With the upcoming release of iOS 15 for Apple mobile devices, Apple’s built-in search feature known as Spotlight will become a lot more functional. In what may be one of its major updates since introducing Siri Suggestions, the new version of Spotlight is becoming an alternative to Google for a number of important queries, including web images and information about actors, musicians, TV shows and movies. It will now be able to search your photo library as well, provide better results for contacts, and connect you more directly to apps and the information they contain. It even allows you to install apps from the App Store without leaving Spotlight.
Spotlight is also more accessible than ever.
Years ago, Spotlight moved from its location to the left side of the home screen, becoming available in iOS 7 with a downward swipe down the middle of any screen, helping to adapt to the user. Now, it is also available on the lock screen of iPhone with the same swipe down gesture.
Apple showed off some of Spotlight’s improvements during its keynote address at its Worldwide Developer Conference, including new cards with a search feature to look up information about actors, movies and shows, as well as musicians. This change alone could redirect a good portion of web searches away from dedicated apps like Google or IMDb.
For years, Google has been offering quick access to common searches through its Knowledge Graph, a knowledge base that allows it to aggregate information from all sources and then use it to add informational panels to the top and bottom of its standard search results. does for. Panels of actors, musicians, shows and films are available as part of that effort.
But now, iPhone users can drag this information to their home screen itself.
The new card includes more than the usual Wikipedia bio and background information you might expect – they also show links where you can listen to or watch the cast or actors or content of the movie or show. They include news articles, social media links, official websites, and even direct you to where searched individuals or topics can be found inside your own apps. (For example a search for “Billie Eilish” might take you to tickets to his tour inside SeatGeek, or the podcast where he’s a guest).
As for web image searches, Spotlight now allows you to search for people, places, animals, and more from the web — eating into another search Google offers today.
Your personal searches have also been upgraded to iOS 15 with better results.
When you search for a contact, you’ll be taken to a card that does more than just show their name and how to reach them. You’ll also see their current status (thanks to another iOS 15 feature), as well as their location from FindMy, your recent conversations on Messages, your shared photos, calendar appointments, emails, notes, and files. It is almost like a personal CRM system.
Personal photo searches have also been improved. Spotlight now uses Siri intelligence to search your photos by people, scenes, elements of your photos, as well as location. And it’s able to take advantage of the new Live Text feature in iOS 15 to search for text in your photos to return relevant results.
Apple said it could make it easier to snap photos where you’ve taken a screenshot of a recipe, a store receipt, or even a handwritten note.
Some features related to integration with Spotlight’s apps were not mentioned in the keynote.
Spotlight will now display action buttons on Map results for businesses that prompt users to engage with that business’s app. In this case, the feature is taking advantage of App Clips, which are small chunks of a developer’s app that let you quickly perform a task without even having to download or install the app. For example, Spotlight may ask you to open a restaurant’s menu, buy tickets, make an appointment, place an order, join a waiting list, view showtimes, pay for parking, check prices, and more.
The business will need to support App Clips for this feature to work.
Another under-the-radar change — but an important one — is the new ability to install apps from the App Store directly from Spotlight.
This may indicate more app installs, as it reduces the steps from search to download, and makes the App Store more widely available across operating systems.
Developers can additionally choose to insert a few lines of code into their apps to make the app’s data searchable within Spotlight and customize how it is presented to users. That means Spotlight can serve as a tool for finding content from inside apps — another way Apple is redirecting users away from traditional web searches in favor of apps.
However, unlike Google’s search engine, which relies on crawlers to browse the web to index the data it contains, Spotlight’s in-app search requires developer adoption.
Still, it’s clear that Apple sees Spotlight as a potential rival to web search engines, including Google.
“Spotlight is the universal place to start All Your discovery,” said Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi during the keynote event.
Of course, Spotlight can’t handle “all” of your searches just yet, but it seems to be working steadily toward that goal.