhone and tablet, and if I add a calendar event on my phone, I wanted to show up on my computer.

Sounds great, and it is — but if you don’t know exactly where things are being stored and what clouds all of your personal information is being stored on, you can end up with your personal information distributed across a slew of cloud servers, which makes things really complicated, really quickly.

Wait, There’s More Than One Cloud? Yep!

iCloud isn’t the only cloud in town. Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, and many more are all types of cloud servers. Here’s the concept behind the cloud, and the key to understanding how it works is as easy as answering this question: Where does my data (contacts, calendars, notes, etc.) live? Is its home on my device (the old way) or on the cloud (the new way)?

The old way was simple: When you saved a contact on your phone, it was saved in memory on that device. End of story. If you wanted to transfer contacts back and forth between your phone and your computer, you had to plug in the USB cable and use iTunes to sync the data.

Using the old way, the contact’s home is on your device. If you delete the contact from your phone, it doesn’t affect the data on your other devices. But, if you drop your device in the toilet (like I did once), all of your contacts go down the tubes.

The new way (using the cloud): When you save a contact on your iPhone or iPad, the contact is saved on a remote server like iCloud, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, etc., and yes, every one of these is a cloud server! Using the cloud, the contact’s home is on the remote server, not on your device.

If you delete the contact from your phone, it deletes it from the server, and since every device is connected to that same server, the contact is deleted on all your devices. If you drop your phone in the toilet, it’s OK because the data’s home is on a remote server (a cloud), not on your waterlogged phone.

See Why Things Can Get Really Complicated, Really Quickly?

If iCloud, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Exchange, and others can all save your contacts, how do you know where your contacts are actually being saved? A contact is only stored in one place, after all – otherwise there’d be duplicates all over the place, and Apple doesn’t let you make that mistake. That being said, Apple doesn’t help you get organized, either – and that’s why I’m writing this article.

So Where Exactly Is This Cloud?

The concept behind all cloud servers is essentially the same: Build a massive building, fill it with servers and hard drives, and give everybody a little corner of a hard drive. iCloud is actually in North Carolina. In truth, cloud servers aren’t new by any means, and you’ve probably been using at least one for years.

Lots of email providers (Gmail, AOL, etc.) have used the IMAP protocol to synchronize email for over 10 years. Microsoft Exchange has, in essence, been a kind of cloud since day one. It’s only in the past few years that we slapped the cloud label on everything because it sounds cool.

Saying my contacts are stored on iCloud sounds way better than saying they’re stored on iMassiveServerFarm-InNorthCarolina-WithLotsOfHardDrives-OnWhichIHaveATiny-AmountOfSpaceReserved-ThatAppleOwns – but that’s just my opinion.

Cloud servers are great and we use them for two main reasons:

1. Automatic syncing between all devices. Update a contact on your iPhone, it’s updated on your computer. Delete an email on your computer, it’s deleted from your iPhone.

Note: If when you delete an email it doesn’t delete from your other devices, your email provider is probably using the older POP (Post Office Protocol) method for delivering your mail.

2. Automatic backup. Meet a new person, add them to your phone, and drop your phone in the toilet later that day? No worries! (At least about the contact.) Its home is on a cloud server, so if you have to get new phone, it’ll come right back when you set it up.

On the next page, I’ll walk you step-by-step through fixing the problem, once and for all. Click on Page 2 to keep reading.

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About Author

I'm a former Apple employee and the founder of Payette Forward, and I'm here to help you with your iPhone.

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Maritza
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Maritza

What if you have contacts on saved on your iPhone? I have a lot of contacts that are on my iPhone and show up on my iPad without the name attached. I never understood why until I followed the steps. But how do I fix this?

Jeremy Morel
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I’d like to point out that if you do find you have your contacts stored across an array of servers, the Mac Contacts application (if you happen to have a Mac) will allow you to add all your accounts as sources. Once you do, you can view them independently. In my case I was able to open, say, my Exchange contacts, highlight and drag them all into iCloud. I hope this helps save someone some time and aggravation!

Ravinder Singh
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In step one I discovered that the iCloud account had all my contacts. Google had many, but not all. In step 2, I confirmed that both iCloud and Google are configured to sync my contacts. Here is the real issue – when I logged on to my iCloud account from my PC and checked the contacts, some of teh contacts were not there. How do I ensure that ALL my contacts which are there on my iPhone are there on iCloud? It is important as I might shift to Android (read my comment on your article about heating and battery… Read more »

randy
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randy

wow. really awesome.
i am breaking my head why all contacts are not coming to my iphone 6 plus. because i dint config my email yet. so icloud contacts only came to phone. Now going to export mail contact to desktop and import to icloud. its easy to keep all at one place. nice tips. thank you very much

Lisa Strickland
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Lisa Strickland

I did the above but I can’t get exchange to show up in my groups on my new phone…

Why Are Some Of My Contacts Missing From My iPhone, iPad, or iPod? | ALICE YAM
Guest

[…] via …  Why Are Some Of My Contacts Missing From My iPhone, iPad, or iPod?. […]

Paul Nagele
Guest

Another thing to check: you can choose to SORT contacts on either first name or last name. Also you can choose to DISPLAY on first or last name. Use the search option if you don’t “see” your contact. Also if you have a “Group” entry entered in your .live or .msn or other account it will not show up.

Laura Claycomb
Guest

Hi, thought you’d want to know that a big (taking over my screen) ad for MacSweeper came up while I was on your site. I don’t know if you have injected files, but you might want to do a scan. I don’t know if it was an anomaly of some ad that came up in the Google ads on your site and I inadvertently touched on it while reading, but thought you should know.

Thank you SO MUCH for these articles – esp. the one to let me back up again to iCloud!!!

John Shipps
Guest

Good article, thanks for the helpful insights. However, I seem to have a variation of the problem. All of my contacts are in iCloud and visible on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, but some don’t have the complete information. Oddly enough, I noticed it with my parents contacts. I see my mom’s basic info on my iPhone, but her home address is missing – same with my dad. Yet, when I look them up in Contacts on my Mac, their home addresses are visible. Is my iPhone deciding what info to display from iCloud? Their home addresses used to… Read more »

Sheila Mastrangelo
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Thank you for taking the time to pass on all the helpful information.

Ivory John
Guest

Great advice

Paula Johnson
Guest

I bought a Samsung tablet and AT&T put my aol e-mail on it for me, but my contacts did not sync. There isnt even a tab for contacts at the left when I am on it. How do I get Contacts to show up in my email like they do on my computer?
Thanks for your help.
Paula Johnson
[email protected]

Suanne Gilleland
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David, your article was helpful in some ways, ESPECIALLY in calming down my panic. It’s great to meet people like you who don’t go into panic mode when stuff happens. I unfortunately do!

I have checked some random button because I actually have my AOL contacts listed in my iPhone and iPad, yet they are lost on AOL on my Mac. Can you help?

tc10
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tc10

Thanks this is very helpful. I have 2 Macs, new iPhone and old iPad. I will see if this helps. I have lost 100s of contacts over the past 2 years. Also I synced up with LinkedIn about a year ago. It brought over photos of many of my contacts. About 6 months later I noticed that many of my contacts had the wrong pictures and many had duplicates of wrong pictures. I asked LinkedIn and they said it was a Mac problem and Mac and it was a LinkedIn problem … sounds familiar. Rather than them both wanting to… Read more »

I Deleted The App Store From My iPhone! The Fix by Payette Forward
Guest

[…] Double-check that all your contacts, calendars, notes, and other personal information is synchronized on iCloud, Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo, AOL, or any other cloud service. If your personal information is stored on the cloud, it won’t be deleted when you restore your iPhone, and it will be immediately come back to your device when you set up those accounts again. To learn more about syncing contacts, calendars, and other personal information on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, check out my article, Why Are Some Of My Contacts Missing From My iPhone, iPad, or iPod? Here’s The Real Fix! […]