How to Use the Hidden Power of Apple’s Contacts App to Improve Your iPhone
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Apple’s Contacts app might not seem like the most vital 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 – for historical reasons – the Phone app duplicates its functionality.
You can delete the Contacts app, and if you did that now – and you could also delete the Phone app – you’d still have all your old contacts. They automatically completed each other when you went to message someone.
The Contacts app is so hidden that it’s even likely that you have many email addresses of friends and co-workers that you haven’t saved there. Apple Mail retains previous and auto-complete recipient addresses as if they were in the Contacts app.
You need to add them to Contacts because if something goes wrong with Mail or something goes wrong when you switch to a new Mac, you might lose them.
So there’s a clear reason to add them to Contacts, but there are also plenty of other reasons to take the time to use Contacts properly.
The thing to remember is 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 offer you a lot of features for editing.
Yet whether you use BusyContacts, Cardhop, or Apple’s Contacts app, you’re really working with the same database. Just like with calendars, you can find several different apps that may suit you better than Apple’s, but each uses the same calendar database at its core.
Only Contacts is so integrated into the core of iOS that it powers dozens of Apple’s best features across the entire operating system.
It doesn’t matter if you never plan to buy them a cake, if you put someone’s birthday in your Contacts card for them, it has benefits.
The most obvious is that their birthday will appear on your calendar, for starters.
Pay attention to this, however. Contacts will let you add only the day and month of their birthday, and that should be enough, but it’s not quite.
It’s about knowing when to say happy birthday, but at some point it’s going to be a very important birthday. Sometimes you don’t know more, but currently Apple’s Contacts app requires a year, so maybe you put today’s year or the year you met.
There have been times, and there have been applications, where you didn’t have to put in a year.
And whatever the cause of the omission, or whatever year you make, you may find yourself being notified of your mother-in-law’s “2nd birthday.”
It’s unlikely that’s correct, but if in fact it’s such an important birthday that you should have been there – and bought a present – then you better give her a call. And have flowers or photos.
On iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, if you’ve entered someone’s birthday in your Contacts app, it’ll show up on all your devices. And it will appear in every place where it is possible to be.
Such as Pictures. Go to Photos on your iPhone and tap the For you button.
Your iPhone has automatically organized a series of Memories scrapbooks. And yes, it uses Contacts to do that.
Not entirely. There can be as many albums based on the places you’ve visited as there are people’s ages.
But those with their ages have surfaced at the appropriate time of year.
Call his name
Even if you don’t know many birthdays, you benefit from the ordinary and regular information you put in Contacts. You have to put it on and you have to keep it up to date, but the finer details help.
For example, if you have a name and a cell phone number, you can say “Hey, Siri, phone Susan Hare”. Siri will then do that and won’t ask you anything because it sees in your contacts database that you only know one person with that name.
And, also, he can see that you only have one phone number. So he just dials that number.
There is also an additional intelligence here, which applies whenever there is ambiguity. If you know two people named Susan Hare and you just ask Siri to phone her, she might know that you’ve been calling her twice a day, and the other hasn’t since sixth grade.
However, you might save Siri some trouble and save yourself a tiny bit of effort by saying “Hey, Siri, call my sister.” Or you could if you had taken a moment to specify “sister” in her Contacts card.
When she also calls you back, you can make your iPhone play a different ringtone. Or you can, if you have it set 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 Contacts card to work on it. As it stands, you need to find who you want to add details to, then click Edit.
This at least means that you are unlikely to edit a contact card by accident.
Once you edit someone, however, and put their name in, you then get eight default options. They include the addition
- Phone number
- Personal email
- text tone
- Site home page
- A second phone number
- social media
- Home Address
- To note
If this is a company you are entering information for, you can check a box to indicate that it is a company. And if it’s company staff, you can add their company name next to theirs.
You can also select any of the home coordinates and edit them to work.
Some of these details vary depending on where you are and what location you perform. US users have the option of a postcode, for example, where UK users see “Postcode” instead.
Except for the Note field, Birthday, Ringtone, and Text Tone, all other items come with options. Click on the mobile phone number and you get 10 alternatives, from mobile to business fax.
You even get Apple Watch as an option, for friends who prefer you call them on their separate watch number.
Additionally, there is an 11th choice, the “Other” tote. And a 12th, “Custom”.
This is typical for each section. But if you take the time to fill in everything you know, that information comes back to you when it’s most useful.
You can always turn to the Contacts app to check a detail or start a phone call. But you can also see their name on the screen if they call you, for example.
Apple’s Contacts app looks basic at first, but then it can feel a bit of a chore when you see all the things you can add and edit there. But at the same time, it’s like that extra brain in your iPhone that brings you the information you need, when you need it.
Some people still have to use old Rolodex card systems, but they probably don’t have a Mac yet.