How to sync files from your iPhone to your iPad and back

These days, it’s pretty common to have both an iPhone and an iPad. But keeping all your devices in sync with each other is a whole other story. There’s nothing more frustrating than taking a picture with your iPhone and not being able to find it later on your iPad or vice versa. In this article, you’ll read about ways to keep things like your photo library and contacts in sync, as well as some of the more common issues you might run into when syncing your devices.

How to sync iPhone and iPad: The photo library

When iPhone and iPad were first released, the only way to sync the devices was by using iTunes on a computer. And while that is certainly still an option, you’re no longer reliant on iTunes. You can use iCloud as a more straightforward, more automated way to keep all your devices up to date with each other — and that includes your photo library.

Before you sync your photos between iPhone and iPad

If you’ve just gotten a new iPad, the first thing you should do is sync all of your data over from your iPhone. But before you just dump everything onto your new device, it’s a good idea to clean up your photo library a bit. You don’t want to waste time or storage space with duplicate pictures, outdated screenshots, or old videos you don’t want anymore.

You can quickly and easily organize your library by using Gemini Photos for iOS. The app analyzes your pictures and videos before sorting them into categories. To start cleaning up your library:

  1. Download Gemini Photos.
  2. Open it and start scanning.
  3. Tap Similar.
  4. Tap on one of the groups.
  5. View and select which picture(s) in the group to delete.
  6. After you’ve gone through similar photos, go back to Your Library in Gemini Photos.
  7. Sort through categories like Videos, Screenshots, Notes, and Blurred.
  8. When you’re finished, go to your Photos app and tap Recently Deleted > Select > Delete All, to remove all the unwanted pictures from your device.
Before you link iPhone and iPad, clean up your iPhone photos with Gemini Photos

How to sync photos from iPhone to iPad

As mentioned earlier, to sync photos from your iPhone to your iPad, you’ll need to have an iCloud account. Make sure you’re logged in to the same account on both devices.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap [your name] > iCloud > Photos > Turn on iCloud Photos.
  3. Open the Settings app on your iPad.
  4. Tap [your name] > iCloud > Photos > Turn on iCloud Photos.
How to turn on iCloud photo sync on iPhone

After you get both of your devices set up, it may take some time to sync your photos, depending on how big your library is and the speed of your network connection.

Why are my photos not syncing between iPhone and iPad?

If your pictures aren’t syncing between your devices, here are some troubleshooting measures to help you overcome common issues.

  • You’re signed in to different iCloud accounts. It’s possible to have multiple iCloud accounts and be accidentally logged in to a separate account on each device. Make sure both devices are signed in to the same account.
  • You’re not connected to Wi-Fi. While your iPhone has a cellular connection, that might not be the case for your iPad. Make sure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • There’s not enough iCloud storage. You can see how much space you have available on iCloud on either device by going into Settings > [your name] > iCloud.

How to sync contacts from iPhone to iPad

Syncing your contacts from your iPhone to an iPad is similar to syncing your photos. Using the same account, you’ll use iCloud to transfer your contacts between devices.

  1. On your iPhone, open the Settings app.
  2. Tap [your name] > iCloud.
  3. Turn on Contacts.
  4. Open the Settings app on your iPad.
  5. Tap [your name] > iCloud.
  6. Turn on Contacts.

Depending on how many contacts you have, it can take some time to transfer them. 

Why won't my contacts sync from iPhone to iPad?

Some common reasons why you may not be seeing your contacts on your iPad are:

  • Contacts are hidden. Open your Contacts app and tap Groups in the left corner. Make sure iCloud Contacts is turned on, indicated by the checkmark.
  • You’re signed in to multiple iCloud accounts. Since you can have multiple iCloud accounts, make sure you’re signed in to the same iCloud account on both your iPhone and iPad.
  • You’re not connected to Wi-Fi. While your iPhone has a cellular connection, your iPad might not, so it’ll need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network to start syncing.

Can I sync my iPhone and my iPad without iCloud?

You can sync your iPhone and iPad without using iCloud, but unfortunately, there’s no way to do it directly between devices. You’ll have to plug each device into a computer and sync via iTunes.

  1. Plug your iPhone into your computer.
  2. Open iTunes.
  3. Click on the iPhone icon in the top left corner.
  4. Use the left sidebar to choose what you want to sync.
  5. Click Apply.
  6. When it’s done syncing, click the eject icon next to the device’s name in the sidebar.
  7. Repeat steps 1–6 using your iPad instead of your iPhone.
How to sync data from iPhone to iPad using iTunes

Being able to pick up either device and have all of your data readily available makes using your devices so much better. And thanks to iCloud, syncing your iPhone with your iPad has been made even easier. It's equally easy to transfer photos from an iPhone to a Mac using native tools, so if you're looking for a way to back up your library, consider that option.

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