Many of you will already know all about Apple’s iCloud, its wonderful sync features and the fact that it allows you to find your iDevice and access mail, your calendar and even documents from any standard web browser.
Then again I regularly encounter iPad and iPhone owners who have yet to update their devices to take advantage of the many new features. By far one of the most useful iCloud features is the ability to sync your contacts from your computer and have them appear on your phone or tablet without too much manual work. Today we’ll be running through this quick and painless process.
First Thing’s First
Whatever iDevice you own – iPad, iPhone or even iPod Touch – the first thing you’ll need is iOS 5, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. iCloud is built into the update, so you’ll have to connect your device to the PC you use for such tasks and update by selecting the connected device and clicking Update under Version.
You’ll also be needing an Apple ID, and there’s a good chance you’ve already got one if you’ve had your device for a while or if you’ve ever bought anything from the iTunes store. Your Apple ID is the email that you initially registered and the password you usually use to authorise app downloads or music purchases.
Once your device restarts after the iOS 5 update you should be guided through the iCloud setup procedure. Remember, you can always change your account details and sync settings from your device’s Settings then iCloud menu. Naturally for this tutorial you will at least want Contacts to be “on” under these settings.
With your newly updated device and Apple ID to hand, head over to iCloud where you’ll be invited to login using the credentials I’ve just mentioned. First-time users will be asked to select a language, timezone and a picture and once you’re set up you should see five main icons – Mail (for accessing your iCloud email which also comes bundled with iOS 5), Contacts, Calendar, Find my iPhone/iPad and iWork.
For a good look at many of the new features in iOS 5 we’ve got a few articles that will help you get started, familiarise yourself with notification centre and show off a few of the more obscure features.
With iCloud still open, click on Contacts. This will show your address book as it is currently, it might be blank, have a single entry (you) or it might be populated but not full of your favourite contacts just yet. Whatever changes you make here will appear on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
You can add a new contact with the “+” button or make changes to your current contacts’ details from the comfort of your desk and the convenience of a real keyboard.
If you’re currently using another solution for contacts – for example an email client, webmail provider or Google Contacts – then you’re in luck as these can be imported with just a few clicks. Depending on the mail program, you will want to export all contacts in a single vCard file which you can then upload by clicking the cog “Settings” button on the lower left hand side of your contact list.
From here choose Import vCard and locate the file. For Google Contacts specifically, visit the Google Contacts website and click Export in the top right. Choose Everyone (provided you want everyone) and then vCard Format before hitting Export and downloading the file. You can then upload this to iCloud as you would any vCard file.
For those of you with Outlook 2007 or 2010 then it is also possible to sync your contacts, iCloud mail and so on using Apple’s iCloud software for Windows. You can download the software directly from Apple’s website. Unfortunately if you use webmail or another email client then it is not possible to directly sync with iCloud and the web interface is your best bet. Mac users have it built in to OS X Lion, and should have a look here.
That’s pretty much it! Appending and adding contacts using a web browser and keyboard is considerably faster than using an on-screen touch keyboard, and this was one of my favourite features added in iOS 5. The ability to easily export from almost any mail program and upload with just a single file is just as good, and if you’re an Outlook user then Apple’s iCloud software will do the trick.
Don’t forget any changes you make – from your device or from iCloud – will sync both ways, meaning you’re always up to date provided you have an Internet connection.
Have you set up iCloud sync? What do you think? Any features you’d like to see? Let us know in the comments, below.