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Ok so as the title suggests, I want to change the email address that is associated to my Apple ID account as it's something old and embarrassing that I don't want anymore, the issue is, I only use my email address for iMessage so my phone number isn't associated to it at all. If I change the email address associated, will it start a new chat with my friends if I text them? Or will it send on the existing chat that we already have on their end? Obviously on my end it'll be the same chat, but I wonder if it'll start a new chat for them which they would then have to add to the existing contact they have if they care about the chat history.

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Yes, it will start a new thread. However if they add your new email address to your Contact card and don't remove your old one then the threads should merge.

You can also change your Apple ID, then still keep your old email as an authorized receiving email for iMessage to make sure you continue receiving all Messages but that all new ones will be sent from the intended address.

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