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Search on iPhone: How to Use Spotlight

Spotlight is the all-encompassing search tool on your iPhone. To search on iPhone, you will definitely need to access the Spotlight search feature. New users often wonder how they can get to the Spotlight search panel, as it is hidden from sight when not in use.

This is a tutorial on how to access the Spotlight search on your iPhone and how to make the most of it. We will also explain how Spotlight’s inner workings are conceived, so that you get a better idea of what an iPhone search can accomplish for you. It is rather versatile and far more capable than, say, just a search field on the web. Spotlight is tied into most of your most-used apps and has a couple of surprises up its sleeve.

How are Spotlight search results composed?

It doesn’t just search what is on your iPhone, such as contacts, apps, email, calendar entries, reminders and media or messages, but also presents search results from the web that are tied to Apple Maps and other cool apps and websites. You can, for instance, enter a topic you want to conduct some research on. Your iPhone will then present you with a fitting Wikipedia article, making the extra step of opening up a browser and entering a Google search query superfluous.

How to search on iPhone using Spotlight

First of all, we will have to open up the Spotlight search interface. This is accomplished by one way only: Go to your Home Screen (press the Home Button if you’re currently within an app, or unlock your iPhone if locked) where all of your app icons reside. Now pick any spot on your wallpaper, we like to place our finger somewhere on a gap between several app icons, but in effect you can probably use any spot, and finally pull or swipe downwards. This motion should open up a Spotlight search interface that looks akin to this:

Note how the search results are separated into a Google search and a suggested website for your query. This is a pure web search that has been initiated because your iPhone couldn’t find anything related to an iPad mini on the device.

There is no need to fully enter a search query, as most of the time the first few letters (see the below example, “motorh” returns “Motörhead”) will already find your desired result. Another hint: You don’t need to be careful with your capitalization, as the queries themselves are not case-sensitive. Thus is doesn’t matter if you write “iPad” or “ipad” or even “IPAD”. Protip: Save yourself the time and effort and simply use small case letters.

Here are a few examples that demonstrate how Spotlight can even find tracks on Apple Music that you added to your library, pull up wikipedia articles and web results or present downloads from the App Store:

How to customize Spotlight search on your iPhone

Settings > General > Spotlight Search

The great thing about your Spotlight search results: You can customize the order of the results or disable certain types of results you don’t need. Open up your “Settings” app and go to “General”, then “Spotlight Search”. In this list you can tap and drag to reorder the items in your list, each representing a type of search result. Remove the tick from any items you do not wish to see in your Spotlight search results.

By prioritizing e.g. your Contacts in the Spotlight search results, you will always see them pop up first at the very top of the list. A better overview and speedier usage will be the result of tailoring your search result options for Spotlight.

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