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How to filter unread messages on iPhone iMessages

Get to the messages that really matter.
March 20, 2023

One of the lesser-known features of iOS 16 is being able to filter your messages in the iMessages app. Not only is this good for filtering out spam, but you can also get the iMessages app to only show your unread messages. If you get a lot of messages daily, being able to only see the ones you have to reply to can make your life considerably easier. Now there really is no excuse for not replying to your mother’s text.


To filter your unread messages on your iPhone, go to Settings >Messages and toggle on Filter Unknown Senders. This then activates filters in your Messages app, including a filter to only see unread messages. Your phone must be running iOS 16 for this feature to be seen.

How to filter unread messages on your iPhone

This is a quick two-minute (or less) process and merely involves diving into your iPhone settings.

Open up the settings and go to Messages. Scroll down till you see Filter Unknown Senders and toggle that on. Unknown senders obviously have nothing to do with unread messages, but it seems that toggling on Unknown Senders is only what activates the other filters.

ios messages filter unknown senders

Now open your Messages app, and at the top, you’ll see a new Filters link. Tap it.

ios messages filter

You will now see the various filters, including Unread Messages. If you tap on that and stay in there, you will only see your filtered unread messages and nothing else.

ios messages unknown senders


First, ensure that Filter Unknown Senders is toggled on in your Settings. Then, ensure your phone is running iOS 16.

Yes, both the iPad and Mac have this filter too. However, they must be connected to your iPhone via iCloud, for the messages to sync.

Yes, you will need to have an iCloud backup from when the messages were on your phone. You can then restore that version of the phone back. Also, if you have the filters enabled in Messages, there is also a Recently Deleted section.

All devices that have Messages on them must be signed into the same iCloud account. You must also select all devices in your iOS and Mac settings that you want to sync to.