iPhone: SMS filters get more categories in iOS 16

Filter apps for Apple’s Messages app allow users to bring order to their inboxes. In Europe, they are still unknown to many.

iPhone: SMS filters get more categories in iOS 16

In iOS 16, SMS filters can categorize incoming messages on the iPhone even better. For many in Europe, however, the surprise about this might be that there is such an interface for the Messages app (messages) at all. There are filter apps in the App Store, but they do not seem to be very popular yet. For Brazil and India, on the other hand, there are even Apple’s own filters in view of huge SMS spam problems.

How SMS filters work

The SMS filters work in such a way that short messages from unknown origins are passed on to the filter apps in the iPhone, which must be installed by the user beforehand. These apps can register with the system as “experts” for certain categories and match the messages with their databases. The app then reports back to iOS which category the SMS belongs to. In the Messages app, there are then corresponding folders where the messages can be found, divided into the headings Transactions, Promotions and Junk (spam).

First filters already since iOS 11

The interface called ILMessageFilterExtension was introduced back in 2017 with iOS 11. Three years later, with iOS 14, the three main categories were added. In the fall of 2022, with the finished version of iOS 16, various subcategories are to follow, including finances, reminders, orders, health, public services, weather and more. For iMessage messages, there have already been spam filters from Apple since iOS 8.3.

It is curious that Apple largely leaves the filtering of SMS to third-party apps globally. Only in Brazil and India there are filters from Apple directly in the system. In India, some of the new subcategories are to be made available with iOS 16. Brazil, on the other hand, will only keep the main categories. Apple implements its own filters using machine learning (ML).

How the data is protected

Strict safeguards apply to other developers’ filters so that they do not misuse the potentially sensitive data for other purposes. Thus, according to Apple’s developer documentation, the system handles all of the extension’s communications with predetermined servers. Ein direkter Netzwerkzugriff ist nicht vorgesehen. Außerdem können die Filter-Apps keine Daten speichern. Grundsätzlich bekommen die Filter ohnehin nur SMS und MMS-Nachrichten unbekannter Herkunft zu sehen. iMessage-Nachrichten oder Mitteilungen von Kontakten der Nutzer werden nicht gefiltert.


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