You look at your mailbox on your iPhone and iPad and find it empty. You know you’ve had messages! They are not in the Trash or Junk folders. Where they went? Focus on the lower left corner of the Mail app view, and you’ll see a blue circle with three lines, largest to smallest, top to bottom. This is the Filter button and you tapped it without realizing it.
Tap it again, the blue turns white and your email is back.
Apple added the filter feature years ago, but I keep hearing from readers and family members unknowingly encountering it. If you don’t decide to use it, you don’t know it’s there; if you accidentally touch it, you have no reference point to know what happened.
It’s a modestly flexible tool used intentionally if you have a crowded inbox. However, it can be more valuable to use with archived folders.
When you tap the icon, it changes from an open circle with blue lines to a blue circle with white lines. Then you can tap a menu to its right that reveals the criteria. You can’t edit these criteria to add your own filters—you’ll need to use Smart Folders on a Mac for that. But the filtering options can be useful—you can only view messages where you’re in the primary To: address, only those of people you’ve added to your VIP list or messages you’ve flagged. Some options can be combined, while others are exclusive.
Starting with iOS 16, you can associate the filter with a Focus mode. In Settings > Focusselect a Focus mode, then tap Add filter at the bottom under Focus Filters. Faucet Mail, then select the accounts you want to view messages from in Mail while Focus mode is on. Faucet Add when did you do. You can delete this filter by tapping and tapping it Delete filter.
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