How to Search Your iPhone Using Spotlight

Take advantage of unified search across your iOS device

What to Know

  • To access Spotlight, go to the Home screen and swipe down from the middle of the screen.
  • Type your search term > search. Select the result you want, or tap Search in App for more results in a specific app.
  • Results are sorted by the app holding the data. Spotlight also searches the web for results.

This article explains how to quickly find music, contacts, emails, text messages, videos, and more using a tool called Spotlight. Instructions apply to iPhone or iPad iOS 7 and up.

How to Access Spotlight on iPhone

Spotlight doesn't work if you're in an app, only from the Home screen.

To access Spotlight, go to the Home screen and swipe down from the middle of the screen. Don't swipe from the top of the screen; that gesture reveals Notification Center or, on iPhone X and newer, Control Center.

The Spotlight search bar appears at the top of the screen. Type what you're looking for to display the results on the screen.

Swipe down, Search field, google search on iOS

Spotlight Search Results

Search results in Spotlight are sorted by the app that stores the data. For example, if a search result is an email, it is listed under the Mail heading, while a search result for a song is listed under the Music app. When you find the result you want, tap the result be taken to it.

Spotlight also searches the web. If there are relevant results for your search, you'll also get suggestions of answers from Siri, the web, Wikipedia, and more. Go to the bottom of the list of search results to find one-tap shortcuts to search the web, the App Store, and Apple Maps.

Spotlight and Siri

Over the last few versions of iOS, Spotlight has ceded more and more territory to Siri. In iOS 7, for example, Spotlight has a Settings menu where you select which apps Searchlight examines.

In iOS 12, Spotlight is governed by Siri. To make an app invisible to Spotlight, disable it from the Siri & Suggestions settings in the app list. To access it, tap Settings > Siri & Search. At the bottom of the screen, each app lists its on/off configuration.

Siri & Search in Settings, Airbnb app, Show in Search toggle to OFF

Spotlight and Siri come as a pair. In iOS 12, you cannot make an app visible to Spotlight but invisible to Siri, and vice versa.

Where Else to Find Search Tools in the iOS

Other search tools operate from within specific apps. These include:

  • Mail App: Access a search bar from the top of the screen in each mailbox. Drag the mailbox window down to reveal it. This tool only searches emails in that inbox.
  • Music App: The tool remains hidden at the top of lists of songs and artists. Pull the screen down to reveal it and search your music library.
  • Messages App: On the screen that lists your Messages conversations, use the search bar at the top to search the text of conversations to find where your terms have been discussed.
  • Contacts & Phone Apps: Hidden at the top of the contacts list in iOS 3-6, always present in iOS 7 and up.
  • Notes App: Access the search bar from the top of the screen.
  • Safari: Search your preferred search engine by typing text in the address bar. You can also search for text on a webpage using Find on Page. Learn more in How to Search for Text in Safari With iPhone Find on Page.
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