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Apple’s Contacts app doesn’t sound like the most important part of iOS, but behind the scenes it powers a lot of what makes iPhones useful.
It’s true that you literally don’t need Apple’s Contacts app. Not because there are third-party alternatives like Cardhop, and not even because the phone app duplicates its features for historical reasons.
You can remove the Contacts app, and if you did that now – and could remove the Phone app too – you’d still have all your old contacts. They would autocomplete if you were to message someone.
The Contacts app is so hidden that you probably have a lot of email addresses from friends and colleagues that you haven’t saved in it. Apple Mail keeps the addresses of previous recipients and auto-completes them as if they were in the Contacts app.
You should add them to Contacts because if something goes wrong with Mail or something goes wrong when you switch to a new Mac, you could lose them.
So there’s a clear reason to add them to Contacts, but there are many more reasons to take the time to use Contacts properly.
Remember that Apple’s Contacts app is just an editor, it’s how you create, edit, or delete that information. The reason there are alternatives like BusyContacts is that it doesn’t give you many features to edit.
But whether you’re using BusyContacts, Cardhop, or Apple’s own Contacts app, you’re really working with the same database. Just like with calendars, you can find several different apps that might suit you better than Apple’s, but they all use the same calendar database at their core.
Nur Contacts is so embedded at the heart of iOS that it supports dozens of Apple’s own best features across the operating system.
It doesn’t matter if you never intend to buy them a cake, there are benefits to putting someone’s birthday on your contact card for them.
The obvious thing is that her birthday will first appear on your calendar.
Be careful though. Contacts only lets you add the day and month of their birthday, and that should be enough, but it’s not quite.
It serves to know when to say happy birthday, but eventually it will be a very significant birthday. Sometimes it’s hard to remember, but currently Apple’s Contacts app takes a year, so you might enter today’s year or the year you met.
There were times and there were apps when you didn’t have to plan a year.
And whatever prompts the omission, or whatever year you come up with, you may find yourself wondering about the “2. Birthday” of your mother-in-law.
That’s probably not true, but if this is indeed such a significant birthday that you should have been there – and bought a gift – then you’d best give her a call. And have flowers or photos.
If you entered someone’s birthday in your Contacts app on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, it will appear on all your devices. And it will appear in every place where it is possible to be.
Like photos. Go to Photos on your iPhone and tap For her Button.
Your iPhone automatically has a set of curated memories albums. And yes, contacts are used to do this.
Incomplete. There can be as many albums based on places you’ve been as there are age groups.
But those of her age will show up at the appropriate time of year.
Call her name
Even if you don’t know many birthdays, you’ll benefit from the ordinary, regular information you enter into Contacts. You have to log it in and keep it up to date, but the smallest details help.
For example, if you have a name and cell phone number, you can say “Hey, Siri, call Susan Hare.” Siri will then do it and not ask you anything because it sees from your contacts database that you only know one person by that name.
And also it can see that you only have one phone number. So it just dials that number.
There’s also some extra intelligence here that applies whenever there’s any ambiguity. If you know two people named Susan Hare and just ask Siri to call them, it can know that you call them twice a day and the other hasn’t since sixth grade.
However, you could save Siri some trouble and save yourself a little trouble by saying, “Hey, Siri, call my sister.” Or you could, if you’d taken a moment, to type “sister” in her contact card to specify.
When she finally calls you back too, you can have your iPhone play a different ringtone. Or you can, once you set it up. You’ll never guess where.
It’s not Apple’s prettiest app, and it would be nice if you could just click on a contact card to work on it. So you need to find who you want to add details to and then click To edit.
At the very least, that means you’ll probably never accidentally edit a contact card.
However, once you edit someone and enter their name, you are presented with eight options by default. This includes adding
- phone number
- email home
- text tone
- Website home page
- A second phone number
- social media
- home address
If it is a company you are entering data for, you can tick a box to indicate that it is a company. And if they’re employees of a company, you can add their company name next to theirs.
You can also select any contact details at home and change them to work.
Some of these details vary depending on where you are located and what localization has been made. For example, US users will get the option for a postcode, while UK users will see “postcode” instead.
Dive into the possibilities
Except for the memo box, birthday, ringtone and text tone, every other item has options. Click on the mobile number and you will get 10 alternatives, from mobile to work fax.
You even get an Apple Watch as an option for those friends who prefer you call them on their separate Watch number.
There is also an 11th choice, the collective term “Other”. And a 12th, “Custom”.
This is typical for each section. But if you take the time to fill out everything you know, that information will be returned to you whenever it’s most useful.
You can always turn to the Contacts app to check a detail or make a call. But you can also see their name on the screen when they call you, for example.
Apple’s Contacts app looks simple at first, and then it can seem a bit tiresome when you see everything you can add and edit in it. But at the same time, it’s like that extra brain in your iPhone, giving you the information you need, when you need it.
There are certainly people still using old Rolodex card systems, but they probably don’t have a Mac yet.