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My iPhone deleted all of my contacts
January 28, 2014 7:06 AM   Subscribe

My iPhone deleted all of my contacts, and none of the advice I've found on the internet for getting them back has worked.

Last night my phone (iPhone 5, iOS 7.0.4) ran out of battery and shut itself down. I plugged it in to charge for a couple hours. When I started it back up, all of my contacts were missing except for those that I imported from Facebook (years ago, using a third-party app that is no longer installed—I am not using the built-in iOS Facebook integration that newer versions of iOS have). Logging in to iCloud on my computer I also see only these useless ancient Facebook contacts and not my real contacts.

This seems like a very common problem but for most people it either (a) resolves itself after a while with no user action (!?), (b) is solved by restarting the phone, or (c) is solved by disabling and then re-enabling iCloud contact syncing. It hasn't resolved itself after twelvish hours and neither (b) nor (c) has had any discernible effect.

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
posted by enn to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
When was the last time you synced your phone with a computer? You may have a backup on that computer with most or all of your contacts.
posted by soelo at 7:09 AM on January 28


I don't think I've synced it with a computer since I bought this phone about a year ago. I had (I thought) enabled iCloud backup of everything that could be backed up, and I don't use iTunes or have any music or videos on my phone, so I never have a reason to plug it into the computer.

I will try doing so as a last resort but it won't have my last year's worth of contacts and I worry about it deleting stuff (photos, apps) that I've added to my phone in the past year.
posted by enn at 7:14 AM on January 28


Do you use a Mac, and if so, are the contacts on that synced with iCloud?
posted by Magnakai at 7:40 AM on January 28


I have a Mac. There are no contacts on it. I have one iCloud account. As stated in the question, the only contacts present on the iCloud account are old Facebook contacts.
posted by enn at 8:25 AM on January 28


When you plugged it in to charge, did you plug it into the wall or to a computer it might've synced to?
posted by Andrhia at 8:31 AM on January 28


Sorry if this is a definite no and obvious, but maybe there's something weird going one with contact groups and you're seeing on that's not your usual group or account? You have the iCloud group/account with the old ones, and then might you have another "on my iPhone" group or somesuch? Can you back out a level in the Contacts app from the view you are seeing now?
posted by jroybal at 8:55 AM on January 28


I assume that you have tried to see if the contacts are at http://icloud.com? Do you live near an apple store? If so go there and tell them what happened and ask for help. Bring your Mac if it's a laptop. There are three things that can have happened:

* Your phone ate your data and the iCloud syncing wasn't set up.
* iCloud ate your data
* There is a weird setting that you have triggered.

They should be able to at least try to help you in the two last cases.
posted by brorfred at 9:27 AM on January 28


When you plugged it in to charge, did you plug it into the wall or to a computer it might've synced to?

I plugged it into the wall. I rarely to never plug it into the computer, and haven't in a while.

It's definitely not a group thing; the contacts are not only missing from the contacts app, but also in, for example, my messages (so messages/conversations that previously displayed the person's name now only display their phone number).

Guess I'll take it in to the Apple store.
posted by enn at 9:47 AM on January 28


I just resolved this SAME EXACT problem yesterday, and was not overly thrilled with the resolution. My efforts to resolve it included one visit to the local AT&T store, an hour on the phone with Apple support, a visit to the nearest Apple store (45min drive away and almost 2 hours in the store), and then another 1.5 hours on phone with Apple support again.

The last support guy basically hinted to me that the iPhone5 has some bugs, including losing contacts and not deleting voice messages. For most people, the contacts bug is not a big deal since they are properly connected to the iPhone5 cloud. I was not. It sounds like you are not either.

After all I went through, they basically helped me set up the iPhone5 cloud to back-up my contacts properly, and told me I had to re-enter all the contacts (which is brutal for me, because it is a business phone, and I don't even really know what numbers I lost since I had so many).

I went through a lot of grief trying to recover my contacts, and was never able to do it. I let Apple phone support take over my computer to try to restore the phone to an earlier date, but that didn't work either.

In the end, I would say to you - get your cloud back-up storage set up correctly, and just re-enter all the numbers. That is what I had to do. If they are saved in the cloud properly, then you will not lose them again. I went to the depths of Apple support hell and back to get this rather unpleasant advise, but there it is.
posted by Flood at 9:52 AM on January 28


When this happened to me the iCloud contacts had been disabled:
Toggling Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > iCloud > Contacts > On fixed it.

If the contacts were being stored locally, which it sounds like they were if they're not on iCloud.com, then they may be stored in your iCloud backup (which is separate to icloud.com, despite the confusing name overlap).

Settings > iCloud> Storage & Backup should tell you what time the last backup was at the bottom of the page. If it's recent, you might be able to recover the contacts from it by restoring your phone (Settings > Reset) and restoring from iCloud.

Important: This will wipe everything else on your phone. Make sure you back it up to a computer first, just in case it doesn't get restored properly.
posted by bonaldi at 10:50 AM on January 28


When this happened to me the iCloud contacts had been disabled:
Toggling Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > iCloud > Contacts > On fixed it.


Same here. I don't know why, but occasionally iCloud syncing seems to turn itself off on my phone, not just for contacts, but for calenders, notes, and other things. When I go to settings and turn syncing back on all is right with the world. I still use a 4s, and this began sometime after installing iOS7.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:29 PM on January 28


iCloud syncing was on. As I mentioned in the question, I did try disabling and then re-enabling it, to no avail.
posted by enn at 12:41 PM on January 28


iCloud syncing was on. As I mentioned in the question, I did try disabling and then re-enabling it, to no avail.

Just to be clear, I'm talking about something slightly different.

You enable iCloud syncing from Settings > iCloud > Contacts. The setting that flips off for me is Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > iCloud.

I don't understand the difference - they seem like they should be the same to me, but if they are why are they in two places? Argh, Apple.
posted by bonaldi at 10:45 AM on January 29


My iCloud synching was on too. But it was set to synch on my gmail contacts. If you iCloud has only your facebook contacts, it may be set up to do only that.
posted by Flood at 7:11 AM on January 30


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