Phone with question mark

Your iPhone is pretty easy to navigate, but if you haven’t used Spotlight search to get around even faster, then you’re missing out on an important feature.

Let’s look at what searching with Spotlight can do on your iPhone (or iPad), and why every iPhone user should be familiar with it.

You can open the search panel on your iPhone, which is sometimes called Spotlight, by swiping down from the center of the screen while on your iPhone’s Home screen. Don’t swipe down from the top, which will open Control Center or Notification Center.

You’ll see a search bar appear, along with some quick links to use right away under the Siri Suggestions box. There may also be some shortcuts for particular apps underneath this.

The Siri Suggestions section shows apps that your iPhone thinks you might want to use. It learns this naturally over time based on your habits. For example, if you always open the Podcasts app on your commute home, you’ll see the app in your suggestions when you open Spotlight in the early evening. Tap the arrow on the right side to switch between showing four and eight apps.

If you have a lot of pages of apps on your iPhone and fall into similar daily habits, this function can save you a lot of time. Even better are the shortcuts that appear underneath Siri Suggestions, which jump to specific parts of apps. For instance, you might see a shortcut to open a specific list in your Notes app, or start a particular playlist in Spotify.

What Can I Search for on My iPhone?

Now that you know how the suggestions and shortcuts work, it’s time to look at the actual search feature. Start typing anything into the search bar, and Spotlight will immediately show results for what you enter.

Spotlight searches both your iPhone and the internet at the same time, making it much more useful than having to search inside individual apps. Some types of results you find in Search include:

  • Apps on your iPhone
  • Apps available in the App Store
  • Entries inside Settings
  • Contacts on your phone
  • Nearby places in Maps
  • Matching content in apps like Messages, Mail, Reminders, and Podcasts
  • Your photos that contain the text you searched for
  • Stories in the News app
  • Suggested web searches in Safari
  • Siri Knowledge panels for matching Wikipedia entries, dictionary definitions, movies, and similar

The results that appear will depend on your search; you might not see every type of result for every term. It’s worth exploring some different searches to see what comes up.

If you’re not satisfied with any results, scroll to the bottom and you’ll see links to search inside apps like the App Store and Maps.

Try Quick Spotlight Calculations

If you’re in a hurry, you can get quick information from Spotlight without even running a search. Certain types of entries will show immediate results, which are quite handy.

For instance, try typing a calculation like 17 * 9 into Spotlight, and you’ll see an instant answer. This also works with converting currency and various units of measure.

Enter your favorite sports team, and the search box will show the latest game’s score. You can also enter a stock symbol to check its price, or “weather in [location]” to see current conditions anywhere.

Adjust How Spotlight Behaves

If you don’t like some of what’s included in Spotlight, you can hide it using the Settings menu.

Head to Settings > Siri & Search and under Content from Apple, disable Show in Spotlight if you don’t want online content (like matches from Wikipedia) to appear in your search results. With it disabled, almost everything in the results will be from your phone locally.

If you don’t want to see the Siri Suggestions and shortcut sections, disable Show in App Library & Spotlight under Suggestions From Apple. This will make Spotlight a search-only page.

Finally, at the bottom of the page, a list of all your apps appears. For each one, you can tweak the following sliders:

  • Learn from this app: Disable this to prevent your phone from learning how you use the app, which makes suggestions less useful.
  • Show App in search: Turn this off and a link to the app won’t appear as a result when you search.
  • Show Content in Search: Disable this to prevent an app’s contents (like your messages or playlists) from showing up in a search.
  • Show on Home Screen: Turn this off to hide shortcuts for the app, like jumping to a commonly opened note.
  • Suggest App: If you don’t want the app to appear in Siri Suggestions, turn this off.

There aren’t a ton of options for Spotlight, but you can at least hide anything you don’t use to reduce clutter.

Search Everything on Your iPhone

Next time you want to find something in an app, an option in Settings, reach out to a contact, or find someplace nearby in Maps, don’t worry about firing up the appropriate app. Instead, just drag down from the top of your phone’s screen and run a quick search. Results are immediate, and everything is in one convenient place.

While some features make your iPhone convenient, others make it more secure. Take a look at the most important iPhone security practices you must know.

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