iOS 8 Preview: Spotlight gets even smarter with location and context awareness

iOS 8 Spotlight

Apple introduced Spotlight, its system wide search feature in iOS 3 in 2009 (when it was still called iPhone OS 3).

In iOS 7, Apple made it a lot easier to access Spotlight by allowing users to access it from every Home screen, rather than being able to access it only by swiping left on the first Home screen.

In iOS 8, Apple aims to enhance your search experience by making Spotlight a lot more intelligent. It is doing this by making it context and location aware, so if you search for a term like “Point Reyes”, you will get a snippet from Wikipedia, which you can tap on to take you directly to the article, instead of asking you to search on the Web or Wikipedia.

iOS 8 Spotlight - Wikipedia

It also know which topics are hot and trending, so when you search for “SF Giants” it will display the relevant search results such as MLB’s website.

iOS 8 Spotlight - Hot & trending

It will also make it quicker to find restaurant information, so when you type the name of the restaurant it will show you the one nearby along with the contact details and hours its open. Tapping on the search result will take you directly to the Maps app to get turn-by-turn directions to get there.

iOS 8 Spotlight - Restaurants

If you search for music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, app or game or a book, Spotlight will now show the results directly from the iTunes Store, App Store or the iBooks Store, which means you can search for things right from the Home screen.

iOS 8 Spotlight - App Store, iTunes  and iBookstore

When you search for a movie name, Spotlight will give you the showtimes of the nearby theatres.

iOS 8 Spotlight - Movie times

Apple has also added Spotlight suggestions in Safari, so you can see all these results in Safari as you’re typing in a search. The results appear alongside Top Hits and search suggestions.

iOS 8 Spotlight - Safari

From a UI perspective, nothing has changed much except for the blur effect when you swipe down to access the Spotlight feature.

iOS 8 Spotlight

One of the other major change under the hood is that Apple has ditched Google, and is using Bing in Spotlight, just the way Google was dropped for Bing in Siri.

The Spotlight suggestion feature in iOS 8 seems like a way to access some of the features available in Siri, Apple’s personal assistant feature via text input, which was on our iOS 8 wishlist for Siri. The changes are welcome, and should significantly improve the search experience on iOS devices. Making search context and location ware especially on mobile devices is certainly the future. It remains to be seen if it will get people to use Spotlight a lot more.

The new features and improvements will be available when iOS 8 is released next month. Check out our iOS 8 category page for everything you need to know about Apple’s next generation mobile operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Let us know what you think of the changes and improvements in iOS 8 Spotlight.