iCloud has been around on Apple devices for quite some time. The main service it provides is cloud storage, which allows Apple users to store their files and photos. Alongside the launch of iOS 15, Apple is rebranding paid iCloud plans to iCloud+.
iCloud+ will introduce the following new services: Private Relay, Hide My Email and custom domain support for email.
This is a general privacy and security-focussed service. To put it simply, it allows users to generate a new @icloud.com email address for different uses.
It is likely that the vast majority of email users simply just use one email, which isnt always the best idea for security and privacy. By using a different email for every use, you can improve your online security and privacy quite significantly. Here are some scenarios where this may help:
A website has a data breach: If you used the same email everywhere, that email would now be leaked and is public knowledge. But if you used a single-use email on that single site, only that email would be leaked. This would leave your other accounts more secure and you then can disable the single site email and avoid spam.
Websites selling on your email: For example, if you sign up to ‘Company A’ on their website using a single email only for that website and then you begin receiving possible spam or promotions from 3rd parties to that email, you will know only ‘Company A’ can be responsible for it. This wouldn’t be possible while using the same email everywhere.
Keeping accounts secure: When logging into online accounts, there are two things you need: the username (usually your email) and the password. Using a different password on every account is something everyone should do, but using a different email for different accounts will also increase security. Now if someone attempts to steal your account they will need your unique password and unique email.
iCloud Hide My Email helps with all these situations and it makes the whole process incredibly easy. On Apple devices (Safari), when you tap into a form asking for an email, your device will suggest generating a new unique and random email address. All emails sent there will be forwarded to your main email address and you can disable (also re-enable) any of these generated email addresses.
Up until this change, most users will be using an @iCloud.com email address (unless you have an older account or don’t use iCloud email). With this change, users can now host their own domain with iCloud Email.
Firstly, Apple makes this incredibly simple and cost-effective. Hosted email services such as FastMail have always cost extra, but with iCloud+ it is included in the price, no additional fees for using your own domain. Additionally, it is possible to share the domain with Family Sharing so all your family can create up to three aliases each on the domain.
Some may see little point in using a custom domain over @icloud.com, one simple reason would be: you own it. For example, if iCloud one day closed operations it’s likely users would no longer be able to use their @icloud.com email, but if you own the domain it is yours to move to another service. It also avoids any lock-in – if you wish to no longer use iCloud services you can simply most the domain DNS records so your email will be hosted by another service such as FastMail. When using an @iCloud.com email you are locked to only using iCloud Email.
It’s possible in the future Apple may further expand its iCloud+ offering with more services, but it is unclear if there will be any further changes to the email offering even after the beta period. Some features such as catch-all address (for custom domains) do not currently appear to be supported and it is not possible to use Hide My Email using a custom domain. Both of these would be welcome additions but for now they are not possible.