While Spotlight is undoubtedly a feature you turn to regularly to find things and launch apps on your iPhone, Apple didn’t mention anything about the search tool during its iOS 17 preview at last month’s WWDC 2023 event. This may give you the impression that nothing is changing with the next software release.
This impression would be wrong. The changes to Spotlight aren’t as substantial as the new features introduced in, say, iOS 17 Messages, but you’ll find some features when you do Spotlight searches in iOS 17.
When you swipe down on any home screen in iOS 17 to launch Spotlight, you’ll find some changes that were advertised on Apple’s iOS 17 preview page and others that surfaced as people got a chance to use the iOS 17 beta. A public beta of iOS 17 is scheduled for this month, giving more people a chance to see what’s new in Spotlight and other iOS features.
Until then, here’s a walkthrough on what’s new in iOS 17 Spotlight and how these changes will shorten the time it takes to actually find what you’re looking for.
iOS 17 Spotlight: App Shortcuts
Currently type an app name into the Spotlight search field and the top of the screen will populate with Top Hit results, usually shortcuts to apps with a similar name to what you’re looking for.
iOS 17 expands the Top Hit results, adding shortcuts to the activities within the app you’re looking for. Let’s say you type in “Photos,” you’ll see a link to the Photos app, of course. But merging the app icon into the Top Hits section will give you Photos-related shortcuts that will let you jump to your favorite photos, your Recent album, and so on.
iOS 17 Spotlight: A new look for search results
iOS 17 offers a modest makeover to Spotlight search results, with rich visual cues to help you identify which app the result came from.
Searching for a term that might appear in one of your notes might yield a result adorned with the Notes app’s familiar yellow stripe; similarly, we have seen iOS 17 screenshots posted on Twitter where Spotlight search results that link to the App Store appear in a blue box that matches the color of the App Store icon.
iOS 17 Spotlight: Toggle some settings on/off
Getting settings results in Spotlight is nothing new. But that ability to control some of these settings in Spotlight itself is definitely a new feature in iOS 17.
Notably, commonly used settings like airplane mode and Wi-Fi will appear with a toggle next to them. You can use that toggle to toggle a feature on and off without having to launch the Settings app, a feature reminiscent of the Active Widgets feature also introduced in iOS 17.
iOS 17 Spotlight: Quick Actions
Here’s a nice trick we noticed on Twitter you can start typing a date in iOS 17 Spotlight and you’ll be given the option to create a calendar event directly from the search tool.
We’re told this has something to do with Spotlight being able to recognize data detectors not only dates, but also phone numbers and email addresses. Presumably that means you’d be able to take a quick action like creating a contact from within Spotlight.
Spotlight perspective for iOS 17
These changes to Spotlight aren’t revolutionary by any means, but they promise to take many steps further than the iPhone’s business. Having setting options displayed in search results can be a real time-saver, for example, and we also like the sound of being able to jump directly to an app’s functions and features using the shortcuts that will now appear in Top Hits.
We look forward to using the iOS 17 public beta and learning even more about Spotlight and what other changes the software update brings.
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