How iOS 6 Changes Groups in the Contacts App

| TMO Quick Tip

In iOS Contacts prior to version 6, one could define Groups and then drill down to them individually. iOS 6.0 changes the UI and allows one to view merged Groups. Here’s how it works in iOS 6.

Prior to iOS 6.0, the list of Groups had an arrow on the right side suggesting that if you touch the Group, you’d see the contents of the Group. It's very intuitive.

iOS 5

The list in the Group is shown according to your Settings.

Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars

In iOS 6.0, the method has changed. Instead of the “>” symbol, you’ll see checkmarks. The meaning of the checkmarks is that they are a selector for those Groups that will be merged and displayed when the blue Done button on the upper right is touched.

iOS 6.0

For example, if you see, at first, every Group with a checkmark, touch All Contacts to clear the checkmarks. Next, touch only the Group(s) that you want to display. You can select multiple Groups. Then tap Done. The Groups that you selected with checkmarks will be merged and listed according to your Settings, same as before.

The nice thing about this technique is that the selected Groups can be merged. However, the downsides are that it's counterintuitive at first, and it’s more work to go back and forth between Groups.

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Tinkering with features like this is asking for trouble. Once customers start to find change annoying or confusing instead of introducing new grace and power, then there will be increasing resistance to upgrades. Plus, the whole idea of Groups is segregation, and the new procedure wants to emphasize integration while also leaving an intuitive UI behind.

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Hard to believe that addressing mail to a Group is so messy in iOS.

Try the MailShot app (from Soluble) it makes addressing mail to groups easier - but at the expense of maintaining Groups as though they are contacts.

Carsten Legaard

Yet another sign that Apple is going the sad and crowded path Microsoft and others have passed: “We know better what the customers should have - let’s not waste time having a conversation with customers”. And at Apple HQ today they add: “And for Gods sake, do not listen to Martellaro!”

Ray Price

I cannot believe what Apple have done here with contacts! In previous iPad editions I could find important groups with one hit such as ‘family’ ‘restaurants’ ‘bars’ etc. Now I have to uncheck all the lists I don’t want to get to the one I do. How can anybody at Apple be so backward thinking and so dumb as to think this is the way people want to do hints? What happen to intuitive operations? Really this is one of the most backward steps ever in an update that contains too many to mention.


So what do I have to do to see the contacts in the group? I don’t know what all this checking and unchecking do but I still can’t view any contacts in the group.

John Martellaro

The Tip explains it. After you finish checking the ones you want, you still have to touch that big blue “Done” button on the top right.  Don’t feel bad.  This is part of the UI issue.  Does “Done” mean show the selected lists?  Or does it mean “I’m done here, go back a page.” ?


Ok, I get it. In order to see the contacts within the group you have to first deselect all groups and select only the one you want or it will show all contact from all selected groups. After you view what you want you have to go back and select all contacts again!!!!!!
Is that called improvement?

John Martellaro

Skopec:  Not in my book.


I hate this change.  I can put up with the new map, but this contacts group change makes me wish I could go back to 5.1.1.  Now I have 400 contacts on a single list rather than several smaller groups.

Is there an app to replace this functionality?

Bill Banks

Thanks Apple.  Substituting a crummy map app and fouling up contacts is not progress.

Liz Dodd



i saw this bug first time on my iphone. but on my ipad everything is good - just using the old version wink
we work with over 40 groups of clients via cardDav by MacServer. inside the groups there are 20-200 different people. it is impossible now to find a client fast when i forgot the name but knowing the company. we just have to go that new way. i agree - it is complete bullshit. it is no more intuitive and needs much more time now.
really hope that apple fix this bug.


Given that my parents (both in their 70’s) complained to me about this, I have to say it was a poor decision. I don’t personally use the feature and had no idea what my father was talking about, and to be honest it took me all of 1 second to figure out how to get it to do what he wanted, (unselect and then select the specific group) but it honestly seemed like a poor choice.

I really don’t send mail to groups at all though. Is this a popular feature?

John Martellaro

I don’t think it’s widely understood why Apple made this change. For those who may want to use alternative Contacts app, I recently reviewed Savi Contacts.  A small iOS 6 bug is affecting some users, but the developer knows about it.  I’m using it with good success.

John Martellaro

Liz Dodd. You may want to reconsider.  Contacts in iOS 6 still allows you to view just your 25 items in a specific group.  The problem is the entry into the group and the changing between groups.


just testing savi now for few days. it is a good app - but ...
we’re working with mac server - everybody with two accounts. in contacts you had two lists from both accounts - inside the lists the groups were alphabetic. with savi you have one big group list what is not alphabetic. a bit confused. also the navigation inside the groups i do not like much but for the time apple fix this boring bug we have to use savi. it works but we all (company) prefere contacts - the old version. at the moment nobody of us is updating the ipads because of this bug.


I think it depends how you have your contacts organized whether this change makes sense. For example, if you had “family” group and a “friends” group, previously there was no way to see them both at the same time. Now you can. You can also individually see just family or just friends. I think having a merged view where the ‘group’ is more of a property you can filter on is at least as intuitive as presenting groups as folders where the same ‘item’ can appear in multiple folders.


The ability to merge group is nice, only if they can allow me to “save” the merged group as a new one. That is, I don’t want to

1) click “Groups” to group selection
2) click “Show All Contacts”, then immediately click “Hide all groups”, just to remove any groups I selected before.
3) click the group I want
4) click “Done”

Then I can view my contacts…. how many clicks there? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…..vs just one click to select a group?


I work at 3 different hospitals.  I had all the contacts for each one in its own group.  It was efficient and easy to navigate.  Now the contacts feature is essentially unusable.  There are so many extra steps required.  This is a backwards step for sure.  Never would have happened if Steve Jobs was still here.


I use the phone for work so I have over 600 contacts organized by company. I easily have over 100 companies listed. I knew the company but not his/her name I could still find it. However if I type the company name in the search it does narrow it down so its not total crap, just somewhat. At least give me the choice.

Phil Chambers

This drove me nuts.  I was going to restore from backup it bothered me so much.  I used to be able to scroll thru groups blindfolded almost - NOW - hassle city


This change is total crap!!! I not have to make two or three steps to get done what one tap used to do. The king is dead and the court jesters have taken control. If this is the kind of innovation we are to look forward to, future Apple products are going to be more like all the rest. It’s a sad day!


I always thought Apple was the antithesis of the programmers in “The Inmates are Running the Asylum.”  Now I think that it has jointed the Inmates. This is the dumbest, most inconvenient,  change ever!  It is moronic!


Besides the method of seeing members of a group, another thing I have found that has changed (actually removed in iOS6) is the ability to modify the groups on your iOS Device.
You can no longer chane the groups contacts are in, or add a group, or delete a group.  To do those functions you have to go to your computer. At leat not that I have found.  Not the message that they put forward during the iOS5 presentation, where you did not need a computer to use their devices.
Another step backwards.


This is a ridiculous step in counter productivity. Usable but inconvenient. Not really mentioned so leaves end users scratching their heads.

And still no support for Exchange Categories.

For example, I have a group called Buyers. Then I have subcategories to determine level of action required - “A Buyers,” “B Buyers,” “Dead File”.”

It does not make sense to have to break this down into extra Groups when they should all be members of the same group.

A step back in group support and still no category support for Exchange users. Brilliant! Not.


Sad to see that the apple is going the way of the Microsoft. What used to be intuitive and simple is now confusing and complex. One click before now takes multiples.

I guess it does take a product guy to drive a product.

Absolute crap.


The change lets you view more than one group, in case you’re not sure which group you placed the listing. Makes sense to me.

I want to view everything that is checked by unchecking items first. That is a lot of clicks. I understand the idea behind “filtering” groups, but I do not like this at all. It is not intuitive to the average user. I believe Apple should have at least made this an Option to select which method the user prefers in settings. I call Fail.


i just tried savi contacts and i’m happy again!
Works perfectly for me.
I’ts even better than the iOS5 contacts in my opinion.
Thanks for the tip.

Jackie Gilligan

I have despaired like the rest of you. Spoken to Joint Venture guru’s, no help other than to say that if enough people send a complaint to they will have to listen.


Like many here I work for different people have over 600 contacts and Groups was the best way of switching quickly. I don’t know the names of all the people I need to contact so how can I search?

Unchecking and checking is rubbish and so not Apple. This would never have happened under Steve Jobs, God bless him.


The contact app is complete garbage and useless to me now. In a post pc world where i am supposed to be free of needing a pC or a mac to use my mobile device and I can not only not manage my groups and who is in them on my phone, it takes me 2 extra steps to see is in those groups. This app is an embarrassment.


I have refrained from “upgrading” to iOS 6 for this reason alone. I’ll continue to refuse iOS 6 until Contacts become useful. But Savi Contacts might save us!

I see a pattern here over the last few years: Maybe it is intentional by Apple, maybe there is a slow move towards apps from Apple that only serve as demos of what the OS can do. If you actually want to use it seriously, you have to purchase an app?

Think about Mail, where you can not collapse folders and navigate through them, or create folders, so Mail is actually useless for any serious use where users normally have hundreds of mail folders organized in a hierarchy. The only “solution” is to purchase a third-party app, such as eMailGanizer.

The Notes app is useless for anything else than a handful of temporary throw-away-notes. You must purchase something if your really want to save and organize informational notes.

In Lion, the Address Book was made almost useless (although in ML it was somewhat corrected back to being useful again). Things in Mac OS X are slowly moving towards simple iOS behaviors. For any serious use, purchase third-party apps.

So maybe it is a long-term intentional trend, where apps from Apple basically just say that: “yes, you can receive mail on this device, and you can have some addresses, and you can even reach the internet, and look how nice and smooth animations of the GUI the OS provides via many APIs; but if you really intend to use these functionalities, you should purchase “real” apps from third parties”.

So we will purchase mail, address book, browser, note tool, password cryptography, gps and map apps, calculator, calendar, pdf readers, ...

Sometimes I wonder if some purchase apps from Apple will also be moving towards “demos”—I am specifically thinking of iWork.

John Martellaro

Harald: That long term trend: I know that many of us feel that way also. And it’s a shame because Apple’s built-in iOS apps should be showcase apps, invoking the best iOS technologies, and leading the way for other developers.

Jim Tincher

Surest sign of idiocy, try to fix something that’s not broken. Makes me wonder if Apple has hired Microsoft flunkies. The only fix to this is to return it to the useful manor in which it use to work!


We were traveling for several weeks, and just installed iOS6 after returning. Tried to look up some address, totally puzzled by the check marks and “done”; I had to go to the computer and search for what had happened to Groups. What a stupid change from our once-respected simple-design leader.


Funny enough,  Groups was THE functionality that first sold me on the iphone.  It actually handled groups and worked so well.    I could actually manage the 4,000 contacts I have in my iphone, and actually maintain and use group functionality.      But now,  well I have been thinking about switching over to android.  Seeing the series of screw ups in IOS6 has been bad enough, but this one loosing groups - I am putting the iphones and macs up on Ebay and switching over.    A shame I have been a loyal mac guy since the 80s.


I am here to agree with everyone else.  This is a horrible “new feature”.  It ranks right up there with Mountain Lion not being able to set how long to snooze an event in iCal.  Asinine!

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