This blog post was originally going to chronicle the saga of my attempts to recover my primary email address as my Apple ID (ok, so it still kinda does), but this morning, I finally received a definitive answer as to why I cannot use my primary email address – the one I’ve been using for the last 11 years – as any email associated with my Apple ID or iCloud. This sounds like my problem, but it’s not just me. Unfortunately for most, they don’t have a blog or any place to talk about this other than the Apple discussion forums, where many will assume the complainers just don’t know what they’re doing. Well I do know what I’m doing, and gosh-darnit I’m going to tell you about it.

This isn’t going to be short. Unfortunately, Apple IDs are complex, and my adventure had lots of twists and turns. I’ve tried to simplify it, but it’s still pretty long and boring. Skip ahead to the “tl;dr start here” if you want to cut to the chase.

First, some housekeeping. Rather than put my email out here for all the spammers to pick up, let’s just say that my primary email is: [email protected]

I’ve been using [email protected] as my Apple ID for as long as I can remember. The email [email protected] pre-dates my switch to a Mac as my primary computer some time back in 2003. This means that all my music was purchased under [email protected], as well as all the apps I bought when I bought the very first iPhone… On launch day, I might add.

I’m also a MobileMe user. When I signed up for MobileMe, Apple requested an “alternate email” where I could be reached in case I was unable to access my MobileMe account. No problem! I have an email address, and I know how to use it. I provided [email protected] as my alternate email. This was at least two years ago; I’ve renewed MobileMe twice. MobileMe accepted this email – my primary Apple ID email – without so much as a hiccup.

Fast-forward a couple of years to when iOS 5 came out. I waited a day or two for the iOS 5 dust to settle and upgraded my phone on Friday, October 14th. The upgrade went smoothly up until the point where I downloaded the Find My Friends app, and my MobileMe email popped up in the authentication box. You see, Apple assumes that because you have a MobileMe address, that you’ll want to use this email as your primary email for everything Apple. This includes your Apple ID that is used to purchase items from iTunes, iBooks, Newsstand, etc. That’s a big assumption.

Any time I purchase something with a specific Apple ID, I’m married to that Apple ID for the life of the product; be it music, apps, or any other product sold through Apple. Any time in the future, you’ll need to provide the specific Apple ID and password used to purchase the item in order to “Authorize” your device to play back or read media. Your Apple ID is relevant to your Mac and iOS devices too! When you want support, you have to provide an Apple ID. My point is that your Apple ID is not an insignificant part of your relationship with Apple.

With the introduction of iCloud, your Apple ID takes on a new role. Truthfully, this started back with Game Center. With Game Center, you search for other users by email. The same principle is applied to iCloud. There’s a good write-up over at TiPb on how iMessage works. Basically, your iCloud email is important if you own devices that aren’t an iPhone, and I do. I own an iPad, which I am (well, was) really looking forward to using iMessage on.

tl;dr start here – This is still longer than you’ll enjoy. Sorry.

So what’s the problem, Brad!? Cut to the chase already!

After I installed iOS 5, Apple automagically used my MobileMe email for iCloud. This is not what I want. I want to use my email. When I tried to change the iCloud login to [email protected] on my phone, I received some cryptic message along the lines of “Verification required”. Ok, off to the Google machine for some answers! My searching revealed that I need to verify my Apple ID email.

Wow, that’s strange. I’ve been using this Apple ID for years. How is it possible that I haven’t verified? So I log in at the Apple ID website and attempt to verify my email, but this is where things really begin to go off the rails. I’m not going to go in to the gory details, because you’re already half-comatose, but suffice it to say the Apple ID website did not perform as expected. Button-links didn’t work, data wasn’t saved properly, and at one point, I thought I was permanently locked out of my Apple ID.

After phone and email support sessions spanning ten days and over 15 emails back and forth, iTunes support arrived at this conclusion:

If you provide an email address as an alternate email for a MobileMe account, that email cannot be used as an Apple ID primary email address or alternate.

Yes, we know you’ve actually been using this as your Apple ID for years, but that’s irrelevant. You can’t verify for iCloud with that email, and you can’t change your MobileMe alternate email now because we’re shuttering the product. Sorry bub, you’re out of luck.

So in the process of troubleshooting, the Apple representatives had me change my primary Apple ID email to [email protected], instead of [email protected] I cannot change it back. No one at Apple can change it back. Their suggestion? To submit feedback to MobileMe.

As of today, if you look for me on iCloud or Game Center with the email you have in your address book for me, [email protected], you won’t find me. You have to use [email protected] My Apple ID is the only service on the web where I cannot use my primary email address that has been my home for the last 11 years.

In the words of the internet: Apple, I am disappoint.