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Unexpected Change to Mail App in iOS 14.2

Apple pushed out an iOS Update to millions of phones starting in November that is likely to generate some calls to the help desk. It’s ideal if your team knows about the change before anyone calls.

Let me explain a bit.

Let’s say your GAL is large and there is a mailbox for a sales rep named Christopher Logan, and another mailbox named Logan Christopher (CEO.) In iOS 14.1 and earlier, emails from Logan Christopher are somewhat important. It would be unfortunate to let email from Logan Christopher get buried in the swamp of unread messages.

Risk. When a user upgrades to iOS 14.2 and receives an email from Christopher Logan, they might temporarily ignore the email. Unfortunately, this is bad for their career. Now it’s actually from the CEO.

Even if your company has no symmetrical Display Names, you don’t get off scot-free.

It turns out that there are a lot of executives and power users who care a great deal about contact and email display names. These power users spend hundreds of hours on their smartphones and are quite vocal about the smallest of changes.

My company has software which syncs the Global Address List to hundreds of thousands of smartphone users so we support IT System administrators of Microsoft 365 and Exchange Server. As a result, we have spent many painful hours on display name minutia.

These display name formats are very typical:

  • First Last
  • Last, First
  • Last, First MI
  • Last, First (Org Name)
  • Last First

When we sync Outlook contacts from the GAL, the display name often needs to match the exact format. In other cases, the format needs to omit a middle initial, or in other cases, we are asked to hide a middle name, or show only the first initial.

Ironically, Apple has changed iOS Mail to match the most common military display name format. It’s “Last First” without a comma as a separator.

I expect that most smartphone users won’t even notice this change. Some will be confused, and a small minority will lay blame on IT changing things without telling anyone.

This change by Apple can affect Microsoft Exchange Server, Office 365, iCloud or just about any email accounts configured on iOS Mail. If you are using the Outlook iOS client, iOS 14.2 changes nothing. Note that is affects only new mail that comes in after the upgrade.

Why did Apple do this? I have a working theory. Although it’s a really bad idea to make this type of unannounced change to millions of enterprise customers, the format achieves consistency with iOS Contacts, Messages and the Phone app.

I am writing another blog post on how to remediate this issue. Post a comment below if needed.

In the event that you are remotely curious why 2000 enterprises on Microsoft Exchange would ever remotely care about the display name format of a contact, please check out some quotes from our customers!