Back in September, many tech savvy users waited on the edge of their seats to witness the latest unveilings from Apple. Along with other releases, the iPhone 6s and iOS 9 made their debut. Since then we have been monitoring the progress of how emails appear on this device and operating system, as well as taking note of what other companies have been experiencing.

New feature: 3D Touch

The iPhone 6s introduces a new way for users to interact with their phone. The device can now sense how much pressure is applied to the display, which is how features such as ‘Peek and Pop’ work.

The ‘Peek and Pop’ function allows the user to preview content and act on it — without having to actually open it. For example, in the email inbox, a light press ‘Peeks’ at each email; then when you want to open one, apply more pressure to ‘Pop’ into it. However, just like old operating systems, the user can still tap on the email and open this normally without seeing the preview.

Peek and Pop with the iPhone6

The effects on email marketing

One problem with this function is that ‘Pop’ doesn’t allow the user to scroll; it only shows a small top portion of the email, including the sender information. The recipient of the email then has to make the decision to either read the email or discard it based upon this small view.

In order for readers to get the most information in ‘Pop’, it has been discussed that consideration of ‘the fold’ from print design could be brought back into email marketing. This would involve placing crucial information, such as call to actions, within the height of the smallest window, in other words ‘above the fold’. However, this could result in crowded emails that discourage readers, more than enticing them, to open from the ‘Pop’ view!

This reinforces the need for valuable content, a friendly from name, relevant subject lines and preview text will hopefully encourage your readers to go from ‘Peek’ to ‘Pop’. Place this alongside user-friendly mobile design you will then optimised the email so the user will finally go from ‘Pop’ to a full open.


Despite the user not being able to scroll, ‘Peek’ is just like opening an email. When activated, all images within the email are downloaded. This means any tracking within the email is also activated, even if it is located outside the viewable area. In other words, when a recipient activates ‘Peek’, it will show up as an open in the campaign report.

We ran three tests using our StoneShot database to find out how these different opens were tracked and also how they were measured as engagement; for example whether the user has either ‘read’ the email for 8 seconds or more, ‘skimmed’ it for 2 to 8 seconds or ‘glanced / deleted’ it in less than 2 seconds.

Engagement on StoneShot

An example of how engagement appears on a StoneShot database.

In the first test we opened the email normally, scrolling to the bottom as if to read the email. As expected this registered as an open and showed that the user had read the email for 8 seconds or more.

The second test involved ‘Peeking’ at the email, highlighting the email in the inbox and then discarding it. Similar to the first test this counted as an open, however, only registered the user skimming the email for 2 to 8 seconds.

The final test was to see what results ‘Peek’ and ‘Pop’ showed. Again, it registered as an open, but this time the results for engagement varied. Depending on the length of time ‘Pop’ is held down for it shows either skimmed for 2 to 8 seconds or a read for 8 seconds or more.

Overall the testing showed us that no matter what the interaction is, it will be reported as an open. The ‘Read’ and ‘Skimmed’ categories within the StoneShot app provide a useful indication of how engaged the reader was with your email but ultimately ensuring content is engaging and relevant to the reader is more important than ever.

A feature to perhaps utilise, depending on your subject matter and audience, is animation. This could be used as an attention grabbing teaser to entice the recipient to fully open, or ‘Pop’ an email. Animated gif images and CSS animations play within the ‘Pop’ window in the same way as they would in a full iOS email.

New feature: Zoom

Another new feature is zooming, which automatically fits an email to the device’s screen width. While this feature is great in theory, it can have some undesirable effects depending on how your email is built. While it’s unlikely to affect email campaigns using more modern, responsive techniques, fixed-width email designs can run into problems with the new zooming feature

Email designers, rejoice! 

Apple are continuing their cutting-edge support for CSS in their mobile operating systems. iOS 9 now allows the backdrop-filter property, this provides effects like blurring or colour shifting the area behind an element. So for example you could blur the background image behind a block of text, which would help the readability of the text.

iOS 9 is also providing better support and flexibility for responsive images using the HTML srcset attribute. This allows designers to reference multiple images in an email and it to automatically display the correct one for the width of a device’s screen size. The usual HTML src attribute for an image is used and srcset is added to create an enhanced experience for devices that support this function. The code below is an example of what can be used; applying it designers will be able to create improved content across a wide range of screen sizes.

<img src="" srcset=" 320w, 720w" alt="Alternative text" />


Overall, the new iOS update seems to have pleased most designers and shows that Apple continues to expand on user experience where emails are concerned. With the introduction of the new handset, it is still too early to determine how 3D touch will affect email marketing and whether users will adopt the ‘Peek’ function as their primary use of viewing emails. In the meantime our advice, in addition to effective mobile design, would be to ensure value is added to email campaigns to maximise engagement from mobile users.

For more information on effective mobile design for your emails, or to speak to a member of our support team contact us on


Sources: Email on Acid, Litmus