How to Search Your iPhone or iPad Using Spotlight Search

Stop wasting time searching for an app or song on your iPhone or iPad

Spotlight Search may be the most underused feature on the iPad or iPhone. Instead of hunting through page after page of apps, use the iPad's search feature to find things for you. Because the search results update with each letter you type, you may only have to tap a few buttons to bring the item to the top of the screen.

Spotlight Search is about more than just launching apps, however. It searches your entire iOS device including your movie collection, music, contacts, and email. It also searches outside your iPad to bring in results from the web and the App Store. If you're looking for an app that you deleted, the search results will include a link to its download page. Spotlight Search can also bring up information from Wikipedia and search results from Google.

Instructions in this article apply to devices running iOS 8 and later.

How to Open the Spotlight Search Screen

Open Spotlight Search by swiping left to right with your finger on the first page of the Home screen. If you run iOS 9 or earlier, swipe from the top down to open the search screen.

To open Spotlight Search, you usually must be on the Home screen and not in an app. Spotlight Search is available in Safari in iOS 8 and above.

iPad Spotlight Search

The Spotlight Search screen that you see has a search bar at the top. It may also have other contents until you use it for a search, such as Siri App Suggestions, Weather, Calendar events and many other options, all of which you can activate or deactivate in Settings > Siri & Search.

How to Use Spotlight Search 

Open the Spotlight Search screen and start typing the app's name in the search field. The app icon appears on the screen. Tap it directly from the results to open it.

When you Spotlight Search a TV show, the results display which episodes are available on Netflix, Hulu, or iTunes. You'll also find cast lists, games, websites, and other results related to the specific show you choose.

The feature can also save you time browsing your device's song library. Instead of opening the Music app and scrolling through a lengthy list for a particular item, open Spotlight Search and start typing in the name of the song or band. The search results quickly narrow, and tapping the name launches the song in the Music app.

You can also search nearby businesses like restaurants. For example, if you type "gas" in the search field, you'll get a list of nearby gas stations with distance and driving directions.

You can search for anything on your iPad including movies, contacts, and email messages. Spotlight Search can also search inside apps, so you might see results from a recipe app or a phrase saved in Notes or the Pages word processor.