Filter Unknown Senders is a sneaky game-changer

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Someone holding the iPhone 14 Plus.

iOS 16 brings lots of features to new and old devices — some more obvious than others.
Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge

If you update your iPhone to iOS 16 this week, you’re going to want to spend a few minutes tweaking your settings. You definitely want to turn on 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 playing around with your Focus modes.

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

The feature’s been around for a couple of years, and it was initially designed to do one thing: get messages you don’t want out of your inbox. There’s no magic to the delineation, really; the iPhone just puts messages from numbers in your contacts in one place and those from unknown numbers in another. I’ve never turned this feature on, not because I love robo-texts but because I’m a reporter and I get a lot of texts 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 texts intermingled with messages from your friends and family.

Screenshots showing how to turn on Filter Unknown Senders in Messages.

Screenshots showing how to turn on Filter Unknown Senders in Messages.
Go to Settings, Messages, and scroll down to turn on Filter Unknown Senders.
Image: Apple / David Pierce

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

It’s odd that Apple buried the unread filter behind Filter Unknown Senders, but it’s a super useful feature that I suspect I’ll probably use every day going forward. I’m glad I found it.

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