I do not remember how many times I have helped someone with their Iphone – a neighbor, friend or family member – and how I showed them how to find something with Spotlight. When I explain how a simple swipe on the home screen allows them to search for something on their phone – an app, contact, content in Imessage or email – you can see how the token falls down.
After this lesson, they inevitably go back and poke around among their six pages of apps to try to find the Settings app or whatever it may be.
Spotlight is a criminally unused feature in Iphone and that will get better in iOS 15. If only Apple could solve its biggest problem: how to find it?
Just swipe down… no, not there!
Spotlight’s problem is that so few people even know of its existence. Oh, you probably use Spotlight every day. Macworld readers tend to be more informed about what their Apple gadgets are capable of. But even though there are over a billion Iphone users in the world, the greater proportion seem to live in ignorance when it comes to Spotlight and what the feature can do. There are two ways to access Spotlight – neither of which is obvious enough.
You can swipe down from anywhere on the home screen (including the lock screen with iOS 15). Every time I tell someone to do it, they always swipe from the top edge of the screen, opening the note center instead of the spotlight. Oops. “No, swipe down from the center,” I say, making them swipe down the middle of their notifications. “No! I mean on your home screen, swipe down the middle! ”. After that, there is a 50/50 chance that the person in question will come to the search page instead of opening the context menu for the icon or folder that is in the middle of their home screen. Sigh.
The second way to reach Spotlight is to swipe right until you see the widget screen. Frankly, even many Iphone users seem to be completely unaware of the existence of that screen. There is a search box at the top for Spotlight, but it is not at all obvious that it searches everything on your Iphone, including the web. If someone is aware that the search bar exists, they probably think it is just searching through what is on that particular screen and maybe their widgets. Which is not so strange, is it?
There is a similar search bar at the top of the App Library – which only searches the App Library. Yes, it is actually marked with the “App Library”, but most users do not seem to get past the superficial similarities that they notice the difference.
Spotlight gets even better
In iOS 15, Apple makes Spotlight searches even better.
Your search will return more results from your phone, including the contents of Images (search for “sign,” “car,” or even text in images!). The result from the App Store is also better. You can even install apps directly from Spotlight results. Search for things like actors, musicians or movies and you will get an informative result. You can find pictures on the internet, synonyms, Wikipedia results and probably a lot of other things that I myself have not yet found.
Honestly, if you are looking for content on your Iphone or just want to search the web, then a Spotlight search in iOS 15 may be the best place to start.
But despite all Apple’s improvements to a really good feature, they ignore the most crucial change that would really matter: make users aware that it exists.
Spotlight, at the front and in the center
Apple needs to make Spotlight more obvious. Google has long had a search bar on the home screen of Android phones, but then Google is a search company that makes money from ads.
This may be controversial, but I think it’s high time the menu bar at the bottom of the screen was replaced by something more useful. However, does it make sense on a Mac, where many things are visible at the same time, but on an Iphone? All apps run in full screen mode, so Dock is not visible unless you are on a home screen. And with widgets, the app library and all folders, isn’t it an outdated mindset that you only need to have four specific apps housed at the bottom of each home screen? On Mac or Ipad, it is always available (and has more functionality), but on Iphone, however, is just one more line of icons that you can only see when you are on the home screen.
I would use a Spotlight bar much more than the four app icons I might as well have placed elsewhere on the Home screen. I doubt Apple would go so far as to replace the Dock with a search box. But maybe a widget? Apple definitely needs to do something for everyday Iphone users to know that there is a magic search feature that finds things on their phone much faster instead of flipping through all the home screens. Not to mention how much relevant content from the internet it can find.
Translated and edited by Petter Ahrnstedt