How to Filter & Mute Unknown Senders Messages on iPhone & iPad from Known Contacts

May 7, 2015 - 31 Comments

New Unread Messages badge iPhone and iPad users can opt to use a new “Filter Unknown Senders” feature in the iOS messaging app which will automatically hush and separate inbound messages that are coming from unrecognized contacts. This is extremely useful if your phone number is publicly listed on a web site like Craigslist, if you’re a public figure, or if you just happen to get a notable amount of inbound messages from numbers you don’t recognize.

By turning this message filtering feature on, your iOS Messages app will basically have two inboxes: people in your Contacts list, and everyone else who is not part of your contacts list on the iPhone or iPad.

How to Enable Contacts & Unknown Sender Sorting in iOS Messages

If you’d like to sort and filter unknown contacts into a separate section of the Messages app on iPhone or iPad, here is how you can enable this helpful feature:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to “Messages”
  2. Locate the option for “Filter Unknown Senders” and toggle it to the ON position – note the message underneath which further explains the feature: ‘Turn off notifications for iMessages from people who are not in your contacts and sort them into a separate list.’
  3. Filter unknown senders in iOS into a different Messages app inbox

  4. Return to the Messages app to find the two Message inboxes: “Contacts & SMS” and “Unknown Senders” – this is sorted automatically, tap on either tab to select that message inbox

Filter unknown senders messages in iOS

Because this also turns off notifications from messages that are coming from people who are not part of your contacts list, it prevents you from having to enter into Do Not Disturb mode or using the Mute switch if you just don’t want to be bothered by the other messages.

Anyone in the “Unknown Senders” list will not trigger a standard notification on your device, and will no longer end up in your primary known person inbox:

Unknown senders message box in iOS, filtered from Contacts

Note the setting mentions iMessages get filtered, but in my experience all unknown senders who are not in the Contacts list get placed into the “Unknown Senders” box, that includes SMS texts, and not just iMessage users.

Turning this feature off will not delete any messages, it just merges the message inboxes back together into the same default Messages app view again.

This works the same on all iOS devices, but it’s likely to be much more useful on the iPhone, where people tend to get the bulk of their messaging. The Filtering feature requires a recent version of iOS, older versions do not support the Unknown Sender inbox in Messages app.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Big Worm-DOGG says:

    I’m just confused about the whole damn thing. I thought the app ROBOKILLER was going to be standard on all phones. I’m just tired of having my iPhone ring, beep or vibrate all damn day and half the night because of what we call TELEMARKETERS. SO I THINK IT SHOULD BE AGAINST THE LAW BUT WHAT DO I KNOW IM JUST A 42 YEAR OLD HILLBILLY R-TARD!?!?!?

  2. Victim says:

    Bunch of BS! Regardless if the spam text is filtered, YOU STILL RECEVE A NOTIFICATION ALERT! So useless!

  3. Byron Collins says:

    I tried it as soon as I got my iPhone 7 I have the iOS 12. Whatever update and it still doesn’t work. Wish it did because of all the spam the person that had the number before me signed up for.

  4. RV says:

    The feature only moves unknown iMessages to a separate folder. It does absolutely nothing for SMS unknown text messages. If you dispute this you are wrong. Period.

    This feature would be useful if it moved all unknown messages to a separate folder and muted the notification but it does not. Only for unknown iMessages.

  5. KR says:

    What does it do when u swipe report junk? Is report junk 1st or 2nd choice?

  6. Nicole Lawrence says:

    Just got a spam text for pain relief from a number I don’t have in my list. It showed up in regular messages, even though the “Filter Unknown Messages” is toggled on and green. I tapped on “Unknown Senders” and the lust is blank. iPhone 6, ios 10.3.3. Wish it worked…

  7. Grace says:

    Does this mean that if I receive an unknown text, and it still goes into my regular text inbox (not unknown text inbox) that the person texting me is in my contact list?

  8. Wanda says:

    Doesn’t work for me. I have 5s and iOS 9.3.2. Hasn’t worked in months since the first 9— update.

  9. claudia says:

    does NOT work..i repeat DOES NOT WORK

    • Khloe says:

      This works great on iPhone for filtering my messages! I repeat THIS WORKS GREAT, it FILTERS your MESSAGES from unknown senders and your known contacts on the iPhone!

      I guess Claudia doesn’t know how to read instructions, but this works fantastic on iPhone, it filters your messages from known and unknown contacts getting ahold of you, this is the perfect setting for a celebrity like myself!!! I am a celeb, I have to use this feature!

  10. Jean says:

    I still receive spammers under contacts even if I turned on the filter unknow senders. So useless.

  11. Ian says:

    I agree. I have tried everything I have seen to try and get this to work and it just won’t filter Unknown senders anymore. So annoying!! I really enjoyed that feature. Disappointed that they haven’t fixed this in the latest wo levels of fixes!!! Come on Apple!!!!!

  12. Felisha says:

    Does NOT work on my iphone 6 after the iOS 9 update. Even after turning off siri suggestions. This sucks! I would never have done this update had I known this would happen.

  13. Archie says:

    Doesn’t work for me on iPhone 6 and iOS 9. Annoying as it did before I did the update.

  14. mich says:

    Does not work on my 5c running ios9.

  15. Angelo says:

    Doesn’t work on my iPhone 5s iOS 8.4.1.

  16. Janet says:

    It doesn’t work. I have the setting on and have had it on since the update came out. I would love this feature… If it worked or if it allowed me to label and move messages to unknown sender folder.

    • neina says:

      it does work by sending non-contacts into the filter folder

      • NG says:

        This feature used to work on my phone with iOS 8 for months, since the upgrade to iOS 9, the feature no longer works. I have it selected in settings and all, but still appears on contacts and sms side…

  17. Gobb Smacked says:

    wow, so cool, I’m would’ve never known, no way.

  18. Moses says:

    It doesn’t appears on my iPhone 4S… Wish to have this features in my iPhone.

  19. jose says:

    very good, thank you

  20. JeffP says:

    I would love to have this for phone calls!

  21. Kurt says:

    Great feature, I bet celebrities love it

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