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How to filter unread messages on iPhone iMessages

Get to the messages that really matter.

Published onJuly 24, 2023

One of the lesser-known features of iOS (from 16 onwards) is being able to filter your messages in the Messages app. Not only is this good for filtering out spam, but you can also get the app to only show unread messages. If you get a lot of messages daily, focusing on the ones you have to reply to can make your life considerably easier.


To filter for unread messages on your iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings > Messages.
  2. Toggle on Filter Unknown Senders. This activates Filters in your Messages app, including one to only see unread messages. Your iPhone must be running iOS 16 or later.

How to filter unread messages on your iPhone

The process is extremely quick — it should take about a minute, simply requiring a toggle in the Settings app.

Open Settings and go to Messages. Scroll down until you see Filter Unknown Senders, and toggle the option on. This might not make much sense at first, but you’ll understand why in a moment.

ios messages filter unknown senders

Next, open Messages app. At the top of your screen, you’ll see a new Filters button. Tap it.

ios messages filter

You should see five filter options, including Unread Messages. If you select that and never leave, you’ll only see unread messages as they come in. To return to a more conventional view, hit Filters again and select All Messages.

ios messages unknown senders


Make sure your phone is running iOS 16 or later. If it’s not, you won’t see the option in Settings > Messages.

Yes, both iPads and Macs have this filter. For phone messages to sync, though, they’ll all need to be connected to your iPhone via iCloud.

If you have filters enabled in Messages, one of your options is Recently Deleted, where you can recover content. Otherwise, you’ll need to restore an iCloud backup from when messages were present.

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.

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