Tips & How-to

Quick Tip: How to Import SIM Contact to iPhone

March 15, 2009 — by Simon Ng105


Tips & How-to

Quick Tip: How to Import SIM Contact to iPhone

March 15, 2009 — by Simon Ng105

Import SIM Contacts on iPhoneAt first, I think it’s trivial. But from time to time, I have been asked:

I bought a new iPhone. How can I import SIM card contacts from my old phone to the new iPhone?

You may know the answer. But for iPhone new comer, this quick tip is for you to start using your brand new iPhone.

Simply go to “Settings” -> “Mail, Contacts, Calendar”, you can find an option called “Import SIM Contacts”. Then tap on it and iPhone will import all SIM contacts to your contacts list.

Import SIM Contacts in SettingsImporting SIM Contacts on iPhone

Can’t find this option in Settings? You may be using an stone age iPhone with older version of firmware (Prior to firmware 2.0). For user with older version of iPhone, I’ll recommend you to upgrade to the latest firmware version. You can just upgrade it by using iTunes.

Simon Ng

Founder, developer and chief blogger of

  • Ernest

    And viceversa? how can I export the contacts from my Iphone to my SIM?

  • Jeff

    I tried your suggestion, but nothing happens. All I have is the default contacts on my iphone. Everything still remains on my SIM card when I put it back on my old phone, so I’m not sure what’s the problem. I even tried to take out the SIM card and put it back in, but no success. Any ideas?

    • Pete

      i am also having this problem. anyone with an answer of how to fix this would be great as it would save me having to do this manually and save me hours!! thanks

  • EmSee

    I’m having the same problem! Surely there is an app for this?

  • Paul

    Same problem here. I think it may be because the iphone is “locked” and only accepts sim cards from my telco – my old sim is from another company.

    Does anyone know any way around this without unlocking the iphone?

    • Diana

      Did you power off the iphone after inserting the sim?
      The iphone needs to be completely off by pressing the home button and the power button on top right simultaneously, until you get a message tp “slide to power off”.
      Power the iphone back up then follow the instructions to import sim contacts

  • wondergirl

    i have the same problem here. I can’t import the contact from my sim card. I tried the “import sim contacts” under the setting but it didn’t work. Is there other solution? the syncing doesnt work either.

  • szfet

    Same problem “import sim contacts” is not working. Ok I had it jailbroken and unlocked the sim but i did reset the phone and tried with original sim card and nothing…
    pleas help us out hear someone
    My phone: iphone 3GS 32 GB

  • Erin

    Same problem, brand new iphone but the ‘import sim contacts’ does nothing. Simon your arrogance about how ‘easy’ it is does nobody any favours – clearly a lot of us are having trouble with this and have searched for answers as a result. You don’t seem to have answered anyone who has said ‘yes that’s all well and good but it won’t work’.

  • Erin

    P.S. Is it ‘trivial’ to have to re-enter 300+ contacts manually from your old phone to your new iphone? Feel free to come and do it for me.


    • k

      i tried the import sim card button and nothing happened. Then, I pressed it and held it down and it finally popped up that it was importing. Probably held it down for 5 secs. Now they are there. Good luck

      • Thank you K – that worked to import the contacts from sim – you saved me so much time!!

  • FAIL

    • @Jase, do you have any special character in your contact? It seems like iPhone does not import contact with special characters.

  • Raif

    I just had the same dilemma described above, but then I checked the sim card on my older phone and found that it had only 2 entries saved on it. Under the address book on the older phone (and believe me, it’s old!), I found an option for copy, and that led to an option to copy all entries to the sim card. After doing that I was able to import the entries to my iphone. This may not apply to everyone here, but perhaps it will help some.

    • Steve B

      Raif, you are the man. Exactly what the doctor ordered. Wish I could buy you a cold one!! Thanks again for your post. Excellent work!!!!

    • Robert

      You are the Man Raif worked like clock work took 30 seconds.

    • Mike

      This worked for me as well, thank you!

  • Dave

    Thanks Raif you are spot on with your answer. I had been trying to transfer my contact all night and than found your comment about having to put them back on my sim card first.

  • Richard

    My new iPhone seemed to do the import from the old SIM but then the contact list was empty. I went to an Orange shop and they said “”Yeah, I know, it don’t work. But then he went on to say that if you had paid for phone insurance they had a special machine that did it. If you didn’t it would cost £6”. Surely there is some mistake here?

  • worked like a charm. thanks!

  • WA

    Mine didn’t work!!! I’m still not able to get my contacts out of the sim card to my Iphone ! Help me plsss

  • AlexanderKent

    I’ve been using Tansee iPhone Transfer Contact to help me backup my contacts along with contact’s photos. It works really well. Key features:
    1. backup contacts on iPhone memory to a file (including Antc file and Text file)
    2. backup your contact’s photos
    3. support password protection.
    For those friends who are in want of a useful software to backup your iPhone contacts, you can get more info by visit:
    Hope you enjoy it as I do!

  • Kam

    Do you know how to convert MP3 to iphone ringtone? and How to upload to iphone? Thanks a lot

  • Robinson

    It worked for me…. thanks for the tip.

  • ryan

    easiest transfer ever done and never used iphone before thanks

  • Debbie

    Thanks! You were right about the contact list not being saved directly to the sim. I would have never guessed! Thanks for the tip! 🙂

  • lottie

    hooray thank you! (from one too lazy to rtfm) 🙂

  • sam

    Thanks man great tip for a new comer!

  • lilly

    ok, I am being really blonde here. I haven’t got a clue about any of this. How do you connect your old sim card to the iphone for it to read and import your contacts before you press the ‘import SIM contacts button’?

    • Sean

      I just used a sim cutter to cut a sim card to a micro sim card and have a sim adaptor to put the sim in the old phone and then transfer the contacts from the phone to the sim or get a phone shop staff member to do it for you

  • i can’t import my contact to my sim card to my iphone. Setting > import sim card doesnt seems to work.

  • kim

    somebody please help, me and my partner r swapping iphones,but when i swapped sims ive still got his contacts and hes still got mine arrgghh.

  • Rebecca Warrington

    Raif, I could kiss you! Your instructions have saved my life!!! Thank you SOOOOO much for your help- all contacts are now restored! R

  • Worked fine for me using iOS 4.0.1 Jailbreaked and Ultrasn0w unlocked

    Could be special characters in contacts people are having issues with?!

  • miremate

    Just try with eZ2mo:
    An easy way to synch contacts between phones… it worked for me. My dilema is I have a PPC mac mini with OS 10.4, and I could not synch my iphone 4 with itunes, as it requires itunes 10 (not working on PPC mac).

  • rajvir

    thanks a lot man u r a treasure given a grt solution to copy contacts thumps up 4 u

  • Zeynep Burgstahler

    If you are trying to transfer your contacts from another phone that is not an Iphone to an Iphone 3gs or before:

    – you should make sure that all your contacts are saved to your sim card…

    You can do that by going to your address book and choose “copy” option, or some phones have “sim management”… Then you choose ” copy from phone to sim card”

    Then you pop that sim card to iphone and go to “settings, general, import sim card”… and voila…

  • Aynen

    i just corrected the characters of contacts at another mobile,then i tried again to import my numbers to iphone and the problem was solved.

  • Sarah

    It WORKED!! SO helpful! I was despairing, thank you

    • gagan

      welcome 😛

  • Nate

    This won’t work if you are in Airplane mode. Once I disabled airplane mode it read my sim card again.

  • nikki

    thanks so much for this tip. worked brilliantly and saved me hours of trauma trying to figure it out!

  • brechtiejj

    Will the iPhone delete the contacts on the sim after importing?

    • Ada

      @brechtiejj, no.

  • jos vis

    I had one contact on my SIM stored as
    this blocked the transfer of all data to the iphone.
    Deleted this one on the SIM and it worked as intended.
    Just like Andy stated in post 33.

  • Ada

    My contacts vanished during a sync and I found your instructions, they worked for me, but of course I know for a fact that my numbers are on my SIM in the first place as my mobile provider copied them over from my old SIM when I upgraded to iPhone. It is a ‘basic’ thing, but I found it hard to find how on Apples own site, so thanks for sharing.

  • Sai

    Thanks a tonne…. !!! Simone.
    Import worked 100%, and all sim contacts got imported to iphone..even the ones with special characters.. 🙂

  • joyce

    EXCEPT….that iphones don’t store contacts on sim cards so this is useless. I discovered this after hrs of trying and searching online AND accidentally wiping out all of my contacts….grrrrr….

  • alison

    okay so i pressed the import sim contacts button and it worked…..but it still says importing contacts! its been like this for 2 days now and i have all my contacts already! so now i cant go into settings until the importing thing goes away!

  • Leslie

    Bonsoir tout le monde !!

    Je recontre les mêmes problèmes que vous.
    En clair, je souhaiterais effecer les contacts qui sont enregistrés sur la carte sim de mon iphone…
    Je pensais que modifier celle que j’avais précédement la sim classique cela marcherait mais non.
    Aussi, si je comprends bien on peut sauvegarder ses contacts sur le site mais on ne peut éffectuer de restauration au besoin…
    En bref, si quelqu’un a une astuce pour effacer les contacts de la sim sans passer par les contact outlook etcc…
    Je suis preuneuse !!!

  • baljeet

    it was really helpful . thanks

  • Rebecca

    Hi, I have just received my Iphone from 3 mobile, however the sim card is a differant size, so its not as simple as putting in the old card? any ideas?

  • Great, thanks for that. I’ve just got my iPhone 4 and was facing typing all of the contats in by hand! You’ve saved me hours of works and some very sore fingers.

    • Pee

      thanks man.. it been helpful …

  • Khalif Ali

    thanks raif it was helpful

  • Thanks a million…Got new 3GS thru warranty and new iphone had latest software version installed. Worked just like you said.

  • sam

    I just got my iphone, but my old sim only holds 250 contacts, they saved, no probs, but i still have 500+ contacts still on my old phone. I tried deleting old sim, copy next 250 contacts but now my iphone won’t copy these, any ideas??? getting fed up carrying 2 phones around

  • thanks

  • Tippy kayani

    OMG i asked from so many friendz ,,,,,,,Now i was copying ma contact 1by 1 ….. its really 3 sec job… thanx alot…

  • sajal

    i did settings>>mail,contactact>> import sim contacts……but it doesnt work…i hav iphone4 jailbreak set

  • Akira Hideyo

    Hello everyone, I just imported all my 300+ contacts from my sim to my 3GS and it worked in less than 3 mins. Not sure if it fails only for 4s. Thanks again Simon.

    PS: I stumbled upon this only exhausting ways to itune sync and nothing worked. This method was a real time saver. Cool.

  • Willie dwyer

    Legends stuff simon Now i can enjoy my new iphone with all my contacts up on my screen, Thanks again

  • I want to get china or nokia mobile contact number copy to personal computer or memory card….

    what’s the procdure this matter.

    reply to me as soon as possible.

  • NAgi

    I just got an iphone 4s and synced all my contacts from the old phone. however I lost all sim card contacts (250 or so) although I clicked many times on import SIM contacts from the settings menu, nothing happens and SIM contacts are not copied on the iphone,

    anyone has any idea how to fix this?
    thank you in advance

  • Ramesh

    I also had the same problem with Iphone 4s. Import Sim contacts did nothing. Then i tried the regular windows magic – completely powered off – it will ask you to slide to power off. Did that and restarted. THen i again tried “import sim contacts”. It worked like a charm.

    Apple or Microsoft – if it doesn’t work shutdown and try again is the lesson i learnt.

  • Raju

    Great ….. Worked……………….. Thanx…..

  • Farooq

    Thanks alot….u gave a great tip

  • scott

    thanks for the info!!!!

  • iPhoneFreak

    Unfortunately, this is does not work when migrating from old iPhone to new iPhone. You must have already saved all your contacts to your SIM. The iPhone does not allow saving contacts to SIM but only adding contacts from SIM. How do I transfer my old iPhone contacts to my new iPhone?

    • Russ

      Get MCBackup from the app store, free & works like a charm to back up & reinstall your contacts 😉

    • Thanks Ramesh, saved me 3-4 hours of mind-numbing data entry. Now I’m going to use my free time to stare at a wall.

  • Andy

    Thanks sooooooo much…..I was hating the fact that I’d lost all my contacts….pretty sad my phone company just said it couldn’t be done!!!

  • timi

    I registred the numbers in my Iphone, when i copyed contact from sim card i lost all of my old numbers in IPohne
    Can someone help me to bring back my old numbers.

  • karlijn

    omg, that saved me so much work, thanks!!

  • jokrish

    work fine… thankss..

  • Russ

    For people asking how to backup contacts on iPhone to transfer to a new iPhone …. Get MCBackup from the app store, it’s free and works a treat!

  • sayeed

    Thanks my friend, It really helped me……….:)

  • Vin

    Very helpful. Thanks.

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  • Ajay


  • Johnwongtw

    Worked perfectly on my iPhone 3GS. Thanks!

  • Bethany Cooper

    When i click on import sim contacts it comes up with two options:
    – From iCloud
    – From MacBook

    What do I do???
    I jsut spent 30 minutes manually copying each individual contact on my old phone to my sim card and know its not working!!!! :@

  • Bethany Cooper

    Wait never mind :p
    Just turned it on and off again after inserting sim card and tried importing them again and it WORKED!!

  • Steve

    Hi. I had the same problem with copying contacts from my old SIM to the Galaxy Ace and got around it in the following way:- My previous phone was a Nokia N95 (quite old) which I hooked up the a laptop using Activesync software. I highlighted all my contacts then went to the “Edit” menu and copied them to a micro SD card (this is the standard memory card for the Ace) (The copied files are .VFC format by the way). When you insert the card into the Ace it now gives you the option to copy from the micro SD card to the Contacts. This worked for me, hope it works for you!

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  • jamiefof

    ok so i dunno if anyone is still having trouble with this or if its already been said but im going to say it. i was so stumped as to why it wasnt working. but then i went back into my old phone (put the simcard back into it) and realised that the contacts were infact saved to my phone NOT my simcard. so i moved my contacts onto that phone, put it in my iphone and did the whole import contacts. haha success. for anyone that didnt realise there ya go.

  • laura

    I have also tried copying contacts from my old nokia onto my microsim and it says the ‘target is full’ so I am assuming the contacts are on there now. When I try and import them onto the Iphone it says ‘importing contacts’ but it doesn’t actually do it, can anyone help? I cant bear the idea of manually copying them all over! thanks

  • jaspreet


  • Nasir

    thanks dear you helped me in a crucial time.

  • Maria Sap

    i want my phone number Sim from my old iPhone 3 ad big when i buy new iPhone 5 had small SIM. so how get old number SIM moving to new SIM?
    I have SIM in new iPhone it small but how? is this have to same time into iTunes? to make number moving to new from old?

  • gasky

    What would be useful would be if apple could deem it fit to design a phone to do something as basic as copying contacts to a sim card like every other phone does.

  • peter

    have just sorted this on my iphone 5c.
    open phone book.
    select “GROUPS” at top left.
    choose “SHOW ALL CONTACTS”

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  • Cropper

    The sim card from my old phone is too big to fit into an iPhone.

  • ishant gumber

    how i can export from iphone contacts to an android ?