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How can my wife and I keep our iOS and MacOS contacts synchronized
May 12, 2014 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Alms and I like to maintain a single contact list for both of us across our iPhones and Macintoshes. How can we do this without abusing my Apple ID and iCloud?

We currently maintain a unified contact list by using my Apple ID on all of our devices and syncing through iCloud. This works great for contacts. She adds a number for a new allergist and I immediately have it. I add a number for a new babysitter and she immediately sees it. We both have all of our contacts on our iPhones and on our Macs.

This isn't really how you're supposed to use Apple IDs and iCloud, though, and it causes some problems. Apple occasionally tries to add her iPhone to my Messages account, for example; I don't think we can set her up with a distinct FaceTime address, because that's specified via the Apple ID; etc.

So, my question: is there some other way for Mrs. Alms and I to share a single unified contact list across all our Apple devices?

Other details:
- We want the Contact list to be available to other apps, as it currently is, so a web-based solution won't work.
- Ideally updates made by either of us on any device would appear on other devices in real time, but something less than real-time would be acceptable if the system otherwise worked.
- We're currently using the in-built Contacts app on iOS and OS X. We're happy with them but could switch to something else if there were benefits.
- I prefer not to use Google services.
- Mrs. Alms uses a paper calendar, so calendar syncing is currently not an issue one way or the other.

Thank you.
posted by alms to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This isn't really how you're supposed to use Apple IDs and iCloud, though, and it causes some problems. Apple occasionally tries to add her iPhone to my Messages account, for example; I don't think we can set her up with a distinct FaceTime address, because that's specified via the Apple ID; etc.

We subscribe to the "single Apple ID" approach in our home to share apps and media, but don't consolidate our contacts (though I believe iCloud should work).

Contra your assumption, there's no problem using Facetime between devices sharing the same Apple ID. In Settings --> Facetime on each device you can specify which phone numbers or email addresses can be reached via Facetime.
posted by donovan at 7:40 AM on May 12


We subscribe to the "single Apple ID" approach in our home to share apps and media...

Ah, this is an important point. iOS actually lets you have two Apple IDs: one for iTunes content (apps, movies, TV shows, etc), and another for iCloud services (contacts, calendars, email, Messages, etc). I'm pretty sure that everything on the iCloud services side has to use the same Apple ID.

I will try again to get FaceTime working, but I'm still interested in other approaches for getting our contacts unified. Using the single Apple ID has caused a variety of problems in the past, and I'd like to avoid that in the future.
posted by alms at 7:48 AM on May 12


Use a shared gmail account, but then turn off mail, calendars, and notes, so it is JUST a Contacts account. You each add it on your phone, and then make sure to set it as your default Contacts Account.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:51 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Oh oops. Sorry. Missed the "No google services". Use Microsoft's outlook.com, or Yahoo, or whatever.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:52 AM on May 12


How tech savvy are you?

If tech savvy: set up a low power linux machine on your home network, and install a caldav/carddav implementation on there, and use an account on that machine to share contacts.

If not tech savvy: set up an unused Mac on your network and buy MacOSX Server for it. Turn on it's Contacts service. Set up a shared account on that machine to share contacts.

There are other CardDAV services out there, so if a hosted solution is what you're after, you may have luck for a few dollars a year.
posted by tomierna at 7:57 AM on May 12


CardDav appears to be what I'm looking for. Thanks, Tomierna!

(Now to find out whether FastMail supports it, and if not figure out what to use.)
posted by alms at 8:22 AM on May 12


I have shared contacts, calendars, tasks, and email with my wife. We have three accounts on a Zimbra server [1]; Fief, MrsFief, and FiefandMrsFief. Each has a mailbox, contacts, tasks, and calendars. While I have not recently tried it on Android, the same basic setup worked using the CalDAV-Sync and CardDAV-Sync apps (both by Marten Garjda) with Android 4.0.

This process works on OS X using the built in applications. I don't have useful CalDav or CardDav client suggestions for Windows.

There are finicky bits to all of this. While tasks are a feature of CalDav, how various clients and servers use that varies wildly. There are options on iOS and in the Zimbra web interface that do not translate to the other. This can cause data loss if you are not careful. Contacts are similar, you need to be careful to only use the fields that work on all devices/clients you use.

[1] An exchange like product. I happen to run my own server (which is not for the faint of heart). There are service providers that will host accounts for you. The basic description here should work with other providers that offer CalDav and CardDav.

Feel free to meMail me if you need further details or have questions.
posted by fief at 9:08 PM on May 12


FastMail is in the process of implementing CardDav. They expect to have it available in a month. So hopefully I'll be all set at that point.

Thanks all for the general pointers and detailed responses!
posted by alms at 9:11 PM on May 13


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