How to Import Contacts to an iPhone From a CSV File

By Diana V. Faustmann

Unlike other smartphones, the iPhone doesn’t store your contacts on a SIM card. Rather, it syncs with contacts you’ve stored elsewhere on the Web or a computer. Hence, one of the quickest ways to view and use contacts stored within a CSV file would be to import them into an email account that’s synced with your iPhone. For accounts such as iCloud, you’d need to convert the CSV file to the VCard or VCS format first.

Import into an Email Account on Your iPhone

Step 1

Open an email account you already use -- such as a Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or Outlook account. Alternatively, create a new account with one of these providers.

Step 2

Follow the email provider’s instructions to import the CSV file (see links in Resources). This simply involves clicking the program’s “Import” button and choosing the CSV file from your computer.

Step 3

Add the email account to your iPhone, if you haven’t done so previously. Tap “Settings,” followed by “Mail, Contacts, Calendars.” Next, touch “Add Account,” followed by the email provider’s program; for example, choose “Google” for a Gmail account. Enter your name, email address, password, and description in the fields provided on the next screen. Then, tap “Next.”

Step 4

Toggle the “Contacts” switch to the "On" position. The account’s contacts -- including those you imported from the CSV file -- appear within your iPhone’s Contacts app almost instantly. To view them, tap “Contacts” on your home screen, followed by “Groups,” and your email account’s name.

Convert File and Import into iCloud

Step 1

Open an existing Gmail or Yahoo account. Alternatively, create a new one.

Step 2

Follow the email provider’s instructions to import the CSV file (see links in Resources). This entails clicking “Import” and choosing the CSV file from your computer to upload it.

Step 3

Follow the email provider’s instructions to export your contacts to a new vCard or VCF file. This involves clicking the program’s “Export” button, selecting the new file format and saving the file on your computer.

Step 4

Sign in to your account at iCloud.com. Next, choose “Contacts.” Click the “Gear” button on the lower left and choose “Import vCard.” Select the VCF file you just created to upload and display its contacts.

Step 5

Activate iCloud contacts on your iPhone, if you haven’t done so previously. Tap “Settings,” followed by “iCloud.” Then, toggle the “Contacts” switch to “On.” You may now view your imported contacts within the Contacts app.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may also import the CSV file into your computer’s email and contacts manager – such as Address Book on a Mac or Microsoft Outlook on a PC. Then sync contacts to your iPhone using iTunes.
  • Only Gmail and Yahoo accounts can export contacts in vCard or VCF format. If you don’t use either account and prefer not to create a new one, convert your CSV file using a third-party conversion app or service.
  • Information in this article applies to PCs running Windows 8 and iPhones running iOS 7.1.1. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions or products.