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Is email open rate dead due to Apple’s mail privacy protection?

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Email Marketing | 0 comments

The world of email marketing fell apart – yet again when Apple announced the new Privacy Protection for its Mail app (Mail Privacy Protection) during the 2021 edition of the World Developers Conference (WWDC 2021).

At that event, Apple announced the launch of new features that will help users control their data by apps. It includes options to limit email tracking in the mail application. In addition, even Apple Mail will prevent senders from knowing who opens their emails. Accordingly, you can maintain the Apple Mail Privacy.

What is all this fuss about Apple Mail Privacy?
The news has set alarms among email senders. We wonder what implications these new features could have on quantifying and tracking emails. The Apple Mail Privacy Protection feature was launched between September and November. It affects iOS 15, iPad 15, and macOS Monterey operating systems.

In their official statement, Apple states, “In the Mail app, Mail’s Privacy Shield feature prevents senders from using invisible pixels for collecting information about the user. This new feature prevents senders from knowing when an email gets opened. It hides the user’s IP address to prevent it from being related to their online activity. Or used to determine their location.”

The new feature will affect all email users reading email messages using the Mail app on Apple devices. Regardless of the email provider. But what about the emails that users read on an iPhone through the Gmail application? You do not have to worry about the latter since the new Privacy Protection function. It will only be operational in the Apple Mail application.

What does Apple Mail Privacy mean for their users?
Users worldwide are demanding more and more control over their data. It seems that some technology providers are starting to listen to them. In recent years, government bodies in the EU and the United States have passed legislation to protect consumer data privacy, such as the GDPR, the ePrivacy Regulation, the CCPA, or the Consumer Data Protection Act of Virginia (VCDPA).

With the new Apple Mail Privacy Protection. Users will be able to select whether they want to protect their activity against third parties. Besides, they explicitly have an option to preserve the app’s activity and, if they activate it, Mail will hide their IP and upload the remote content privately.

Most users likely decide to hide their activity from third parties. And while we always welcome greater privacy with open arms, Mail’s Privacy Shield feature could come with some inconvenience. For example, open rates help analyze recipient engagement and clean contact lists. This means users could receive more spam in their inboxes.

What does the Apple Mail Privacy Shield feature mean for email marketing?
Simply put, it means senders won’t be able to track open email rates, and location-dependent content won’t display as it should when opening an email in Apple Mail. All emails sent to users of Apple Mail that have turned on the Mail Privacy Protection will count as open, even if the recipient ignores them. Imagine a 100% open rate.

Sounds good, right?

Well, no, it is not as pretty as it seems. This automatic registration as “open” will affect how you track and measure email performance. But it could also influence campaigns that use open rates as a filter or a trigger.

Open rates have been the standard metric for many email marketers over the years. But, some senders have started to look beyond opens when measuring the performance of their email campaigns. Although opens are not the perfect indicator to determine if a user has read your email. They have a significant impact on many aspects of email strategy.

Although we still do not have much information about the Privacy Protection function of Apple Mail. We can already think about some aspects affected:

Emailing performance tracking: Given the unreliability of open rates provided by Apple Mail users. Senders looking to analyze the success of a campaign. They will have to focus on alternative metrics such as click-through rates and conversions.

A/B tests: if there are no reliable open rates. This is likely to affect the reliability of A/B tests on the email subject. Any other type of test that uses openings as an indicator of the winning option.

Contact list cleanup: Segmentation based on open rates is no longer an option for Apple Mail users. It means that senders are unlikely to use extinction policies and other strategies that use open statistics to clean up the databases.

Segmented or automated campaigns based on opening metrics: Some automated flows, welcome messages, and re-engagement campaigns can help monitor whether users open an email to determine which email they will receive next. Although everything is a bit uncertain now, such campaigns are likely will get affected.

Real-time personalization: Some senders use dynamic content that varies depending on the user’s location when they open the email. This type of email uses location tracking, a resource that will no longer be available to Apple Mail users.

Yes, at first, it can be a bit scary, we know that. But remember, these are changes that will affect only Apple Mail users. In our 2021 email engagement report, only 13.3% of respondents admitted using the Mail app to open and read their emails to maintain Apple Mail Privacy. Thus, users of other applications, such as Gmail (52.3% of respondents), will not get affected by this new feature.


The reputation of email marketing is well documented. With less than 10% of people opening business emails, it’s no surprise that businesses are looking for alternative methods to increase engagement with their prospects and customers. About 1/3 of all emails are now opened on mobile devices which means how you set up your email can have a huge effect on your open rate and Email deliverability.


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