Migrating from iCloud to Windows Phone 8

So having just received the call from Telstra, it appears that I will be receiving my new Nokia Lumia 920 on or around the 26th November 2012. I’m quite excited about it. Many who know me well know that I’m a devout Apple Disciple. I have a Macbook Pro, an Apple TV, an iPad, an iCloud account and not just one, but two iPhones. In fact I’ve had every iPhone since the iPhone 3G came to our shores in 2008. This year, it all changes. This year I want to try something innovative, new and completely different. I must confess, I abhor Android. It’s fragmented, clunky and full of bloatware. Sure, if I wanted to I could be an Android Puritan – buy a Nexus phone. Or I could buy a droid I like, wipe it and install Jelly Bean? Too hard. So where does that leave me? Either I wait for Blackberry 10 (frankly I’d rather go without a phone) or get a Windows Phone 8 device.

For the Apple fan boys and girls who are scratching their heads and thinking “did he just say what I thought he said?” Yes, yes you did. I said that the iPhone was no longer innovative or new. Retina display? The previous generation already has it. Fast processor? Other smartphones have faster processors. Screen size? A measly four inches, other smartphones are pushing up to five. 4G? Define 4G? HSPA+ or LTE? NFC? No comment. Ergonomic? Again, no comment. If you’re unhappy about my assessment of iPhone 5, go tell someone who cares.

If you’re like me and making the switch from iPhone to Windows Phone 8, you may have noticed that its nearly impossible to get your contacts and calendars out of iCloud. Don’t be alarmed. Apple has deliberately not shared their APIs for iCloud meaning other OS developers such as Google and Microsoft are unable to build-in iCloud sync capabilities into their OS. In gearing up for my new phone’s arrival, I found a quick and easy way of preparing my contacts and calendar for syncing with Windows Phone 8, heres how.


I’m assuming you are using a Mac running OX Leopard or later. If you’re using a PC and Microsoft Outlook, ignore everything I say beyond this point and transfer all your Outlook calendars and contacts to a Windows Live or Outlook.com account. Simply sync this account with your new Windows Phone 8 device (when it finally arrives). For us cool people:

  1. Come to peace with Google apps.
  2. Create a Google account. If you’re not using the account for email then the username need not be pretty. You’re only going to use it to sync your calendars and contacts.
  3. Launch Calendar and give it a minute to sync so that the calendar back up you are about to create is up-to-date.
  4. Select the calendar you want to export. Click, File > Export > Export (Fig. 1). This will save your calendar as an ICS file. When prompted, just save it to your desktop, you can always turf it later.

    Fig 1

  5. Next open your web browser. Go to Gmail and log in if you haven’t already done so. Once you’re in, click Calendar in the black menu bar at the top of the window. When the calendar has loaded click “Cog” > Settings > Calendars > Import Calendar (Fig. 2). When prompted, click Choose then select the ICS file you created in step 4. Then select the calendar you would like the events added to and click Import (Fig. 2). The page will reload and do its thing. When finished navigate back to the calendar view to see if it’s worked

    Fig 2


This is where the fun starts. You can’t simply export all the vCards out of Address Book at once. Address Book does however allow you to export your contacts as an Address Book Archive. This file is completely useless unless you’re using a Mac. What to do?

  1. Jump onto the Mac App Store and look for an app called AB2CSV (Fig. 3). It’s a free app, so don’t feel guilty for downloading it. AB2CSV allows you to export your contacts in either CSV format (supporting UTF-16 and 8 encoding) or as a collection of vCards (VCF). Please note the CSV file the app produces is not compatible with Windows Live or Outlook.com. Both services return a “This is not a CSV file” error message (or something similar). Apparently the CSV file you can import into Windows Live must originate from Outlook.

    Fig 3

  2. Launch AB2CSV then select Mode > vCard. Clicking the giant “VCF” button in the middle of the windows will create a VCF containing all of your contacts. (Fig. 4) Again, temporarily save it to the desktop when asked where you would like it saved. You may be prompted by OS X to authorise AB2CSV to access your contacts. If this happens click “Yes” or you’re stuffed.

    Fig 4

Now switch back to Gmail and log back in if need be. Hover over the Gmail button in the upper left corner of the window and select Contacts (Fig. 5). Now move a little to the right (Fig. 6) and click More > Import > Choose. Select the VCF you created and click Choose. When ready click the Import button (Fig. 7). Congrats you’ve synced your contacts with Gmail.

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7

Next Steps

Now that your contacts and calendars are synced, simply log into your Google account on your new Windows Phone 8 device using the procedure in the video below.

Download the Windows Phone companion app from the Mac App Store. Sadly (or stupidly) it will not allow you to share contacts and calendars between your Mac and your phone. This app will allow you to sync your music, videos, podcasts and photos from iTunes, iPhoto or Aperture with your Windows Phone 8 device (Fig. 8).

Fig 8 (Older version displayed)

If you have grown attached to your @me.com email address then you can  set your Windows Phone 8 device up to receive and send iCloud email. Setting up iCloud email is trickier than setting up your Google account because it has to be done manually. To make it as easy as possible use the following config:

  • Set up as imap.
  • Type in your iCloud email address where required
  • Incoming server: imap.mail.me.com
  • Username: <yourusername>@me.com
  • Password: <youshouldknowit>
  • Outgoing server: smtp.mail.me.com
  • Tick boxes for;
    • outgoing server requires authentication
    • use same username and password
    • Require SSL for incoming
    • Require SSL for outgoing

Now you might be wondering about Photo Stream? You can always keep your iCloud account running on your iPad or Mac. After logging into your Google account for contacts and calendars, you can switch off these iCloud features in System Preferences (or Settings if you’re using an iPad). I’d recommend keeping Photo Stream switched on. If you don’t have any other iOS devices, don’t panic! You can always access your Photo Stream through Aperture or iPhoto on your Mac. Your Windows Phone 8 device will not sync with Photo Stream, so you’ll just have to settle for Skydrive. Skydrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage product which is pretty darn good. You can download photos from Skydrive and open them in Aperture or iPhoto. Aperture and iPhoto will add those photos to Photo Stream for you to enjoy later.

I hope this helps! I can’t wait to get my new Nokia. I wonder if it will have the old school Nokia ringtone? You know the one I mean (stop humming it).

23 thoughts on “Migrating from iCloud to Windows Phone 8

  1. Hi Ben
    Just got my Lumia 920 and although the phone is amazing I believe Mac users still are under served. After two days getting my me.com mail working today with same settings you are showing here I start getting “a problem with the certificate for imap.mail.me.com” and email no longer works.
    WindowsPhone desktop app only syncs photos, no podcasts, movies or non DRM songs, called the Nokia support and came back saying “higher technical support” will communicate with you soon.
    Going to the store and trying to subscribe to podcasts doesn’t work either.
    Will see if you have better luck!

    • Hi Alfred

      I haven’t been able to get my hands on a WP8 handset to play with the settings. One thing you could try would be change all references to “me.com” to “icloud.com”. For example, “imap.mail.me.com” would become “imap.mail.icloud.com”. Apple recently changed the iCloud domain from @me.com to @icloud.com, so changing the server domain name might be a good place to start.

      Since writing my blog post, I found out there is a really easy app that you can use to transfer your contacts from your iPhone 4/4S/5 to a Nokia Lumia 920. The app which comes preinstalled on your phone is called Transfer my Data and required you to pair your iPhone and Lumia 920 by Bluetooth.

      Coming back your comment, please let me know how you get on. Any feedback would be great.


    • Sorry Alfred, I forgot to mention that Apple has removed DRM restrictions from iTunes as of January 2009. So this means that all music purchased on iTunes after this date should be DRM free. In theory you should be able to transfer your music purchased after this date to your WP8 device using the Windows Phone companion app. Admittedly I have not yet used the new app yet, and probably won’t be able to until next week. According to the product description from Microsoft though, you should be able to transfer podcasts to your phone using the app. Give it another go and let me know how you get on?

  2. If only i had found this page the other day. I was forced to make the change due to a poor provider and the plain extortionate cost of uk iPhone providers. This is a perfect explanation if how to do migrate. I eventually stumbled across this myself! Im glad people like yourself take the time to write these guides

  3. Hi Ben – What did you do regarding your SMS messages? That’s the final issue that I need to come to terms with before making this jump….There are many that I’d like to keep and be able to view again, and Nokia is telling me that I can’t import them from a back up into my new phone. Any help here is appreciated. Best – B

    • Hi Brian – I’m not going to be very helpful. I didn’t keep my SMS messages. I rarely keep them in fact. I use it as a quick communication medium only. At times when I have to send/receive something important or worth keeping I use email. That said, Nokia is right, sadly its not possible to do this.

  4. Ben, wonderful post! Unfortunately my iPhone was stolen and that’s why I bought the Lumia 920 (finally rid of the iphone, I totally agree with you regarding the iphones). Gladly my iphone was automatically backup’d the day it got stolen but I have no clue how to get “inside” of my backup in iCloud. I just want to open it in my Mac so I can view my contacts and save my pictures. Do you know if that’s possible?

    The only other way I can think of is borrowing someone elses iphone and go trough a lot of “trouble”.

    Altough thanks for the post, I’m glad someone else is thinking the same way as myself!

    • Hi Jacob, thank you for the kind words. I’m not sure if you can open you iPhone back-up on your PC. If you have a Mac, logging into your iCloud account will make the data accessible in Mail, Calendar etc. B

  5. Hi Ben – is there anyway one can set up an automatic sync between ical calendars, Contacts and the lumina ?
    Not a one off transfer but auto syncing. I had a ‘droid and used smooth sync ( an app which synced to iCloud ) – was wondering if there was an windows 8 equivalent

    • Hi Graham thanks for your comment. I’ve tried to set them up but was not able to do so. Something to do with a different format calendar not supported by WP8. So the only option was to set up a gmail account, transfer all my calendar events to it and sync it with both iCal and WP8. Frustrating I know, but that’s what happens when you have several platforms all competing for your business.

  6. Ben, you wrote correctly about AB2CSV: “Please note the CSV file the app produces is not compatible with Windows Live or Outlook.com.” With some trial-and-error I found the reasons: (a) Outlook.com is expecting the same column header names as Outlook is using, and AB2CSV uses the OS X Address Book ones, and (b) the encoding of the CSV file has to be PC/ANSI aka Windows (Latin 1). Anyone taking the time to change the header names (easily done in an spreadsheet program) and adjusting the encoding will successfully be able to import the CSV.

  7. Thank you for any other great post. The place else may anybody get
    that kind of information in such a perfect approach of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the search
    for such information.

  8. If you just want to copy your contacts from iPhone to Nokia and don’t need them to automatically sync, it can easily be done without the app AB2CSV. Just login to iCloud, select contacts, click the ‘Settings’ icon and choose mark all contacts – then click export. iCloud will then save all your contacts into one vCard-file, which you then import using Gmail. I just exported 139 contacts into one 31KB-sized vCard file, so it is now possible to export several vCards at once… at least for me :-)

  9. Hi Ben, do you still use Calendar on your Mac? If so does the process you described above keep your phone and iCal in synch?


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