How to sync your AOL contacts with your iPhone and iPad

If you’re an AOL user you may be wondering how to sync your AOL contacts with your iPhone and iPad. It’s not obvious how to do it, and the amount of mis-information suggesting you “try” this and “try” that is really overwhelming.

There is no “try.”

We’re not going to “try.” We’re going to “do.” And in the end, you’ll have your AOL contacts on your iPhone and iPad, and they’ll stay in sync with your contacts on AOL.com.

Interested in getting your AOL Calendar onto your iPhone? I have an article for that too.

Note: the screenshots here are from an iPhone, but the process is exactly the same on an iPad.

First, let’s have a look at the Settings on your iPhone. Go to Settings, then Contacts, then Accounts. Tap your AOL account, assuming you have one.

No Contacts in the AOL account. Just Mail and Notes.
No Contacts in the AOL account?

This is sort of surprising, isn’t it? You started by tapping Contacts in Settings, but when it comes to the AOL account, you end up with… no contacts! Other accounts show contacts as an option, like this:

Gmail and Yahoo accounts, showing Contacts as an option.
On the left: Gmail account. On the right: Yahoo account. Both show “Contacts” as an option.

I didn’t happen to turn those contacts on, because I’m using iCloud for my contacts, and having more than one contacts list leads to confusement, but still the option is there.

Confusement (n): state of being confused.

So here’s what you do: you make an “app specific password” for the Contacts app on your iPhone, and then you set up a new account using this new password (on your iPhone) just to handle AOL’s contacts (you will leave any existing AOL account alone, as that’s the one that gets the mail), and then… and then you’re done! Let’s do it step-by-step.

NOTE: making an app-specific password does not mean you are changing your AOL password. You’re not changing it. You are making a special password, just for the Contacts app on your iPhone, and that is the only thing you will use it for. Also note: if you have an iPhone and an iPad you’ll go through the following steps on each device. They each need their own app-specific password.

Part One: Generating the app-specific password

First, go to aol.com in a browser (Safari, Firefox, Chrome) and sign in. Click your name (at upper right, as shown below). I’m doing this on my Mac, because it’s bigger and easier to do, but you can do this on your iPhone also.

Signed into AOL.com, and now clicking on my name to go to my AOL Account page.
Signed into AOL.com, and now clicking on my name to go to my AOL Account page.

Clicking your name takes you to your AOL Account page. Click where it says “Account Security” on the left.

AOL Account page, with "Manage app passwords" highlighted in the Account Security section
AOL Account page, with “Manage app passwords” highlighted in the Account Security section

The part we care about is the “Manage app passwords” part. So click there, as outlined in red above.

When you go to “Manage app passwords” you get a box asking you to “Select your app.”

Select your app in the AOL "App Specific Passwords" section
Select your app in the AOL “App Specific Passwords” section

This is where it gets a little tricky, because “iPhone Contacts” is not in the list! That’s OK– just choose “Other App.”

Choose "Other App."
Choose “Other App.”

In the next box you get to name the app-specific password. I’d choose something that makes sense, like “iPhone AOL Contacts.” Then click the “Generate” button. AOL will make a password for this very specific purpose. Write it down now, because you won’t be able to look it up in AOL later.

If you used your iPhone to go to aol.com, you’re in great shape: just copy the big blue password, for pasting later. If you used your Mac or PC to do it, you really, really need to write it down.

VERY IMPORTANT: AOL app-specific passwords are four groups of four characters, separated by… absolutely nothing! Those are NOT spaces between the groups of four. That is, the password in the example below is NOT “this that theo ther.” It’s actually “thisthattheother.” No spaces. No kidding.

You can click “Done” now. We are halfway home.

Part Two: Using the app-specific password in a new Contacts account

You recall that we didn’t see “Contacts” in the AOL section of our iPhone’s Contacts settings in the Settings app. That’s the problem we’re going to address right now: we’re going to add an account– leaving the old one there, as it’s doing a fine job of bringing in the mail– just for contacts.

Go to Settings on your iPhone. Tap Contacts. Tap Accounts. Tap Add Account. From there, choose “Other,” then choose “Add CardDAV Account.”

Adding a "CardDAV" account for your AOL contacts
Adding a “CardDAV” account for your AOL contacts

In case you wondered: “CardDAV” accounts are all about contacts. The “Card” part references “vCards,” which reference the old Rolodex card. Kids, ask your parents.

Rolodex CARD for Tasty-Q Barbeque
Rolodex CARD for Tasty-Q Barbeque

CardDAV is a standard method for synching contacts with servers. (There’s also “CalDAV” for calendars.) It’s not an AOL thing, it’s an industry-wide thing. And luckily for us, AOL uses it, and the iPhone knows about it, and that’s how we’re going to solve our problem.

All you have to do now is fill in this form.

Setting up a CardDAV account on an iPhone with iOS 14
The CardDAV form

From the top:

  • Server: https://carddav.aol.com
  • User Name: your AOL.com email address, including the “@aol.com” part.
  • Password: the app-specific password you just made. NOT your regular AOL password.
  • Description: anything you want. The “Description” is there to remind YOU what the account’s about. “My AOL Contacts” would be a good description.

Fill in the form, and then tap “Next” at top right. You’ll see the word “Verifying” at the top of the screen, and if everything works properly you’ll see blue check marks next to everything.

Blue check marks next to everything in the CardDAV account
Blue check marks– that’s good!

Tap “Done” at top right. You’re done. Well, almost. You still have to be sure that your AOL contacts are displayed in the Contacts app. So…

Open the Contacts app. Tap Groups at top left. Be sure your new CardDAV account is checked.

Making sure our CardDAV account is checked.
Making sure our CardDAV account is checked

NOW you’re done.

It would be smart to go back to Settings, and then Contacts, and be sure that the “Default Account” shows your new CardDAV account. You won’t see “Default Account” if you only have one contact-synching account, which you very well might. But if in addition to your AOL account you also have an iCloud account, or a gmail account, or a yahoo account, you might see, in the Contacts section of Settings, a “Default Account” option. Default Account means “when you make a new contact on your iPhone, which account does it go into?”

And that’s it. Try it out: make a contact on your iPhone, and then go to aol.com in a browser and you’ll see it in the Contacts section there. Add a contact from within aol.com in a browser, and you’ll see it arrive on the iPhone. It’s not instant, so don’t worry if you don’t see quick results. Give it some time. It will work.


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2 thoughts on “How to sync your AOL contacts with your iPhone and iPad

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  1. THanks. I had my hopes up, but this didn’t work. It complained about using SSL, so I said “ok, turn it off” and my iphone was still unable to connect to the AOL carddav server.

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