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iOS 15 – how will Apple’s new privacy settings affect your email marketing?

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Email marketing is still very much a valued channel for marketers – especially when thinking about the segmentation of your audience. Back in June 2021, iOS 15 was officially unveiled at Apple’s World-Wide Developers Conference (WWDC). Have you heard about it? Well, the public beta went live at the end of June and this is disrupting customer insights we’ve often considered a given. As with all beta releases, more features are likely to be added before its full release as users put this new operating system through its’ paces.

Mobile phone chained and padlocked

As for the full and finished release date? Well, there is industry speculation that this will coincide with the launch of the new iPhone 13; these things typically land in September.

So what does this mean to you?

Are email open rates going to become a thing of the past for Apple device users?

In this blog post, we’ll:

  • examine the key features

  • explore how they could affect data insights

  • question whether analysis of other metrics could be a potential solution

The features

So what do we know about iOS 15? Apple’s preview page reads:

Great features should not have to come at the expense of your privacy. iOS 15 provides increased visibility into how apps access your data, protects you from unwanted data collection and gives you more control over what you choose to share.

Source: Apple, May 2021

Scientist reaches out for a virtual padlock in blue-lit room

Mail privacy protection

...helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders from learning information about your Mail activity. If you choose to turn it on, it hides your IP address so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. And it prevents senders from seeing if you’ve opened their email.

Source: Apple, May 2021

This will give the owner the option to either hide or show their IP address when online. It also prevents senders from seeing their IP address if and when they’ve opened an email.

For years, marketers have had the ability to track emails sent by many service providers by way of a cookie (a pixel containing IP information) attached to outgoing correspondence.

Once clicked or opened by the recipient, a notification is usually sent. This gives the marketer or email provider the opportunity to analyze which techniques were most effective in generating a response.

Tea cup on wooden table with smartphone in forefront displaying new message icon

iOS 15 is compatible with iPhones from the 6s to the eagerly awaited iPhone 13 so the number of owners with these new privacy controls will be vast.

If all future iPhone users choose to Opt-In to Mail Privacy Protection, thus hiding their IP address and becoming invisible, mail marketing providers will no longer know if their emails have been opened.

This is currently just an Apple feature for the iPhone and 7th Generation iPod Touch but if it was to be rolled out across the Android network then it could become a big issue as most email is now opened on mobile devices.

Email open rates from mobile devices have grown by more than 100% since 2011 and the percentage of open rates from mobile continues to grow each year!

Source:, May 2021

Hide My Email

Smartphone with black screen displays new message notification

Set to follow the launch later in the year, Hide My Email will arrive by way of an update to iCloud+ subscribers. Once again it will protect the device owner by allowing them to choose random ‘alias’ email addresses which will help prevent data capture and spamming.

Instantly generate unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox — so you don’t have to share your real email address when filling in a form on the web or signing up for a newsletter.
Source: Apple, May 2021

App privacy report

The smartphone owner can check how apps are using the permissions they’re granted them, which third-party domains they contact and how recently they made contact.

Again, Apple is putting the device owner in control of their own privacy. You can conduct a full privacy health check to be sure "big brother" is not watching you.

Early feedback to the changes

An interesting thing to note is that in many of the early beta reviews currently online, the privacy changes rarely seem to get a look in.

They tend to include:

  • focus mode

  • a new look for alerts and notifications

  • FaceTime enhancements including SharePlay

  • Safari and Maps overhauls

  • New additions to the Health and Weather apps

And naturally (this is a beta test version for iOS 15 after all), there are lots and lots of problems being identified by those testing the new operating system. Things like:

  • FaceTime issues

  • crashes

  • lag

  • connectivity

  • problems with third-party apps

Many of these things will be fixed by Apple before the big reveal, but it is interesting to note that in the early reviews, both good and bad, privacy features landing in iOS 15 are barely mentioned.

Four people study whilst sitting in a row

Does this mean that iPhone users prefer flashy features to privacy protection? Will the majority of users bother to opt-in?

Do they understand that their data is potentially available for marketers and growth hackers to monetize (see our earlier blog post on Growth Hacking here)

Will the privacy features attract the young?

Content sharing and online engagement are at an all-time high with Generation Z. Will these users be the first to adopt iOS 15’s new privacy features to protect their online identity? Or will they continue to favour email and social sharing as their preferred means of personal communication?

58% of Gen Z users check their email multiple times a day

  • less than 1% of Gen Z-ers never check their mail

  • almost 67% of Gen Z-ers receive 20 or fewer emails in a day

  • 64.9% of Gen Z-ers use email for personal communication, proving that a majority prefer to use email even when they have other channels at their disposal

Two Gen Z girls sitting on a step take a selfie whilst enjoying ice cream and iced coffee

Statistics also show that this age group is even amenable to receiving brand communication through email as long as the frequency is within limits.

  • 27.5% would be fine with hearing from brands once a day

  • Only 19% would prefer emails once a week, and 18.4% once a month

Source:, 2021

How will the changes affect marketers?

From an analytical perspective, the question has to be asked, will incomplete data make a big impact in the world of email marketing?

For example, if you are currently paying for an average email open rate of between 15-25% (*Source: Campaign Monitor) and you have incomplete data, how can you possibly know if your campaign is working?

Basing this on over 80% of email now opened on mobile devices, the number of ‘unknowns’ could be vast and therefore a hard sell in the future.

Could this put an end to email marketing as we currently know it, or does it depend on who your customers are and where they live? If 95% are based in China, Apple is in no way the dominant player in the smartphone market there, so changes could be minimal unless it is rolled out on other platforms like Android.

Male in black leather jacket selecting a new smartphone in phone store

Other metrics to consider

As marketers, we may need to adapt and change the metrics we’ve traditionally used to gauge campaign effectiveness. Instead of open rates and click-through rates, consider focusing on the other metrics we use:

  • bounce rates

  • unsubscribe rates

  • click-to-open rates

  • sign up rates

  • subscriber retention rates

Our industry is constantly evolving to stay apace with new technology and ways of working – and maybe we’ll come up with even more ingenious ways to harvest data in the future. One thing’s for sure, we’ll find out soon enough.

Before we go

A rhetorical question; on a personal level, would you opt-In to Mail Privacy Protection?

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