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How to Prevent Spotlight From Phoning Home to Apple

Did you know that the new Spotlight search on iOS 9 has to phone home to return search suggestions for the web? You might not want that for reasons of privacy or mobile data volume conservation. Per default, iOS is phoning home to Apple for every search you conduct through Spotlight. But by adjusting the settings, we can prevent Spotlight from “phoning home” to Apple.

Prerequisites: You will require iOS 9.0 or newer on your iPhone to follow along with this guide. Older versions of iOS work differently and don’t offer the same fine-grained control as well as the same grade of online search suggestions.

Spotlight likes to phone home

When you drag down on your Home Screen to enter a search term, or move all the way to the left and do the same, Spotlight contacts Apple’s servers to retrieve search suggestions for all kinds of things. This feature is extremely handy for conducting a quick search, calculating simple math or searching within apps. To provide you with online information during a search, your query has to be transmitted to Apple and Microsoft. The latter provides you with the Bing search engine’s results.

Hint: Check out this guide on Spotlight usage in iOS 9 for beginners. Or see this one for calculations and currency/unit conversion with Spotlight.

Preventing Spotlight from contacting Apple’s and Microsoft’s servers

Settings > General > Spotlight Search

Keeping your Spotlight search queries and search history to yourself is a simple matter of changing a few settings.

To improve your Spotlight search privacy, open up the “Settings” app on your iPhone. Then go to “General” and finally select “Spotlight Search”. This page governs the options for Proactive Assistant and allows you to customize search results. Enabling or disabling a toggle on this page will determine which kinds of services and apps are a part of your results. The list is sorted alphabetically and does not allow changing the order of results.

To improve your privacy, disable the entries for “Spotlight Search” and “Bing”.

Your iPhone should now refrain from sending every search query to the external servers of Apple and Microsoft. Note that this disables most web-related search results. Searching within apps should still work as intended, as well as calculation or searching for apps.

Hint: To further customize your Spotlight search experience, check out our detailed guide on how to exclude apps and services from your results.