iPhone Hints: Take contacts farther afield

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The iPhone’s address book, which is accessible through both the Phone application and the Contacts application, helps you keep all of your contact information organized and easily at hand. But what if you want to enter information that’s not just a name, address, phone number, or e-mail?

Reader Kim S. has this very dilemma, writing:

Why is it missing a birthday field? Many times already I’ve been with people who have mentioned when their birthday was and wanted to go into the calendar right then and capture the info, but no luck. Why? Makes no sense. I’m only asking to have the same feature I have on my computer. The spouse/friend field would be nice, too.

Kim, happy to help! The iPhone does in fact have a birthday field, though it’s squirreled away deep inside the murky recesses of the address book. Here’s how to bring it into light, along with some other potentially useful fields.

In any address book entry, click the Edit button in the top right-hand corner. You’ll notice that beneath each respective section (phone, e-mail, address, etc.) it now offers to let you add another entry of that type, handy for distinguishing between work, home, and mobile phone numbers, for example.

However, if you scroll all the way to the end of the entry, you’ll find a single solitary field right above the big red button that lets you delete that contact. This field says “add field”; tap it and you’ll be taken into a world of pure imagination.

There you’ll find most of the additional fields that are also available in the Mac’s Address Book application, such as prefix, suffix, nickname, job title, department, and, yes, birthday. Unfortunately, the Related Names feature of Address Book isn’t present, so you can’t enter friend or spouse names and if you've entered them on your Mac, they won't show up on the iPhone either.

One of the handier fields you can add is a generic date field, in which you can enter custom labels (your anniversary, for example, or a friend’s kid’s birthday) along with a date—it’ll even sync back to your Address Book on your Mac, just as you’d expect. There's also the ever-useful notes field, in case you need to add some information that doesn't quite fit in anywhere else. (I once used it to remind myself I owed a friend twenty bucks.)

Unfortunately, there is one downside to entering birthdays—they don’t automatically show up in the iPhone’s calendar application. For that, we refer you back to our inaugural tip, which explains some ways of getting subscribed calendars onto your phone.

Got an iPhone tip to share? Want to put a bounty on how to do something? Drop us a line at iphone@macworld.com with the subject line “iPhone Hint.”

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