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Local Contact/Calendar Syncing Returns in iTunes 11.2

One of the most reviled changes in OS X 10.9 Mavericks was the removal of local contact and calendar syncing between a Mac and iOS devices in iTunes. Instead, Apple required all iOS users who wanted to sync such data to use a network-based solution like iCloud, CardDAV and CalDAV, or Exchange ActiveSync. This came about as a result of Apple dropping the SyncServices framework in Mavericks, and it made users unhappy for two reasons.

First was the awareness that one’s personal information was being stored in the cloud, made all the more unpopular by the revelations of domestic NSA spying, and second was the irritation of Apple fixing something that for many people wasn’t broken. That’s not to say that SyncServices didn’t have problems, because it did, but lots of people still used it successfully.

Six months after the October 2013 release of Mavericks, Apple has brought back local syncing of contacts and calendars, in OS X 10.9.3 and iTunes 11.2. Although both are required, the visible changes appear only in iTunes itself, where the Info button and associated pane has returned when you’ve selected an iOS device. Syncing operates over both USB and Wi-Fi.

Before you enable local syncing, be sure to disable iCloud or any other network sync source that could result in confusing duplicates. On your iOS device, go to Settings > iCloud, and turn off Contacts and Calendars. Be certain to remove contacts and calendars on the device. Then, in iTunes, select your iOS device in the sidebar or header bar, click Info, and select Sync Contacts and/or Sync Calendars. You can choose between syncing all contacts or calendars, or only selected ones, and if you have crufty contacts or calendar events sticking around on your device, you can select Contacts and/or Calendars under “Replace information on this iPad” to have the Mac clear data on the device before syncing on only the next connection.

It’s important to remember that you’ll lose automatic push synchronization when you switch to this system, in case you’ve become accustomed to it while using iCloud or another network-based solution. USB syncing takes place only when you plug your device into your Mac and launch iTunes. For Wi-Fi syncing, iTunes must be running, the “Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi” checkbox must be selected in the Summary pane, and the device must be on the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac. Wi-Fi syncs take place automatically whenever those conditions are met and you plug the iOS device into power; you can also invoke them manually from either iTunes or the device, under Settings > General > iTunes Wi-Fi Sync.

In my testing, I found both contact and calendar syncing fairly flaky. When syncing contacts, only a small number of contacts, possibly those created somewhat recently, appeared on the iPad, and iTunes never gave me the option to choose specific groups to sync. With calendars, I could select particular calendars, but they weren’t at all organized, with local, iCloud, and Google calendars intermixed, and with iCloud and Google calendars identified with ugly addresses, as in []. I also had some trouble getting the initial sync, which gave me no choice about including all calendars, to replace them on a subsequent sync. I eventually got calendars straightened out after a number of tries, but I never managed to sync all my contacts.

My advice? Give it a try if you’re bothered by network-based syncing of contacts and calendars, but don’t burn any bridges, since you may need to revert if my experience is representative.


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Comments about Local Contact/Calendar Syncing Returns in iTunes 11.2
(Comments are closed.)

JohnB (SciFiOne)   2014-05-15 19:51
Interesting. Haven't checked the contacts in ages and I use a paper calendar but I have noticed iTunes does a really crappy job of syncing music and podcasts with my iPad! This was with all previous versions of 10.9. The iPod Touch seems to sync OK, with some work.
John Servais  2014-05-16 09:31
For myself, who simply lived w/o syncing to iCloud - thus w/o syncing - the return of USB syncing went very smoothly. On the first sync, indeed you can only sync ALL contacts. But after the first sync one can then select groups. Apple probably just needed to establish all the contacts between the two devices first. For perceived conflicts, I was shown side by side comparisons and could choose which to go with. All very solid.
Kevin Killion  2014-05-19 16:16
"In my testing, I found both contact and calendar syncing fairly flaky."
-- That's been my experience as well, and it's simply unacceptable. As a 35 year Apple owner and a Mac user and developer since January 1984, I'm reluctantly feeling that Apple has lost touch with what actually works well.
Tinker  2014-05-19 16:45
In my own case, my first update wiped out all my calendars and contacts on all my devices (5). Restored my system with CCC. Second run duplicated everything, and it enabled an email account I had disabled long ago. Strange, as this didn't occur in beta testing for me, so I'm clueless. It also turned on the guest user account, long disabled on my system, and disabled my AIM account. What a mess!
Paris Voutetakis  2014-05-20 04:08
I always relied in syncing for contacts and calendars on every phone I had even before the iPh one era, with various SE models. After the demise of and the iPhone the tunes syncing was all we had even syncing through two iTunes libraries one for music and another for business. iSync suprising ly still worked for friends that did not jump on the iPhone bandwagon. With Mavericks I had not a clue that this kind of syncing will ever come back so changed to iCloud and xDAV technologies.
The good was the carrot of live syncing that more or less works.
The bad was that this migration had to resolve all those unintended duplicates that took quite an effort to resolve.
The ugly is that after all this effort that many things admittedly work, occasionally a contact looses it's ringtone by being replaced by another publicate that comes from another instance of the sync or another group. The contact groups as created in the past were gone in the iCloud type syncing.
Not keen on retrying.
Has anyone reported or notice the "DONE" button is gone with this new iTunes update. We used to click Done after a sync and it left the device mounted so one could sync wirelessly later. It would appear we now have to eject the device like in the old days.

Or can we just unplug iPhones and iPads and walk away and not worry about it? Any input or inside knowledge is appreciated.
barefootguru  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2014-05-27 20:43
Just unplug your device. You've been able to do that for more than a year 8-)

I replied about the Done button the previous time you asked about it
Linda Claudine  2014-08-20 20:17
Have had contact syncing problems with Apple period. I turned it off long ago in iCloud. Being a long-time Verizon Family Plan member, I use their backup and synching apps - no probs. But unless you want the feature, remember that Facebook is EVERYWHERE. I think there are at least 4 places just to make sure they can't control my microphone (as if). And contacts features and Facebook appear to have become married - or the wedding is imminent.