There is a hidden feature in iOS 16 that lets you see only your unread messages


Someone holding iPhone 14 Plus.
iOS 16 brings many features to new and old devices, some more obvious than others. | Photo by Allison Johnson/The Edge

If you’re updating your iPhone to iOS 16 this week, you’ll want to spend a few minutes tweaking your settings. You definitely want to enable haptic feedback for the keyboard, you might want the battery percentage back in your status bar, and it’s a good idea to spend some time fiddling with your Focus modes.

But there’s one setting that’s so useful, and so hidden, that I completely missed it in my iOS 16 review. (Thanks to everyone who let me know!) It’s called Filter Senders unknown. If you enable Filter unknown senders – go to Settings, Messages and scroll almost to the bottom to find it – you can now filter your Messages app to show you only unread threads.

The feature has been around for a few years, and it was originally designed to do one thing: get the messages you don’t want out of your inbox. There’s no magic in delineation, really; the iPhone simply puts the messages from your contacts’ numbers in one place and those from unknown numbers in another. I never enabled this feature, not because I like robo-texts, but because I’m a journalist and I get a lot of text messages from numbers I don’t know. But it’s a good feature, and you should definitely use it if you’d rather not see confirmation numbers and spam messages mixed in with messages from friends and family.

Screenshots showing how to enable the unknown senders filter in messages.
Image: Apple/David Pierce
Go to Settings, Messages and scroll down to enable Filter unknown senders.

I enabled it in iOS 16 and a new “Filter” button appeared on the top left of the Messages app. Once I tapped on it and selected “Unread Messages”, I instantly found those two pesky unread messages from months ago that kept the red badge on my Messages app. Going forward, thanks to another feature of iOS 16, I can now mark messages as unread and use the filter as a sort of communication to-do list.

It’s weird that Apple buried the unread filter behind Filter Unknown Senders, but it’s a very useful feature that I think I’ll probably use every day in the future. I’m glad I found it.

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