How to delete contacts on iPhone or Mac

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Over time, your list of contacts may grow seemingly too big to handle. Here’s how to cut it down to size by deleting some of your contacts.

The ability to store contact details in an iPhone or other devices is an often-used feature that many people take for granted. Collecting phone numbers, email addresses, and other contact details about people and businesses you may have to talk to in the future is a part of everyday life.

Even so, there are also many reasons to delete those same details from your contact list. For example, you may not want to have contact information on hand for a former partner or a person you have a disagreement with.

It’s also possible that you have old and out of date listings that are no longer useful, like a representative at a company who has since moved on. It’s also possible that you have set up the same contact twice, and need to remove one from view.

Regardless of the reason, a clear out of your contacts list can be beneficial. Here’s what you need to know about the process.

While earlier smartphones would store contacts on a SIM card, the iPhone doesn’t work that way. Contacts are instead stored on the iPhone’s internal storage, which can be quicker to search and offers far more options for storing data than the SIM generally would.

The iPhone does have the option to import contacts from the SIM, which is handy if you’re reusing an old SIM card. If you have contacts stored on other services, such as with Google’s online services like Gmail, these can also be combined with your main contacts list.

If you have signed into iCloud on your devices, you will also have had the option to synchronize your contacts across all of your hardware. Naturally, any changes you make to the contact list on one device affects all others.

If you want to delete one or a few contacts that you no longer need, you can do that for each individual contact. If you have iCloud syncing enabled, deleting a contact on one device will delete it from others.

If you have organized contacts in groups, you can also delete the group itself via the Mac Contacts app via the same method. If the group is used as part of a Smart Group, you will have to edit the Smart Group to remove related contacts or delete the Smart Group first, before you can delete the group.

The nuclear option is to completely remove all contacts on a device. This could be useful for short contact lists where every single contact has to be removed, but it is probably better for longer lists to go through the collection gradually as there may be some you want to keep.

Things are also complicated by the fact that many of the contacts will be saved to cloud storage services, including iCloud, Google, Yahoo, and others. In the case of non-Apple contact lists, you won’t be able to delete them individually from the device unless you interact with the services directly.

You could certainly remove access to each from the devices, and in the case of iCloud, will give the option to delete them from the device entirely.

Bear in mind that, with the use of iCloud and other third-party cloud storage services, you may not necessarily have deleted all copies of your contacts, so it is best to check through multiple devices.

It is also possible to bring back contacts stored on each cloud service, simply by re-enabling them.

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