Note: This post was hidden shortly after its creation as we were unsure about the working instructions after encountering some issues. Despite it being a while since its initial posting, the post is now re-published. The instructions still apply as of the updated date.
If you’ve been using Telegram for long enough, you probably would have noticed the ever growing chat list that expands each time someone in your contacts list joined the service. Much like WhatsApp, Telegram by default asks users for permission to access their contacts the first time the app is run, and goes on to upload them if permission is granted.
Uploading your contacts achieves two things: First, contacts in your phone book who have joined WhatsApp or Telegram would have registered their phone number with the service and will show up under ‘Contacts’. Second, assuming permission to access contacts is still granted, contacts in your phone book joining the service later on will automatically appear under ‘Contacts’ in the app.
However, here’s the catch: WhatsApp by default does not notify users of new contacts joining the service. Telegram on the other hand, not only notifies users that a new contact joined via a push notification, it automatically creates a conversation with them under ‘Chats’ in the form of “Your contact Alice ABCXYZ has joined Telegram!”, which can pile up and must be manually deleted on every device you have Telegram signed into. Not to mention the growing number of users joining Telegram as users make the switch from WhatsApp.
It’s important to note that manually deleting contacts on Telegram does work, but only for contacts who have joined Telegram. Contacts who have yet to join the service cannot be manually deleted as they do not appear under ‘Contacts’ in Telegram. This can be problematic as you will be constantly alerted as soon as new contacts join the service.
As of 19 October 2016: Telegram still offers no easy way to turn off new contact joined notifications.
As of 29 May 2019: New contact notifications can be toggled for Telegram under Settings > Notifications & Sounds > New Contacts. Note that new contact conversations still cannot be disabled.
As of 31 August 2019: Telegram appears to have recently added some settings to toggle synced contacts as well as delete existing synced contacts. They can be found under Settings > Privacy & Security > Data Settings > Sync Contacts and Delete Synced Contacts respectively. A fair guess of what Sync Contacts does is it toggles syncing only for the device in question, while Delete Synced Contacts deletes all synced contacts from Telegram servers (Use at your own risk). Keep in mind that the Sync Contacts toggle only allows controlling syncing of contacts on a device level, which still may or may not suffice for your use case. The vast majority of users with a primary device would likely have all their contacts synced with Telegram servers, which is largely the cause for the automatic creation of new contact conversations in their chat lists. Should these two new settings still prove inadequate for your use case, or if you’re using older device(s) with a version of Telegram that does does include them, you may then wish to proceed with the following guide.
The following guide will require you have some knowledge about what you’re doing, and may disrupt manually linked contacts and require deletion of contacts. If you don’t think you know what you’re doing, DO NOT proceed any further. If you wish to use Telegram much the same way as WhatsApp such as contacting anyone or many people on your phone book, you may wish to pass up the guide as its instructions would be too tedious for such use cases.
Existing conversations with past contacts may cause the contacts to be re-created in Telegram contacts even after following the guide, which is probably due to traces of the contact still found in your Telegram account. If you wish to prevent those contacts from being automatically created on Telegram, it may be necessary to delete all past conversations with them, including all automatically created conversations like “Your contact ALICE ABCXYZ has joined Telegram!” messages before proceeding with the guide. Note that was a behavior observed on older versions of Telegram that may not apply to newer versions of the app.
The following steps are written for iOS. If you use an Android device, the settings will differ depending on manufacturer / OS version. You’ll have to improvise slightly to achieve the same result.
Step 1: Deny Telegram access to your contacts.
iOS: Settings > Privacy > Contacts > Telegram “OFF”
Step 2: Terminate all other sessions of Telegram.
It is critical to perform this step – failure to do so will jeopardize all your efforts from the beginning if any one of the other sessions establishes a sync with the device’s contact list. The idea is to terminate all other sessions of Telegram as they contain your old list. Re-opening the app will force Telegram to use your newly uploaded contacts list. We will do this only on the device used to follow this guide.
iOS Telegram: Settings > Privacy and Security > Active Sessions > Terminate all other sessions > Select “Terminate all other sessions”
Step 3: Force close the Telegram App.
iOS: Open the App-Switcher by double-tapping the home button. Force close the Telegram app by swiping up on the card.
Step 4: Turn off contacts syncing for all your email accounts.
Turn off contacts for ALL your email accounts, including iCloud. The idea is to sync to Telegram a limited/dummy contact list instead of all contacts on your phone.
iOS: Settings > Contacts > Accounts > Your email/s > Contacts “OFF” > Select “Delete from my iPhone”
Step 5: Turn off contacts for Facebook.
Do this for Facebook if you’re signed into them in iPhone settings. Some of your Facebook contacts may have shared their contact numbers & emails which would also be synced to Telegram. Turn this off. You can always switch it back on later.
iOS: Settings > Facebook > Contacts “OFF”
Step 6: Launch the ‘Phone’ app & display all contacts
iOS: Launch ‘Phone’ and tap on ‘Contacts’. Tap on ‘Groups’ on the upper-left corner. Only ‘iPhone’ should be listed. If an email account or iCloud is listed, go back to Step 4 to disable contacts for that account. If Facebook is listed, go back to Step 5.
If only ‘iPhone’ is listed, make sure the box ‘All iPhone’ has a check mark next to it. Tap on the box if it does not to enable the check mark. This is to ensure all locally stored contacts will be displayed in your phone.
Then, click ‘done’.
Step 7: Manage the contacts you want synced with Telegram.
If there are existing contacts existing on the device itself prior to following the guide, they should appear on the list. If those contacts are not already synced with one of your email accounts, deleting them will permanently remove them, so be careful.
If you’d like to sync to Telegram only a few contacts like your loved one, family members or a group of friends, you can create a contact for each person with their full names & contact number. I recommend this method if you only wish to sync several contacts to Telegram. This is step wouldn’t be too tedious if you wish to only sync up 10 or so contacts, but might be for 30 or more contacts.
Alternatively, you can sync up a blank contact list, and after following the guide, manually adding those contacts using Telegram Desktop / Web.
Step 8: Verify the contacts you wish to sync to Telegram.
iOS: Scroll through your contacts in the ‘Phone’ app once more to make sure the contacts are those you wish sync to Telegram. If you wish to sync up an empty contact list to Telegram, make sure there are zero contacts.
Step 9: Re-allow Telegram to access your contacts.
iOS: Settings > Privacy > Contacts > Telegram “ON”
Step 10: Launch Telegram & check the contacts.
iOS: Launch Telegram and give it a while to upload your new contacts list. Make sure the contacts you wish to sync to Telegram are the only ones you see under ‘Contacts’ in the Telegram app (this number will be lower than those reflected in your phonebook if some of those contacts have yet to join Telegram). Follow Steps 4-6 closely if you still see way too many contacts that weren’t supposed to be there.
If Telegram reports “Telegram does not have access to your contacts”, go back to Step 9.
Step 11a: Disable Telegram access to your contacts for good.
Now that Telegram has your new contacts list, you want to keep it that way. Do so by re-denying Telegram access to your contacts as spelt out in Step 1.
Step 11b: Force close the Telegram App again.
Do so by following Step 3 again.
Step 12: Make sure Telegram does not have permission to access your contacts
iOS: Launch Telegram > Contacts. If you see “Telegram does not have access to your contacts”, you’re good so far.
Step 13: Disable Telegram access to your contacts on devices that have contacts you don’t want synced to Telegram.
This generally applies to devices that are phones or tablets. Do the same on them by performing Step 1. Missing this step will for your other devices might mean having to start this guide all over again on your phone.
If those devices happen to be a PC or Mac, there’s nothing you’ll need to do.
Step 14a: Turn on contacts syncing for your email accounts.
Turn back on contacts for all your email accounts you had synced to your phone before starting this guide. It will take a while for all your contacts to reappear back in your phonebook.
iOS: Settings > Contacts > Accounts > Your email/s > Contacts “ON“.
Step 14b: Turn on contacts for Facebook.
Turn Facebook contacts back on if you disabled it in Step 5.
iOS: Settings > Facebook > Contacts “ON”
Final step: Check the newly uploaded contact list using Telegram Desktop / Web
Launch and sign into Telegram on your PC or Mac, or via web.telegram.org. Click on Contacts. The contacts listed should be the same as the ones you chose to sync with your phone.
Congratulations. Telegram on all your devices should now:
1. Display only the contacts you chose to upload
2. Stop notifying when new contacts join Telegram
3. Stop creating conversations when new contacts join Telegram
If you followed step 7 but decided to sync up an empty contact list, you can now manually add contacts using Telegram Desktop / Web. Just remember to have access to contacts disabled for Telegram across all your devices.
If you happen to know what you’re doing, it is well possible to sync up a specific contact list to Telegram. The general idea would be to create those contacts under a separate email account, disable contacts from other sources on your main device, sync up the contacts to Telegram, deny Telegram access to your contacts, and you’re good to go. This way you’ll have a contact list that can be used to sync with Telegram or any chat messaging or social media platform. It’s actually mostly the only way – and workaround – to manage which contacts you wish to sync up with a service, given the lack of ability to do so in most phone and tablet OS’s and apps to this day. In retrospect, the rise of smartphones has arguably resulted in consumers becoming less smart with regard to their personal data and use of computers, possibly due to the general appeal to convenience for carrying out tasks and ease-of-use in apps. Apparently, having controls for things like notifications or which groups of contacts to sync up with a service would be too confusing for the average smartphone user. Or is it?