Spam No More?

Apple is finally testing more robust SMS spam filters for iOS

Spam texts, like cockroaches, seem impossible to kill. Can Apple stomp them out?

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2016/05/05: Spam canned meat stacked vertically in store shelf. Spam is a...
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Despite cell carriers’ best efforts, spam messages are still flooding our phones on a daily basis. Apple might just be coming to the rescue. The iPhone maker is testing out a new developer feature that allows makers of spam filter apps to sort incoming messages into more nuanced categories.

Apple mentioned the new filters in passing during this year’s WWDC, and now we’re getting a first look at how the sub-categories will work in practice. The latest developer beta of iOS 16 that just rolled out in India includes the necessary tools for devs to use the feature, TechCrunch reports. It’s unclear when the feature will be made available worldwide.

Time for some nuance — Spam calls and messages have been on the rise over the last few years with no end in sight. Both cell carriers and other software companies have been working overtime to create apps that make these messages less overwhelming, but their best efforts haven’t been enough.

Now — at least on iOS devices — Apple will allow developers to filter messages into more specific categories of spam. The existing Transactions and Promotions categories will include the following new sub-categories:


  • Offers
  • Coupons
  • Others


  • Finance
  • Reminders
  • Orders
  • Health
  • Public Services
  • Weather
  • Carrier
  • Rewards
  • Others

The iPhone’s ability to categorize incoming messages makes it significantly easier for third-party developers to make their spam-blockers effective. We can only hope Apple opens up the new sub-categories — and, perhaps, adds more of them — to developers around the world.

Report more junk — While, yes, most of these spam categories are only rolling out in India right now, there’s a good reason for that: It’s one of only two countries where Apple’s proprietary SMS filter is available. India is the perfect testing ground for the new filters.

American iPhone users will have access to other spam tools, at the very least. U.S.-based iPhones will have access to a new “Report Junk” option when iOS 16 is released in the fall. The new button will show up in the Unknown Senders category in the Messages app. As TechCrunch notes, Apple says only some carriers will have access to the feature, though it’s unclear which companies will be excluded from implementing the button.

The state of spam — Robocalls and spam texts are illegal, so malicious parties are only getting craftier. The FCC says it’s taking action by proposing policy initiatives and pursuing “strong enforcement actions,” but the fruits of those labors are taking a very long time to materialize.

Apple releases spam filter updates quite infrequently, given how far-reaching the problem is. Too busy working on features that drive us further into debt or something.