Digital Sharing for Apple Users: A Take Control Crash Course (2014)
Sync Contacts with Others
Although it’s now extremely easy to Sync Contacts across Devices of your own, syncing contacts with other people is another story entirely.
For example, my wife has her own list of contacts and I have mine, but those two lists have perhaps a hundred contacts in common—relatives, mutual friends, and neighbors. Except, my wife’s contact records don’t match mine. Maybe I have an outdated phone number for one person, or she’s missing an email address for another. If the two of us could sync the portion of our contact lists that overlaps, we could be sure we both had all the latest information at all times.
I’m astonished that Apple hasn’t found an elegant solution to this problem yet; it’s conspicuously missing from iCloud Family Sharing, for instance. There are a few approaches you can take to kind of sync a subset of your contacts with someone else, but they’re imperfect at best.
Share an Extra Account
The best (albeit cumbersome) approach is to create a new account with whichever service you already use to Sync Contacts across Devices. For example, if you use iCloud for this purpose, set up an entirely new iCloud account, with a new username and password. You can do the same with a Google, Exchange, or CardDAV account.
Then, on each device (and for each person), add the new account in System Preferences > Internet Accounts (OS X) or Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars (iOS), and make sure only Contacts is selected or turned on for that account.
Note: A Mac or iOS device can have multiple iCloud accounts, but only the first one you configure can use the full range of iCloud services. So be sure to configure your personal iCloud account first, and then the contacts-only account.
Rely on Social Networks
Facebook and LinkedIn users can share their contact info with their network. So if you enable your Facebook or LinkedIn account on your Mac or iOS device, you can see the contact info from your friends on those networks.
In theory, this is the ideal solution to syncing contacts, because you get everyone’s information with no manual effort. Instead of syncing your contact list with someone else, both people simply add the same network contacts.
But not everyone makes their contact information public on social networks, includes all the details you may want, or keeps that information up to date.
Those giant disclaimers aside, if you want to use this method of pseudo-syncing, all you have to do is sign in with your Facebook and/or LinkedIn account on each device and make sure Contacts is enabled for that account.
“Sadly, the only reasonable way to sync contacts between people is the hack of sharing an additional account.”