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The iPhone and iPad have a built-in intelligent search feature called Spotlight, which is designed to search through apps, files, and the web to help you find what you're looking for. Apple improves Spotlight Search with every iteration of iOS, and iOS 16 is no exception.

iOS-Search-Guide-Feature.jpg

This guide highlights everything that's new with Spotlight in iOS 16, available now, and iPadOS 16, coming in October.

Home Screen Search

Accessing the Spotlight Search feature is typically done by swiping down from the Home Screen to bring up the search interface, but Apple in iOS 16 decided to add another "Search" button.

ios-16-search-button-home-screen.jpg

You can now find a "Search" option available at the bottom of the Home Screen, which can be tapped to enter the Spotlight Search interface. The Search button replaces the dots that were previously there to let you know how many app pages you have available.

The button is located just above the dock, but there is an option to disable it in the Home Screen section of the Settings app.

App Image Search

Spotlight can find locations, people, scenes, text, pets, objects, and more in images from Messages, Notes, and Files, in addition to the Photos app in iOS 16.

photos-search-spotlight.jpg

Quick Actions

Apple updated Spotlight to support Quick Actions, which are functions that can be done right from the search interface.

spotlight-ios-16-timer.jpg

Some of the options:
  • Start a timer
  • Activate a Focus
  • Shazam a song
  • Run a Shortcut
Spotlight can also help you find the Shortcuts that are available for any app.

Siri Suggestion Improvements

Apple has updated Siri Suggestions to consider the context when offering up apps that you might want to use. This makes the suggested apps and actions in Spotlight more relevant to what you might be doing at the current time.

ios-16-siri-suggestions.jpg

Siri Suggestions can do things like suggesting directions when you have a meeting coming up, or offer a flight status check when you have a flight. It can also suggest that you call someone having a birthday, show your favorite apps you use at certain times of the day, or bring up your recent searches so you can get back to prior results more quickly.

Live Activities

When Apple launches Live Activities in the future, Spotlight will be able to be used to start a Live Activity that will show up on the Lock Screen. Live Activities are interactive notifications that stay up to date, allowing you to keep an eye on things happening in real-time right from the Lock Screen.

ios-16-live-activities-uber.jpg

If you're following a sports game, for example, you can see the updated score on the Lock Screen, or if you're waiting for an Uber ride, you can watch for your driver to approach.

Live Activities will not be available when iOS 16 launches, but will be coming in a future update.

Expanded Rich Results

Apple is improving the rich search results that show information like data on an actor when you search for an actor's name. The feature will now show additional information for businesses, sports leagues, and sports teams.

spotlight-rich-results-ios-16.jpg

App Clip Improvements

App Clips are modified versions of apps that let you use limited app functionality without having to do a full install. Spotlight integrates with App Clips, offering up App Clip suggestions when you're in a relevant location.

In iOS 16, Apple uses precise location suggestions to improve App Clip suggestions in Spotlight, but Location-Based Suggestions can be disabled as always in the Privacy section of the Settings app.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about the Spotlight Search feature in iOS 16, know of a feature we left out, or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Article Link: Everything New With Spotlight Search in iOS 16
 
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Deadman64

macrumors 6502a
Jun 2, 2008
649
157
Something hilarious with my current version of spotlight search is it can’t even find Apple’s native map app. I recently wanted to give it a try after an update and didn’t know what junk folder I threw it in. Pulled down spotlight search and typed ‘Maps’ - all that comes up is Google Maps 🤣
 

nwcs

macrumors 68030
Sep 21, 2009
2,563
4,524
Tennessee
I remember the intro stuff about App clips but I haven’t actually had a need for them. Does anyone use them?
 

amartinez1660

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2014
1,362
1,295
Minor comment to say that myself appreciate a lot these quick rundowns of incoming features. Sometimes discovery is either not there easily visible, undocumented or just plain too lazy to dig it and learn it.

I live by the search bar. Quick swipe down and I find my apps. Not a big fan of the search bar at the bottom.

I wish they made it easier to get to Spotlight when you're not on the home screen.
Potential useful tip, as I also live by swipe down and quick search EVERYTHING (also on iPad, but there it’s easier thanks to cmd space like on Mac when a keyboard is attached):

On accessibility settings you can put double tap on the back of your phone to trigger some actions, including Spotlight, allowing it to launch it even while out of the homescreen. I use it everyday now, I have never seen it autotrigger after months of use either.

Suppose you want to add a quick value at some bank bills payment app: double tap, type a basic math operation, swipe it out, continue, recall it at any time again (in case you forgot part of the number or need a new one) by physically double tapping with your finger on the back of your phone.
 

MrRom92

macrumors 6502
Sep 30, 2021
424
848
I’m finding in the iOS 16 betas that spotlight search is WAY too easy to accidentally invoke and it’s actually kinda frustrating. Must have happened dozens of times already. I don’t know if I’d consider this a bug so much as bad design so I haven’t reported it in the feedback assistant, but it is annoying.
 

Sandbag1

macrumors newbie
May 29, 2010
23
7
Something hilarious with my current version of spotlight search is it can’t even find Apple’s native map app. I recently wanted to give it a try after an update and didn’t know what junk folder I threw it in. Pulled down spotlight search and typed ‘Maps’ - all that comes up is Google Maps 🤣
What IOS are you using? Works fine with IOS 15.6.1
 
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PhillyGuy72

macrumors 68030
Sep 13, 2014
2,824
3,812
Philadelphia, PA USA

ghostface147

macrumors 68040
May 28, 2008
3,917
4,556
Minor comment to say that myself appreciate a lot these quick rundowns of incoming features. Sometimes discovery is either not there easily visible, undocumented or just plain too lazy to dig it and learn it.




Potential useful tip, as I also live by swipe down and quick search EVERYTHING (also on iPad, but there it’s easier thanks to cmd space like on Mac when a keyboard is attached):

On accessibility settings you can put double tap on the back of your phone to trigger some actions, including Spotlight, allowing it to launch it even while out of the homescreen. I use it everyday now, I have never seen it autotrigger after months of use either.

Suppose you want to add a quick value at some bank bills payment app: double tap, type a basic math operation, swipe it out, continue, recall it at any time again (in case you forgot part of the number or need a new one) by physically double tapping with your finger on the back of your phone

I’ve never found the tap features on the back of the phone reliable enough to keep on.
 
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Reactions: tommy7gunn

Artemis70

macrumors regular
Feb 1, 2013
205
199
Something hilarious with my current version of spotlight search is it can’t even find Apple’s native map app. I recently wanted to give it a try after an update and didn’t know what junk folder I threw it in. Pulled down spotlight search and typed ‘Maps’ - all that comes up is Google Maps 🤣
Are you sure you didn't remove the Apple Maps app? What does the App Store say when you search for Maps?
 
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