So I received an email asking how to organize contacts into groups. My first thought was, “Oh, this will be simple”. So before I started up a response I picked up my iPad, opened the contacts app fully expecting that Apple would have made this easy to do. A couple of minutes later, I realized that you can’t sort contacts into a group on an iOS device.
This was confusing at first because you are able to view grouped contacts on an iOS device, even able to hide and view the groups. It would seem that Apple hasn’t given us the ability to group contacts on either an iPad, iPhone or iPod. If you do want to organize your contacts into groups then you’ll need to have a use the icloud.com website, the Contacts app on a Mac or use a different browser on your iPad.
Group Contacts using iCloud.com
First thing you’re going to want to do is to go to the www.icloud.com website. Unfortunately you will need a computer to view the site (there is a work around for your iOS device located below). On a computer you’ll be able to log into your account, however on an iOS device with Safari you’ll instead just be shown instructions on how to setup iCloud. Why Apple?
Anyways, once logged into your icloud.com account click the Contacts app. At the top of this page is a little red ribbon hanging down. That’s the groups button, click on it to open up your groups.
On the left page at the bottom there is an “Edit” and a “+” button. Click the “+” button to create a new group. Once you’ve created your new group just drag any contacts from the right page into one of the groups on the left.
If you have iCloud sync enabled on your iOS devices (Settings -> iCloud) then all the changes you make on icloud.com will sync to all your devices. If it doesn’t sync right away open up the Contacts app on your iOS device and tap the Groups ribbon, then tap the reload button.
Sort Contacts into Groups on a Mac
Even sorting the contacts into groups on a Mac is somewhat hidden. Open the Contacts app and you should be presented with something that looks something like the adjacent screenshot. If it doesn’t look like that and you don’t have the 3 panes then you need to change the app view. Go to the Menu Bar and click View -> Groups.
There isn’t a predominant button to click that allows you to create new groups. You’ll need to hover your mouse over one of the group title bars. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check the screenshot, it’s circled in red. Once the group is created just drag and drop any contacts your want to have sorted.
To remove a group, click on it and go to the Menu Bar -> Edit -> “Delete Group”.
How to access icloud.com on an iOS device
To start off, there isn’t anything difficult about getting into icloud.com from your iPad. The thing limiting the iPad is simply the Safari browser. The way I get around this is to use an alternative browser, for this I use the free app called Mercury Browser. There are a quite a few alternative browsers out there, I like Mercury though so I’ll use it for the remainder of this guide.
Once Mercury is installed and opened, you’ll see a little icon that looks like 3 dots and 3 lines located at the upper right (circled in red in the screenshot). Tap this icon to drop down a little window, in this window you’ll want to click the “User Agent” icon.
Basically what this lets you do is “fool” a website into believe that you are using a different browser. On your iPad select Safari (Mac OS X). This will reload the page and “trick” the icloud.com website into believing that you are browsing the site on a Mac.
This method isn’t ideal for smaller devices such as an iPhone or iPod though. The icloud.com website doesn’t allow you to zoom or move around. So if you try this on your smaller iOS device you won’t be able to log in simply because you can’t move the screen around enough to get to the Apple ID and Password input fields.
Hopefully Apple makes grouping contacts on an iOS device easier in the future. What do you think? Is grouping the contacts important enough that it should be incorporated into iOS 7, or is best left as a somewhat hidden feature?