I want to do a followup to my entry on Wednesday about multiple email addresses associated with an Apple ID. For context, I have a Google Apps email address that serves as my Apple ID, and then an iCloud email address that’s an alias for that Apple ID. I can use either email address to sign into iCloud on my Mac and iPhone.

Disliking digital clutter, I wanted to change my Apple ID so that its email address would be my iCloud email address, and I wanted to then remove my Google Apps email address altogether. Why have two email addresses associated with the same Apple ID when just one will do?

What I discovered after reading forums and talking with Apple Support directly on the phone is that this consolidation just wasn’t possible. If I wanted to have an iCloud email address as my Apple ID, I would have to create a new Apple ID. No way to do that with a preexisting account.

Today’s followup is to show that this isn’t just a mere nuisance from a digital clutter standpoint. It actually gives you enough rope to hang yourself by breaking device continuity.

Here’s how this happened to me. A few weeks ago, I wearied of going to Settings in my iPhone and seeing my Google Apps email address as the Apple ID. I logged out of iCloud and logged back in, using my iCloud email address instead.1 Since it’s an alias of my Apple ID, I logged in successfully, and the email address in my iPhone’s Settings as my Apple ID updated accordingly. This made me happy and I continued about my day. What I didn’t realize was that by doing so, I’d completely broken device continuity. I slowly started noticing this over the coming weeks as I missed phone calls, lost the shared clipboard, and could no longer use Handoff. When device continuity was first introduced, it was buggy and didn’t work 100% of the time, so when I first noticed I’d lost continuity, I dismissed it as ongoing flakiness. As time went on however, I realized that somewhere along the way I’d completely lost the feature.

While I was on the phone with Apple Support on Wednesday, after confirming that it was impossible to change my Apple ID to my iCloud email address, and after getting to the bottom of a really annoying iTunes bug, I then inquired about why my device continuity no longer worked. After trying several things, including restarting my devices and upgrading to the latest software, the support specialist prompted me to make sure that I was logged into my primary Apple ID (my Google Apps email address), not an alias for it (my iCloud email address). Doing this fixed the problem. After being on the phone with Apple Support for more than an hour, I resolved all three issues. I didn’t like the answer to all of them, but at least I had answers.

The takeaway here is this: yes, you can use either your Apple ID or an alias of it to log in successfully into your iCloud account on your Mac or your iPhone. However, if you want device continuity to work, then you must use your Apple ID on both devices. If you use an alias on one or both of them, it won’t work.

Of course you’re not going to find anything about this anywhere on Apple’s site. But this shows just how absurd it is that you can’t make your iCloud email address your Apple ID. You should be able to do this. It’s not just for the sake of staying digitally tidy for its own sake. It has real life implications. It introduced a subtle gotcha that took me weeks to get to the bottom of.

  1. Throughout this piece, I refer to “logging out of iCloud” and “logging back into iCloud.” Because there are many apps on Mac and iPhone that require you to log into your iCloud account, let me clarify what I mean. For iPhone, I’m talking about going into Settings and tapping the very top row, scrolling to the bottom, and tapping “Sign Out.” For Mac, I’m talking about going into System Preferences -> iCloud and clicking “Sign Out.” ↩︎