How to Transfer Contacts from Old iPhone to iPhone 5/5s: The Ultimate Guide

Thanks to iCloud’s contact sync, you wouldn’t need rocket science to transfer contacts from your old iPhone (4/4S/3GS) to the iPhone 5 and 5s. The whole thing is taken care of if you’ve already backed up and synced contacts with iCloud. (Also read: How to Transfer Contacts from old iPhone to iPhone 6/6 Plus.)

But of course, there are those of us who haven’t utilized this feature. There are other ways to transfer contacts from an iPhone 4/4S to iPhone 5 and they’re pretty easy too.

How to Transfer Contacts from Old iPhone to iPhone 5/5s

At A Glance:

  • iCloud Sync (While Setting Up the New iPhone)
  • iTunes Contact Sync
  • VCF File Export
  • Third-party Softwares

Firstly, let’s see how you make sure the new iPhone 5 is configured to have all the contacts synced through iCloud:

Transfer Contacts to iPhone 5/5s with iCloud Sync

With your previous iPhone, you’d have had the option of syncing your contacts to iCloud. If you are only now trying to set up the new iPhone, I suggest you first sync contacts from the older iPhone to iCloud.

To do this:
On your old iPhone:

  • Open Settings.
  • Scroll down and tap on iCloud.
  • Make sure ‘Contacts‘ is switched ON.iCloud Contacts Settings
  • Scroll down and tap on Storage & Backup.
  • Make sure iCloud Backup is ON.
  • Click on Back Up Now to backup the data.

Now, while setting up the new iPhone 5/5s:

  • Under the Set up iPhone option, tap on “Restore from iCloud Backup
  • Proceed normally, and you should find all your contacts on iPhone 5

Now, if you set up your iPhone 5/5s from a new iCloud account, or if you did not backup contacts on your iCloud, you can try the next method which you might be familiar if you’ve used iTunes to backup and sync.


iTunes offers a perfect way to sync contacts but if you’ve had some excellent experience with iTunes, you know it’s a bit tricky unless you’re careful.

To do this:
(first disable auto sync in iTunes)

  • Connect your old iPhone to iTunes.
  • Select the iPhone from the left-sidebar Devices tab.
  • Click on “Info” Tab.
  • Select only Address Book Contacts (for syncing purpose) and deselect the rest.
  • Select All Contacts (or group if you want to choose group-wise.)
  • Now, click on Apply and iTunes will ask for a confirmation.
  • Select the merge option if you’ve got contacts on your system already. Or just rewrite.

After this, remove the old iPhone and connect the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s

  • Once iTunes recognizes the new device, select the iPhone 5 from the sidebar
  • Again, click on the Info Tab
  • select Address Book contacts and deselect the rest
  • Select All Contacts again (or group)
  • Click on Apply
  • Select the merge option (or rewrite on iPhone)

After the sync is done, you should see contacts on your iPhone 5.

VCF File Export

You can alternatively send yourself a .vcf file of all your contacts and import it to your iPhone 5. In this method, first of all, you need to create vCard (.vcf) file of your old iPhone contacts. To do it:

  • Download and install My Contacts Backup on your old iPhone
  • Run the app. It will automatically create a .vcf file of all your contacts (along with their pictures, email, fax info and more)
  • The file will be emailed to you.
  • Open the email on your new iPhone 5 and just import the .vcf file when prompted.

Third-Party Software

There are software like Copytrans which help you transfer contacts in pretty much the same way as iTunes does. Only, these are simpler and easier to handle. Of course, most third-party software costs money, and some of them are quite costly. These are for people who have large contact groups and would want to be very careful about them.

If you are going to use Copytrans, here is a quick guide on how to transfer contacts from iPhone 4 to iPhone 5.