Android: Import Contacts from SIM and move to a new Android phone

   Posted August 4, 2011 by Jimmy Selix in Android, Google

This article will explain how to import your contacts from a SIM card on an Android phone and in turn sync those contacts to your Google account.  Once you do this, you can then move to a new Android phone and never fear losing your contacts again!

Preliminary Setup Notes:

You will want to have a Gmail / Google account setup on your phone to import your contacts to.  You can do this on your phone via Settings > Accounts > Add Account

Importing SIM Contacts

1. On your Android phone, go into the Contacts app.

2. Go to the Contacts tab and then hit the Menu button.

3. Choose the Import/Export option.   Then choose to Import from SIM Card.

4. It will now ask you to choose where to create the contacts to: Choose your new Gmail / Google account to import to. Android will then scan your SIM card for any contacts and then show a list of contacts that you can import by checking them.

5. Once you do this, your SIM contacts will get imported and then synced to your Gmail / Google account.

6.  On the new Android phone all you will have to do is sign in with your Gmail / Google account and once you do so, your Contacts will sync down to the phone and be ready to use.

7. If you notice that your contacts are not showing, you may need to modify your Display options in the Contacts app.  Do this by going again to the Contacts tab, hitting Menu button and then choosing Display Options.  You can then tap on your Google account and choose which Categories to show.


Importing Outlook Contacts:

More of us probably have a full Outlook Address Book vs using our SIM Card.  You can easily export your Outlook contacts in Outlook to a CSV file and then import them into Gmail contacts.  To export from Outlook, go to File > Import/Export.  Export your Contacts as a CSV file.  Then login to your Gmail account on the same pc, then go to the Contacts menu on the left.  On the top toolbar, choose the More button.  Then choose the Import option and browse to your CSV file.  You can also add these contacts to a group / category if you want too.  I usually add them to the My Contacts group so these will show right away on your Android phone’s Contacts app (The My Contacts group is set to sync to your phone by default!)

Call Logs/Text Message Backups:

If you need to also save your Call Log and SMS/MMS messages from your old Android phone, I would recommend downloading two great, free Apps I use to backup those items:

Call Logs Backup & Restore (Android Market link) – By Ritesh Sahu
SMS Backup & Restore (Android Market Link) – By Ritesh Sahu

These two apps will make xml files of your history and then save them to your SD Card.  On your new phone, just copy the backup folders from the old phone’s sd card (ie CallLogBackupRestore and SMSBackupRestore) to the root of the new phone’s SD card.  Then go into each app and choose the Restore option.  Voila, your call log and sms/mms messages are back!

Format SD Card if Swapping

If you notice random issues with your new phone and also swapped your memory card from the old phone, i would recommend copying all data from the memory card to your PC.  Then on your phone, format the SD Card by going to Settings > Storage > Unmount SD Card.  Once you do that, you can then Erase SD Card.  Finally, copy all data back to the card except for the .android_secure, Android, LOST.DIR and data folders.  Sometimes going from a different version of Android (ie 2.3.3. to 2.2.2, etc) can cause issues w/cached data on the memory card thats specific to the Android version. (i do this each time i install a new custom rom)


About Jimmy Selix

Jimmy Selix is an early adopter that loves to be one of the first on the block to have the latest and greatest in technology and gadgets. Another love of his is being able to share his knowledge to others seeking it. Feel free to drop any comments or questions that you may have.
View more articles by Jimmy Selix

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  • Trademark Application

    Wasn’t that possible from before? I did it in January!

  • Jochum

    I don’t get step 4, it just saves the contacts, i have 2.3.3. and galaxy ace.
    Anybody experienced? Hope to hear from you

    4. It will now ask you to choose where to create the contacts to: Choose your new Gmail / Google account to import to. Android will then scan your SIM card for any contacts and then show a list of contacts that you can import by checking them.

    • Andi Hofman

      Me neither, no possibility to select target account, just local. And I’m to tired or dumb to

      – mail all the 170 contacts as vcf (it claimed it mailed them, but nothing arrived, nothing was saved in “sent”).
      – alternatively somehow mark all the contacts just imported and change their status from local to some account so they get synced.
      – change one contact from local storage to cloudy (I’ve seen it before, strange.)

      It is this point where I hate the colourful UIs that conceil vast and deep valleys of errorprone, unergonomic, … – just annoying – programming attempts.

      Hack, 10years ago I used a serial cable on my S45, seconds later I got it in excel. Some more steps, and every adress database I own has it. Local or cloudy.

      So I searched for an app doing it, but nope, just junk.
      No app that claims to give me some csv Attachment with my sim address book. Or similar backup possibilities.
      Probably I searched the wrong keywords, sim card backup or sim backup is not the hit I hoped.

      At least I could insert the new sim and copy all the local contacts back, regardless of the strange interpretation of surename, lastname, the sim card got the original “OneName” – String ;=)

      Good luck


      (sams GT i9000 FW 2.3.3)

  • nig

    this is all very well up to stage four where it says sync to your new gmail account which i try but nothing happens any further than there i had to start a new gmail acc when i bought th phone or it wouldnt allow me to install new f/b acc or ebay account now when i try sync there it just kinda stays there indefinatly . . i mean how long can a man wait for something/nothing to happen.