Have you replaced your Android smartphone with a newer model and can't retrieve the address book from your old phone? Have you accidentally deleted some contacts from your Android phonebook and would you like some help recovering them? Maybe I can help you. Give me five minutes of your time and I'll explain how to retrieve your Android phonebook in various ways.
First we'll see how to take your contacts from one Android smartphone to another using the online sync services offered by Gmail. Then we'll see how to do the same operation "manually", exporting and importing a VCF file with the Android address book, and finally we'll try to recover deleted contacts from Android through some solutions suitable for the purpose and Gmail which - maybe not everyone knows - includes a restore function to restore the status of the address book to a previous date (up to 1 month earlier than today).
If you accidentally deleted names from your smartphone's address book and didn't have synchronization with Gmail (or another cloud service) enabled, I'm sorry but I don't think there's much you can do. If the incident happened recently you might have some hope using data recovery software that works directly on your smartphone's memory, but this is a very desperate attempt. Then don't tell me I didn't warn you!
Retrieve Android address book via Gmail
The fastest way to copy the address book from one Android smartphone to the other is to enable Gmail synchronization on both devices.
If you still have your old smartphone handy, turn it on, go to your Android settings (the gear icon on the screen with a list of all the apps installed on your device) and select Account from the menu that opens.
Then press on the Google logo, select your Gmail address and make sure the toggle next to the Contacts option is active. If not, activate it by tapping on it and wait for the phonebook synchronization with Gmail to start.
If your old mobile phone has never had a Google account set up, you can easily solve the problem by going to the Settings > Android Accounts menu, selecting Add Account and pressing the Google logo in the screenshot that opens. Then log in with your Gmail account details and check that contact synchronization is active as explained above.
At this point, to transfer your contacts to your new smartphone, all you have to do is set up the same Gmail account you set up on your old phone and activate the phonebook synchronization.
Then go to Settings > Android Account menu and check that the Contacts option is enabled in Google Account settings. If you haven't set up a Google account on your new smartphone yet (or have set up a different one than the one used on the other phone), go to the Settings menu > Android Accounts, select Add account, press on the Google logo and log in with the Gmail account you synced your address book with.
If everything goes well, within a few seconds you should find on your new phone all the contacts you had on your previous smartphone.
Retrieve Android address book from VCF file
If for one reason or another you don't want to use the sync services offered by Google, you can retrieve your Android phonebook by "manually" exporting contacts from your old phone and importing them to your new one. To do this, simply open the Contacts app on your old smartphone, export the VCF file with the entire address book and import it to your new phone. If you need more guidance, follow the steps below.
- Open the Contacts app on your old smartphone, press the (...) button at the top right, select the Import/Export item from the menu that opens and tap the option to export your entire address book to .vcf files. Then choose the name and folder to export the file to and you're done;
- If you are using a Samsung smartphone, the procedure you have to follow is slightly different: after opening the Contacts application, you have to select the Contacts tab and press the (...) button in the top right corner. Then you have to select the Settings item from the menu that appears, go to Contacts, select the Import/Export option and choose whether to export the address book to the internal memory of the device or to a microSD card;
- Now you need to export the VCF file with your contacts to your new smartphone. To do this you can either send the file to yourself via email or save it to a cloud storage service (e.g. Dropbox). Then install a file manager as the ES File Manager and use it to access your smartphone's Home folder or microSD root directory (depending on where you saved the VCF file). Next, keep your finger pressed on the address book file (e.g. 00001.vcf), press the Other button at the bottom right and select Share from the menu that appears. Now, choose whether to auto-send the file via email by selecting the name of a mail client (e.g. Gmail) or to save it to a cloud storage service (e.g. Dropbox) by selecting its icon;
- Once sent, take your new smartphone and download the VCF file from the address book on the latter by opening the email you sent yourself or by accessing the cloud storage service on which you saved it (e.g. Dropbox). Then open the Android Contacts application, press the (...) button in the top right corner and select Import/Export from the menu that opens. Then tap on the Import from .vcf file entry, choose the cloud account to sync your contacts with (e.g. Gmail) and select the vcf file with your old smartphone's address book;
- If you have a Samsung phone you have to follow a slightly different procedure: first select the Contacts tab, then the (...) button in the top right corner and then go to Settings > Contacts > Import/Export.
If you want, you can also export a VCF file from the contacts you saved in your Gmail address book. To do this, connect to the Google Contacts service. Then click on the More item in the left sidebar and select the Export item that appears at the bottom.
Now tick the Contacts and vCard (for iOS contacts) and click Export to complete the process.
Retrieve Android address book from previous backups
If you have a good habit of backing up your smartphone to your PC or an external microSD, you can retrieve your address book contacts by simply restoring one of the backups you created earlier.
For example, if you have a Samsung terminal, you can restore your address book by relying on the Smart Switch application or its desktop counterpart (which is compatible with Windows and macOS). If you have smartphones of other brands, you can use the appropriate synchronization utilities with your PC, while if you have used backup applications such as Easy Backup & Restore, you can rely on them to restore your address book.
Learn more in my tutorials on how to connect smartphones to PCs and how to make a backup on Android where I told you about all the apps and PC software that could help you restore your address book backups.
Retrieve deleted contacts from Android
If you want to recover contacts on a phone that was not connected to Gmail and has no phonebook backup, the only solution you can try is software that works directly on the smartphone's memory. The chances of you being able to recover contacts deleted in this way are quite small, but at this point trying doesn't hurt!
EaseUS MobiSaver for Android
Among the best software that allows you to recover deleted files from Android smartphones is EaseUS MobiSaver for Android which is compatible with all popular versions of the green robot operating system. It requires root permissions to work, so if you haven't done it yet find out how to root on Android by following my tutorial on the subject.
To download EaseUS MobiSaver for Android on your PC, connect to the program's website and click the Free Download button. When the download is complete, open the file you just downloaded on your PC (emsa_free.exe) by double-clicking on it and click on Yes first and then OK.
Now connect your smartphone to your computer using the supplied USB cable, start EaseUS MobiSaver for Android (if you have not already started it yourself), wait for the device to be detected and click the Start button in the middle of the program window.
Now, if required, enable USB debugging on Android. If you don't know how to do it, go to the Settings menu > Developer Options on your smartphone and put a checkmark next to the USB Debug item. If you don't see "Developer Options" in the Android settings, enable it by going to Info on your phone and pressing the Buid Number button seven times in a row.
Once USB debugging is activated on your computer, place a checkmark next to the Allow always from this computer item and answer OK to the warning that appears on your smartphone to allow access by EaseUS MobiSaver for Android.Then grant root permissions to the application (by pressing the Grant button) and wait for EaseUS MobiSaver to find all the recoverable files from your device.
When the scan is complete, select the Contacts item from the EaseUS MobiSaver for Android sidebar, check the box next to the contacts to be recovered and click the Recover button to save them to your PC. To view only deleted contacts, move the Only display deleted items stick in the top left corner to ON.
Once the recovery is complete, you can copy your contacts to your smartphone by emailing them to yourself, copying them to a microSD card or saving them to a cloud storage service (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive). The process of importing contacts into Android is what we saw together before.
WARNING: the free version of EaseUS MobiSaver for Android allows you to recover only one file, and therefore only one contact at a time. To recover multiple files at once you need to purchase a license for the program for 36.95 euros. More info here.
As mentioned at the beginning of the post, Gmail includes a feature that allows you to return your address book to a previous state and then recover deleted contacts. If you've deleted important contacts from a smartphone associated with Gmail, you can use this feature to recover your deleted contacts and synchronise them with your phone again.
The procedure to follow is extremely simple. If you want to recover your Android phonebook by recovering deleted contacts from Gmail. To do this, connect to the Google Contacts service. Then click on the More item located in the left sidebar and select the Undo Changes item that appears below.
Then choose whether to report the phonebook status 10 min ago, 1 hour ago, yesterday, 1 week ago or a custom date (knowing that you can go back up to 30 days) and click Confirm to apply the changes.
Once you've restored Gmail's address book, activate syncing your contacts on Android as we saw above (if you haven't already done so) and the accidentally deleted names should return to their place.
Alternatively, you can also "manually" export the Gmail address book VCF file and import it to your smartphone. We have also seen this procedure together before.