Microsoft tests $4-per-month Outlook Premium, with custom domains and no ads

The service could hit a sweet spot for users who want personalized email addresses without a full-blown Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft is testing a premium version of Outlook.com that removes the ads and supports custom domains for email addresses.

According to Brad Sams at Thurrott.com, Outlook Premium is free for one year and then costs $3.99 per month during the trial phase, though it’s only available by invite for now. Microsoft first started experimenting with premium Outlook in February, but at the time it wasn’t clear how much the service might cost.

The service appears to combine two features that Microsoft offers or has offered in the past. The first is an ad-free version of Outlook, which is already available today as a $20 per year upgrade. The second is custom domains, which allow users to enjoy Outlook.com’s features but with a personalized email address (think yourname@example.com).

Users can already add custom domains in Outlook with an Office 365 Small Business Essentials subscription, which costs $6 per month or $60 per year. Until 2014, Microsoft also offered custom domains for free, but that system was also slightly different, in that users were responsible for procuring the domain. Under the new premium plans, Microsoft will manage that process itself.

For now, it’s unclear whether non-business Office 365 subscribers will get premium Outlook features for free. Keep in mind that Microsoft could tweak the pricing or abandon the project entirely before rolling it out to the masses.

Why this matters: At least in the trial phase, Outlook Premium occupies a middle ground between ad-free Outlook and a full Office 365 subscription. It could also slightly undercut Google’s Apps for Work plans, which support custom domains for $5 per user per month. This may have some appeal to individual users who are starting a business or otherwise want to have a custom email address without losing the features of a webmail service.

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