Spotlight in iOS deserves an overhaul

One of the most overlooked features in iOS is the Spotlight search. Since it was introduced in iOS3, spotlight has had the functionality of system-wide search, making the finding of contacts, music, messages and the like much easier. However, the spotlight search is limited to a search bar at the top of the screen, and nothing more. But what if you could do much more with the feature?

Spotlight really deserves an overhaul, and that’s just what Cody Sanfilippo has done with his concept for a new spotlight.

Sanfilippo proposes a drastic redesign to the current spotlight, which really does make it much more functional, and could also boost its popularity.

One of the core functions of this updated spotlight is filtering. Often when using the spotlight search, many irrelevant results will pop up, which can be annoying if you’re looking for a specific thing and time short.

In the concept, the option for filtering is displayed down the bottom of the screen. Miniature versions of app icons are shown, and tapping them will filter results to a particular app.

The concept goes further than just sorting results, by completely altering how they are shown. For example, searching for a reminder when filtering just that app will bring up a specialised sheet, which looks similar to how Siri displays things. It will not take up a lot of room on the screen, and will also make the experience look a lot less dull, which it currently suffers from.

Sanfilippo brings up a good reason for extending the functionality of the spotlight. Although Siri has been a great new addition to the iPhone for close to a year now, its functionality is limited in certain situations. When you can’t talk, or the background noise is too great, there is no other option that can completely substitute for Siri, that doesn’t require you to open an app.

The idea with this concept is to open up the functionality of spotlight to extend to nearby locations and the like. By searching ‘pizza’ in spotlight with the Maps app selected as filter, nearest pizza restaurant will be displayed. This will not only reduce the effort in searching for certain things, but also present the information in a much more easy-to-digest manner.

The spotlight search does have the potential to be much more powerful, but how likely are Apple to embrace something similar to this? Very unlikely, in fact. Sanfilippo puts it best in his roundup of the concept, by saying;

The biggest reason would be that Spotlight is meant to be as simple as possible. Filters, while powerful and very useful, isn’t Apple. Call it a flawless, well-kept system or call it thinking we are users are stupid, but Apple wants us to have the simplest experience with their products.

This is a prime case where Apple’s focus on pure simplicity does get in the way of a more powerful operating system. If we were talking about Android, we would say that functionality like this would be extremely likely. But we do know the way Apple operates, and they try and keep the OS as familiar as possible, as well as simplistic to navigate.

Apple’s focus on simplicity gets in the way of a more powerful OS

There is plenty of potential with this feature, and I never gave it much thought until is stumbled upon the concept, but it does bring up some good talking points.

It seems that we will be stuck with the same spotlight search for the forseeable future, but it’s encouraging to see great concepts for iOS.

For more on the idea of an improved spotlight search, plus full details on Cody Sanfilippo’s concept, head to his website.

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