Outlook for iOS adds Contacts support

imageA short notice on an update received today for Outlook for iOS 2.09. This update adds the much requested feature of integrating Outlook for iOS with the (native) Contacts in iOS:

“Your Office 365 and Exchange Contacts can now be saved to the iOS Contacts app. This will allow you to easily see the name of a contact when you receive a call or text message from them. Head to your Advanced Settings to turn on this feature.”

This does away with the requirement of resorting to setups like having the iOS Mail app sync with your Office 365 or Exchange On-Premises account, just to sync those contacts with your device. To disable syncing contacts through the Mail app, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and click the account you wish to disable syncing contacts for. Then, disable syncing its Contacts by toggling its switch:

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You will get a warning contacts synced through this contact will be removed from Contacts, but since we are going to use Outlook for this, you can proceed.

Next, open up the updated new Outlook app, and go to Settings. Click the account from which you want to sync contacts to your device, and select Advanced Settings. In there, you will find a new switch, Save Contacts to Device. Behind it is the number of contacts available on this account:

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Toggle the switch to start syncing contacts directly from your Office 365 or Exchange On-Premises account to Contacts, giving the Outlook app permissions to access your Contacts when requested. After this, you’re ready to go.

Note that all synced contacts will contain a line in the Notes field, stating:

Exported from Microsoft Outlook (Do not delete) [outlook:..:..]

This is to indicate this is a synced contact, and you must not edit or remove it using the device, rather remove it from the originating source as it might get recreated or overwritten during synchronization.

Finally, the sync is one-way, so although you can edit properties on your phone through the Contacts app, they won’t be synced back to the originating source. Also, when editing properties through Contacts, those edits are not propagated to the People view in the Outlook app, as those are the contacts from your Office 365 / Exchange On-Premises accounts. This can be confusing, but having to set up an e-mail account just once with a one-way sync seems more efficient and less confusing to me than having to configure the Mail app only to get your contacts on your phone.

14 thoughts on “Outlook for iOS adds Contacts support

  1. Michel – Thanks for the update on Outlook for iPhone. Do you believe that Outlook for iPhone is as secure for corporate data as the native iPhone Contacts and Mail apps? I believe that Microsoft actually retains your email and contact data on its servers as part of its service. Does Apple retain your email and contact data or just pass it through to your phone?

    • The new option allows you to pull in contacts from your Office 365 / Exchange accounts, where they are stored locally – on your phone. Apart from that, your iOS device allows you to sync Contacts from your phone with Contacts in iCloud. Data stored in iCloud is subject to Apple’s terms. iCloud does nothing with Office 365 / Exchange e-mail; the Mail app can work with Office 356/Exchange accounts, where some data is stored locally for better response times. This is similar to Outlook for iOS, yet Outlook for iOS is more of a container. What is a big difference is that for Focused Inbox, Outlook for iOS will leverage a ‘man in the middle’ service. This service prioritizes e-mail for you (if enabled in Outlook), but in order to accomplish this it has to know your credentials, as well as keep a subset of mail and calendar information. This service is – AFAIK – still on Amazon, but is in the process of being ported to Azure. If once-connected accounts are not used through that service, they will expire after X days. A more extensive write-up of concerns when the app was bought by MS (Jan’15) can be found here: http://windowsitpro.com/blog/worried-about-security-and-privacy-outlook-ios-and-android-heres-your-chance-debate-issues .

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  4. Can this be done with other accounts like my outlook.live.com account? I don’t see Save Contacts to Device under this email account in the iOS Outlook app. Am I missing something or is this just not available for this type of outlook.com account?

  5. Michel,

    You announced “adds the much requested feature of integrating Outlook for iOS with the (native) Contacts in iOS”

    In the “thoughts” section you write: “AFAIK Outlook/iOS can’t leverage native contacts, [that are] not stemming from an Outlook connected account”

    Its very confusing.
    Like Jim, I am trying to understand if Outlook for iOS supports using the native iOS contacts.

    I also read this:
    https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Outlook-for-iOS-and-Android-Help-Center-cd84214e-a5ac-4e95-9ea3-e07f78d0cde6?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

    In short:
    “Outlook [for iOS] runs on iOS 8.0 and Android 4.0 and newer versions, and can sync email, contacts, calendar and files from iCloud”

    Does this mean, that today, 26-June-2016, Outlook for iOS can sync [native] contacts from iCloud?

    Thanks.

    • Yes, but only ‘from’ at the moment (one-way). New contacts will still have to be added through the native Contacts app and will be a native contact.
      Note that the blog is from a time when previously you had to resort to things like the native Mail app to sync contacts from Office 365 to the native Contacts on your device.
      I’m personally using Outlook/iOS with (multiple) Office 365 accounts, and they appear and thus are usable in the native iOS Contacts app and thus also things like the ‘Phone app’ for example.

  6. I find that any time I edit a contact Outlook, rather then update the contact in the iOS application, it creates a new contact. This leads to duplicate contacts for anyone that I update. Is it not smart enough to know to update the contact rather then create a new one every time?

    • I’m not aware of any issues in this area (and I use it myself in a similar way, with multiple accounts). If you suspect a bug, the iOS application has a direct feedback option (Settings > Help & Feedback > Contact Support )

  7. hello
    I cannot see the phone numbers but the phrase only (exported from………) in my contacts after syncing from outlook for ios. do you have any clue on this?

  8. The likely major benefit of this functionality is to allow contacts to sync from outlook once you enable Modern Authentication and Multi Factor Authentication in your O365 tenant and discourage or disallow the use of the native mail apps on iphone and android devices that do not support Modern Authentication.

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