How to share family contacts

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Reader Walt Bischoff and his spouse—like all good couples—would like to share more of their lives with one another. He writes:

My wife and I have separate Apple IDs and would like to share contacts via iCloud. How should we set up iCloud to achieve this? Right now we never seem to be able to access all of our contacts.

I can offer a couple of solutions. We’ll start with iCloud.

iCloud doesn’t allow you to share contacts between accounts. You can’t, for example, create a group of contacts within your iCloud account and then tick off a little box marked “Make these contacts available to my spouse as well.” What you have to do is create an additional iCloud account that you share.

To do that you go through the usual rigmarole to create an iCloud account. On an iOS device simply navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars; and tap Add Account. Tap iCloud and create a new Apple ID. Once you’ve obtained that ID, add it to every device you intend to use to share contacts.

Create an additional iCloud account to share contacts

On the Mac, go to System Preferences > Mail, Contacts & Calendars; click the Plus (+) button at the bottom of the window, click iCloud, and click Create Apple ID. (Or, if you’ve already established that new ID on another device, just enter the Apple ID email address and password and click Sign In.) Again, make sure that you’ve added this new iCloud account to all your devices.

In each case, enable contacts syncing for the new account. Now when you open the Contacts application on your Mac or the Contacts app on an iOS device, you’ll see your new iCloud account listed. Any contacts that you want to share should be added to this account. In cases where you don’t want to share particular contacts, simply leave them in (or add them to, when creating new contacts) the account tied to your personal iCloud account.

Gmail contacts is another option. And it works similarly. Create a Gmail account that the two of you will share. On your iOS devices go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars; tap Add Account, tap Other, and tap Add CardDAV account. Configure the sheet that appears to read:


User Name: The email address for your shared Gmail account

Password: That account’s password

Description: Something along the lines of Shared Google Contacts

You’ll then want to import your shared contacts into this Google account, which you can do on your Mac by launching Contacts, selecting the contacts you want to add to Google, and dragging them to the Gmail account you’ve created. Do the same with your wife’s contacts. If you like, just click on the Plus button next to the Google entry in the All Contacts area to create a new group, which you can use to help manage your shared contacts—Our Friends and Our Relatives, for instance. Your contacts will be uploaded to Google and synced with other devices that you've configured to use this account.

Contacts with both iCloud and Google accounts

Note that when using this method, any new contacts that you create on an iOS device will, by default, be added to your iCloud account, not Gmail. But you can rectify that. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars; swipe down to the Contacts area, tap on Default Account, and in the resulting screen, tap on your Gmail account. Until you change this option back to iCloud, any new contacts you create will be added to your Gmail contacts.

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