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.
This guide highlights everything new with Spotlight in the iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 updates.
Search on home screen
Accessing the Spotlight search is usually done by swiping down from the home screen to open the search interface, but Apple decided to add another “Search” button in iOS 16.
You can now find a “Search” option available at the bottom of the Home screen, which can be tapped to open the Spotlight search interface. The Search button replaces the dots that were there before letting you know how many app pages you have available.
The button is just above the dock, but there is an option to disable it in the “Home screen” section of the Settings app.
Search for app images
Spotlight can find locations, people, scenes, text, pets, objects, and more in Messages, Notes, and Files images, in addition to the Photos app in iOS 16.
Apple has updated Spotlight to support Quick Actions, which are functions that can be done directly from the search interface.
Some of the options:
- Start a timer
- Activate a focus
- Shazam a song
- Run a shortcut
Spotlight can also help you find the shortcuts available for each app.
Improvements in Siri Suggestions
Apple has updated Siri Suggestions to take context into account when listing apps you may want to use. This makes the suggested apps and actions in Spotlight more relevant to what you might be doing right now.
Siri Suggestions can do things like suggest directions when you have a meeting, or offer a flight status check when you have a flight. It might also suggest calling someone on their birthday, showing you your favorite apps you use at certain times of the day, or showing you your recent searches so you can get back to previous results faster.
When Apple launches Live Activities in the future, Spotlight can be used to launch a Live Activity that will be displayed on the lock screen. Live Activities are interactive notifications that stay up-to-date so you can follow what’s happening from the lock screen in real time.
For example, if you’re following a sports game, you can see the updated score on the lock screen, or if you’re waiting for an Uber ride, you can see if your driver is approaching.
Live Activities will not be available when iOS 16 launches, but will come in a future update.
Comprehensive comprehensive results
Apple is improving rich search results that show information such as actor details when you search for an actor’s name. The feature now shows additional information for companies, sports leagues and sports teams.
Improvements to app clips
App Clips are modified versions of apps that allow you to use limited app functionality without doing a full installation. Spotlight integrates with App Clips and provides App Clip suggestions when you are in a relevant location.
In iOS 16, Apple uses Accurate Location Suggestions to improve App Clip Suggestions in Spotlight, but location-based suggestions can be turned off in the Privacy section of the Settings app as always.
Have questions about the Spotlight search feature in iOS 16, know of a feature we left out, or want to provide feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.