(How) Can I add profile pictures to (2FA) SMS numbers?

Several services that I use offer 2FA, but unfortunately only via SMS.

While I have a contact card for most of these services in my address book their 2FA SMS messages have the default icon (white person on gray background). I would prefer to see the profile picture I added to the contact card of such a service.

So far I tried this, but these attempts failed (image remains default picture):

  • Merge the sender of the SMS with the contact card of the service
  • Create a new/separate contact card for the send of the SMS and add a (duplicate) profile picture to it

So far I only see profile pictures for real people, with a public phone number. But since the Messages App does correctly group 2FA SMS’s per service I don’t think they are using a private number?

(How) Can I add profile pictures to (2FA) SMS numbers?

I just tested one of these by adding an icon…


… to the Contacts.app on my Mac for NYSEG.

and it almost immediately appeared in my iPhone’s Messages app:

So it appears that it should work as you’d expect.

I think the next thing I would suggest is to delete the current contact card that you have for these SMS numbers and then re-add it via the messages app. Perhaps there is some glitch that is preventing the OS from making the connection (which doesn’t make sense to me either, but then again… computers).

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I have been trying on iOS only so far, but after reading your post I tried on macOS as well. When creating a card for such a number I noticed that the new card has a single field, of type phone, but the value is actually the name that is displayed in the Message App for that number. I then manually added a phone field with such a name for an existing contact. The icon in Messages updated almost instantly, but only on macOS… On iOS the default images are still displayed.

Can you please check on an iOS device? Do you see the image there?

The final image in my post was from my iPhone, and it did sync from my Mac to iOS almost instantly.

At this point I would suggest rebooting your iOS device(s).

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of iCloud, it’s hard to know why something will work for one person, but not for another, even if they do the same things.

Oops. Should have noticed that…

No worries. We’ve all been there.

Today the icons disappeared on macOS again :cry:

(So now I don’t have them on iOS & macOS)

Sadly, I find that very easy to believe. I’ve had iCloud sync issues with contacts before.

ISTR that John Siracusa even said at one point (a few years ago, I believe) that there was a bug that would be triggered if the image that you used was “too large” although I don’t think that the threshold was defined anywhere, it was something that he figured out by trial and error.

One last idea:

  1. Go to https://www.icloud.com/contacts/
  2. Search for the contact
  3. “Edit” the contact.
  4. Add the image there

If “the truth is in the cloud” then this is the closest you can get to adding the image to the root of the tree of truth.

(Do clouds have roots? Sorry, I think I’ve mixed my metaphors.)

I’m not sure how much iCloud plays a role in my case; I use Fastmail to store my contacts.

Oh, well that was a poor assumption on my part.

I use Fastmail but don’t use it for contacts. Strangely it appears that Fastmail can show contact images on their website, but the contact form does not seem to allow me to add/edit the images.¹

Might be good to contact Fastmail support.


¹ Turns out that the Fastmail website is using Gravatar for these images, not vCards.

I think this is actually not necessarily iCloud, but iOS and macOS - so it’s definitely worth trying to scale the images down and giving it another go.