Syncing contacts ~not~ via iCloud

I think some of the reliability issues that I’ve been having are due to some kind of iCloud bug, so I am currently using my MacBook Pro without being signed in to iCloud for anything except the Mac App Store.

Biggest challenge so far is to figure out where to sync my contacts so I can have them on my iPhone/iPad/Mac.

Two options that I see are Google (work email) and Fastmail (personal email).

  1. Anyone have experience with both Google and Fastmail for syncing contacts and able to recommend for/against one or the other?

  2. Are the other options for syncing contacts between macOS and iOS/iPadOS that I am not aware of?

What’s the iCloud bug? I have not had any consistent problems with contacts syncing through iCloud.

I have experience with Contact syncing through an iCloud and Gmail account. The other options are through CardDAV,, or Microsoft Exchange accounts.

Be aware that Gmail does not support contact groups. I have moved away from contacts through Gmail because of that lack of support.

I use Cardhop to view contacts and the contact URL that Cardhop provides is consistent on an iCloud account and is NOT consistent on a gmail account. For example, the URL is different when you copy the link from your iphone vs your mac.

I’ve been syncing contacts with Gmail for years. If you don’t want to use your work email, just set up a free account and abandon it when you don’t need it anymore.

If you create your groups on a Mac you can populate them with contacts synced from Gmail. The groups will sync to IOS and you can email a group with the built in Mac or IOS client.

The groups cannot be used in the Gmail web client.

Alert - Tangent Ahead

I’m not sure that it’s iCloud, and I don’t think it’s specific to contacts, but I suspect that it might be something related to iCloud authorization.

Basically I have had this issue where, consistently since I bought this 16" MacBook Pro, it will go through this really bizarre but always very similar process:

  1. I’ll be using the computer and doing… anything. Nothing specific seems to trigger it (which makes me think it’s some kind of background / sync process).

  2. Suddenly the screen flickers for a fraction of a second, and I start to get dialog boxes for processes that are telling me they need my keychain password. No matter how many times I enter it, it just keeps happening, sometimes with the same processes (like accountsd) coming back several times.

  3. Then the keyboard and mouse will start to be flaky. The whole system will pause, and then work, and then pause, and then work.

  4. And then the screen goes to like “snow” (for people old enough to remember what TVs used to look like if you turned to a channel where nothing was on – or if you’ve seen Poltergeist)

  5. Then the Mac will either just freeze up or reboot on its own.

  6. Every time this happens, when it reboots and logs me back in, I get a notification on ALLLLLL of my other devices, telling me “Your Apple ID was just used to log in to a new MacBook Pro”. Every time.

So that last point is what makes me think it might be related to my Apple ID or iCloud. So I’m going to try using my Mac without my iCloud account (except for the Mac App Store, which requires it), and see if it happens again.

Apple has already replaced the logic and Touch Bar, so I know it’s not a hardware issue.

I upgraded my Mac mini to Catalina from Mojave, and saw the same bug happen a few days later. I downgraded that Mac back to Mojave, and have not seen the issue since. However, I can’t run Mojave on my 16" MacBook Pro, so I’m stuck with Catalina.

End Tangent

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand —

I tried both Google and Fastmail tonight, and I don’t like either one of them as much as iCloud Contacts.

Why are neither Google nor Fastmail OK with a contact being just a company instead of a person? They keep putting the company name in the “First Name” and “Last Name” fields, which is never what I want. Apple Contacts never do that. It’s just weird.

I have used Fastmail and Google for syncing contacts - notably I’d move contacts to Google to sync when I was also running an Android, and then most recently I’ve gone back to using Fastmail, as I tried to replace it with iCloud email (as after all, I’m paying the £2.49 for storage to share between me and my wife) but I ended up moving back to Fastmail as iCloud online is awful (and I found that syncing between devices was slow, whereas Fastmail is almost instant).

I’ve noticed no issues between Fastmail or Google syncing of contacts, and really wouldn’t be able to say if one was better than the other, because they’re so seamless. Google probably edges it for being a bit easier to setup (Fastmail, I downloaded a profile and installed, whereas Google just signs in, enter my 2FA code and done)

I have no issues with a compose within Fastmail. I can create the contact on the iPad and it goes to Fastmail fine. Likewise, I can create online and it seems to work. I think if importing, it creates it as Company name, as well as first and last name.

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Have you tried to reset and replace your login keychain?

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No, because it works fine except before this system crash.

That bug sounds terrible. I hope you get it resolved.

Thanks. Yes, it is exceedingly frustrating, especially because it has hit me 2 or 3 times during Sunday morning worship.

Nothing like telling the church elders that I spent $2500 of my annual $5,000 budget (in a year where all purchases are being highly scrutinized) on a new Mac because the old Mac couldn’t handle what I needed it to do, only to have the new Mac consistently fail during the most crucial hour of the week. :-1:

Murphy rules. I’d give the keychain clean-up a try

Well, there really isn’t a “clean up” option (although I think there used to be), so much as there is a “nuke and pave” option. My MacBook Pro came back with a clean install of Catalina, so there wasn’t anything in there from my previous install, but the problem still occurred.

Having said that, I’m willing to try pretty much anything at this point (and being logged out of iCloud is turning out to be much more annoying than I had anticipated), so I nuked my local keychain (I’ve got everything important in 1Password anyway) and rebooted, under the theory of “Well, I’m not sure that it will help, but I guess it can’t hurt.

It’s of course hard to say if this is an option that you’re not aware of. :wink: But running your own CardDAV server could be an option. So far Contacts on macOS, iOS (I assume) and iPadOS are still supporting CardDAV syncing (unlike Reminders and CalDAV). A CardDAV server hardly needs any maintenance and is easy to set up.

That’s pretty funny, because looking at when the server says this was posted, it seems like you posted it almost at the exact time when I was trying out CardDAV.

I have a Mac mini at MacStadium which runs High Sierra, which has CardDAV as part of the I decided that it was worth trying that out.

So far it hasn’t been very impressive.

The has a ‘push notifications’ settings which is supposed to send changes to all of your devices. That doesn’t seem to work.

I’ve tried making changes on my MacBook (running Catalina), my Mac mini, my iPhone (running iOS 14 beta) and my iPad mini (running non-beta iPadOS 13).

Changes do not sync automatically. Manually refreshing usually will update the information, but not always.

So that’s not great. If syncing isn’t reliable then I’ll always wonder if it’s working right and… yeah.

Obviously the fact that it’s running on High Sierra a possible issue, but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work, and it’s the only computer I have that has direct access to the Internet, a real IP, and proper SSL certificates.

So far this is the worst part of turning off iCloud, with “lack of iMessage” being a close second.

Can’t help you with that. You could try to run Baïkal from a Docker container. If that works on MacOS Server.