How to search within third-party apps using Spotlight on iOS 9

iOS 9 Safari App Search

One of the biggest new features found in iOS 9 is the adoption of universal search. Universal search is a new feature that allows you to search for content within apps directly from Spotlight search.

On previous versions of iOS, searching was limited to the web and first party Apple apps pre-installed on iOS. For example, with older version of iOS you could search for contents within the Notes app, but couldn’t do so for third-party note apps.

With iOS 9’s new Spotlight search abilities, you can now search and discover content buried deep within the apps on your iPhone. It makes Spotlight feel truly useful and brand new.

As you can see, being able to search for content within third-party apps is a huge upgrade to Spotlight.  It makes it a powerful tool that doesn’t feel nearly as limited as it did in previous iOS iterations.

iOS 9 Safari App Universal Search

The good news is that once an app is updated to support searching from Spotlight, it just works. There’s nothing that you need to do as a user to enable it.

iOS 9 Safari App Universal Search 2

Search results from apps will look just like any other search result in Spotlight. In the upper left-hand corner of the result, you’ll see the name of the app that’s presenting the result. You’ll also see a brief description of the search result, which can include images, glyphs, text, etc.

Tapping on a Spotlight search result generated from an app takes you directly to the app in question. There’s no funky routing through Safari going on, as you get a truly deep and direct link to the content inside of the app.

Spotlight has always felt a little anemic and incompetent on iOS when compared to Spotlight on the Mac, but with the addition of third-party app searching, along with tons of other new features that we’ll talk about later, it’s shaping up to be one of the most underrated new additions found in iOS 9.