iOS 17 Spotlight — here's the new features coming to your iPhone

iOS 16 spotlight will be quite different once ios 17 arrives with new spotlight features
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Though Spotlight is doubtlessly a feature you turn to regularly to find things and launch apps on your iPhone, Apple didn't mention anything about the search tool during its iOS 17 preview at last month's WWDC 2023 event. That might give you the impression that nothing's changing with the upcoming software release.

That impression would be mistaken. The changes to Spotlight aren't as substantive as the new features being introduce to, say, iOS 17 Messages, but you will find some capabilities when you run Spotlight searches in iOS 17. 

When you swipe down on any home screen in iOS 17 to launch Spotlight, you'll find some changes that were touted on Apple's iOS 17 preview page and others that have emerged as people get the chance to use the iOS 17 beta. An iOS 17 public beta is due out this month, giving more people the chance to see what's new in Spotlight — and other iOS features.

Until then, here's a guide on what's new with iOs 17 Spotlight and how these changes are going to shorten the time it takes to really find what you're looking for.

iOS 17 Spotlight: App shortcuts

ios 17 spotlight shortcuts in top hits

(Image credit: Apple)

Type an app's name into the Spotlight search field currently, and the top of your screen will be populated with Top Hit results — usually links to apps with a name similar to one you're searching for.

iOS 17 expands upon those Top Hit results, adding shortcuts to activities within the app you're searching for. Say you type "Photos" — you'll see a link to the Photos app, of course. But joining that app icon in the Top Hit section will be shortcuts related to Photos that let you jump to favorite photos, your Recents album and so forth.

iOS 17 Spotlight: A new look for search results

iOS 17 gives a modest makeover to Spotlight search results, with rich visual cues to help you identify which app the result is coming from.

Searching for a term that might appear in one of your notes might produce a result that's adorned with the familiar yellow strip of the Notes app; similarly, we've seen iOS 17 screenshots posted to Twitter where Spotlight search results linking to the App Store appear in a blue-colored box matching the App Store icon's color.

iOS 17 Spotlight: Toggles for some settings

Getting Settings results in Spotlight is nothing new. But that ability to control some of those settings in Spotlight itself is definitely a new feature of iOS 17.

Specifically, commonly used settings like Airplane Mode and Wi-Fi will appear with a toggle next to them. You can use that toggle to turn a feature on and off without having to launch the Settings app — a capability reminiscent of the Active Widgets feature also introduced in iOS 17.

iOS 17 Spotlight: Quick actions

Here's a neat trick we spotted on Twitter — you can start typing a date in iOS 17 Spotlight, and you'll be given the option to create a calendar event directly from the search tool. 

We're told this has something to do with Spotlight being able to recognize data detectors — not just dates, but phone numbers and email addresses as well. Presumably that means you'd be able to take a quick action like creating a contact from within Spotlight.

iOS 17 Spotlight outlook

These Spotlight changes are hardly revolutionary, but they do promise to take a lot of extra steps out of iPhone tasks. Having Setting toggles appear in search results can be a real time-saver, for example, and we also like the sound of being able to jump directly into an apps's functions and features using the shortcuts that will now appear in Top Hits.

We look forward to using the iOS 17 public beta and finding out even more about Spotlight as well as what other changes the software update brings.

More from Tom's Guide

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.