How to Use Spotlight in iOS 16



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As part of its annual iOS update, Apple has made a few upgrades to Spotlight. Here’s how to take advantage of iOS 16’s changes to the search tool.

Every year, Apple’s long list of updates for iOS includes a bunch of Spotlight changes. For 2022, there are even more changes to the tool, which can help you get the information or access an app at a fast pace.

As usual, it can provide suggested apps to use, modes, and suggested shortcuts based on your usage. This will improve as you use your iPhone and become more accurate over time.

It’s also a powerful search tool if you need to answer a query, quickly call a contact, or open a seldom-used app without searching for it.

At first glance, it’s pretty close to the iOS 15 release, but with a few immediate differences.

The Spotlight screen has moved its search field to just above the keyboard, with the search field also moving down the screen when viewing results in full screen mode. This naturally brings everything else onto the default view and into the search results a little on the screen.

Many incoming changes are results-based or behind-the-scenes to better integrate with other features. Here’s everything you need to know to start using Spotlight in iOS 16.

Go to Spotlight

The first thing is to learn how to display it on your screen. Previously, you could summon Spotlight by swiping down from the center of the screen, but now a second option is available.

The small row of dots indicating which home screen page you are on now displays a button labeled “Search” when not actively displaying the row of dots. You can tap on it to bring up the same Spotlight screen.

Tap the Search button to access Spotlight, or swipe down from the center of the screen.

Once in Spotlight, you can tap on a suggestion, or if it’s something else, tap on the search box, then start typing your search, then tap on the Search button.

As usual, a results screen will appear, providing listings of the Siri Knowledge Base, contacts, apps, communications using the term, related web searches, and options to search in other apps.

Manage apps

Rather than going directly to your phone or the App Store, you can search for an app through Spotlight. The result will appear in the Top Hit section and will also tell you if the app is installed and accessible, previously installed but can be downloaded, or not installed on the device at all.

A previously installed app (left) can be reinstalled from Spotlight.  You can also install new apps without using the App Store (middle) and remove them (right).

A previously installed app (left) can be reinstalled from Spotlight. You can also install new apps without using the App Store (middle) and remove them (right).

Tap an installed app’s listing to open the app. Tapping on a previously installed but deleted app will set it to download and install again before opening.

How to Install Apps Using Spotlight in iOS 16

  • Launch Projector.
  • Search the application.
  • Under App Store, see the app icon and tap the Obtain side button.
  • To confirm installation, and the app will be downloaded and added to your device.

You can also use Spotlight to uninstall installed apps.

How to Uninstall Apps Using Spotlight in iOS 16

  • Launch Projector.
  • Search the application.
  • Press and hold application icon, until a pop-up window appears.
  • Select Delete appthen Wipe off to confirm.

The context of the results

When using Spotlight, you have to consider that it gets data from many different sources on your iPhone to try to give you the best possible result.

For example, searching for a contact can generate contact lists for that person, as well as communications with or about them in Messages and Mail, related documents, and calendar entries about them.

A previously installed app (left) can be reinstalled from Spotlight.  You can also install new apps without using the App Store (middle) and remove them (right).

A previously installed app (left) can be reinstalled from Spotlight. You can also install new apps without using the App Store (middle) and remove them (right).

Searching for famous names may also bring up web images relating to the term, details about Siri Knowledge, suggested websites, and Apple Music and Book Store listings they may be linked to.

You can fine tune what is displayed by adjusting the options in the settings. This could limit what appears in searches, for example by preventing data from specific apps from appearing in results.

How to Refine Spotlight Search Sources in iOS 16

  • Open Settings.
  • Open Siri and search.
  • Scroll to Suggestions from Apple. You can toggle these options if needed.
  • Scroll down to see a app list.
  • Select the application you want to manage, such as contacts, to view more options.

These options have changed slightly since iOS 15, reorganized with new groupings that make it easier to understand in many cases. For contacts, the top “Learn from this app” list lets Siri learn how you use contacts so it can offer better suggestions in Spotlight and elsewhere.

You can find out which apps Spotlight can use in its results from the settings.

You can find out which apps Spotlight can use in its results from the settings.

The When Searched section will indicate whether the app itself or its content appears in the results.

You can toggle other things, such as Suggest an app, allowing or preventing Siri from suggesting the app in its rows of apps it thinks you want to use.

What’s new?

In iOS 16, Apple outlined several changes that should make Spotlight even more useful. However, not all of these features are accessible in beta versions, so they will be usable when iOS 16 is released or soon after.

For starters, it uses its on-device processing to use the information that appears in the images. It can analyze messages, notes and files to find places, people, scenes, text or objects in pictures, which it can present in the results.

However, you will need an iPhone using an A12 Bionic chip or later for this feature to be available.

You can also use Spotlight to perform a quick action. You can search for an app’s name to see associated shortcuts, create custom ones using shortcuts to access it in Spotlight, or perform system actions like start a timer or change focus.

Results will also be more useful contextually, with Siri now taking previous searches into account. This also goes for other things Siri thinks you’ll be doing soon, like providing navigation app suggestions if you’re on your way to an appointment you’ve set in Calendar.

Sports fans will benefit from Start Live Activities, a feature that will provide updates on an event, such as a game or a match between teams. The option will appear when you search for teams, but only for a limited number of sports and countries.

NBA and English Premier League live action will be available in the United States and Canada, with MLB live action also available in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and United Kingdom.

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