iOS: Understanding Spotlight Search

You can use Spotlight to search for content on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. To access Spotlight, swipe down on your home screen to reveal the search field.

Spotlight searches certain text fields in the content of your device for text beginning with your search phrase. It is not case-sensitive, so you can search using uppercase or lowercase letters and get the same results.

Words without a space between them will be counted as separate words if each word starts with an uppercase letter. For example, searching for "car" would also include words like "AppleCare" but would not include "racecar".

Mail search

From the Home screen, Spotlight searches the sender, recipient, and Subject fields of email messages downloaded from your mail accounts. To search text in the message body, use the search field in Mail. Search in Mail can also search messages on your email server. Spotlight searches local content before it searches for content on your email server.

Depending on the email server (iCloud, Exchange, IMAP, and so on), searchable fields may vary. The maximum number of search results can vary and may be dependent on the query and the email server's search implementation.

The search within Mail also understands dates and message states, so you can target your search based on its date, flag, unread status, and sender or recipient.


  • Flagged june 2013
    Searches for all flagged messages from june 2013, as well as for messages containing these words
  • Unread last week
    Searches all unread messages from last week where the sender's email ends with, as well as messages containing these words
  • Vip read yesterday
    Searches all read messages from contacts marked as VIPs, as well as messages containing these words
  • to:appleseed monday
    Searches all messages sent on Monday to a contact named "Appleseed", or an email address starting with appleseed, as well as messages containing these words

Contact search

Spotlight searches for names, addresses, emails, phone numbers, and notes on your contacts.

Calendar and Reminder search

Spotlight searches for the title of calendar events and reminders in a two-year window—it will reveal results from one year in the past and one year in the future. If an event has recurrences that fall in this range, it will find the event that is closest to the current date.

If multiple events have similar details (title, notes, location, and so on) and you search for these details, Spotlight will show the most recent event. To see more results, use search in Calendar or Reminders.

Message search

Spotlight searches for text in your messages and the sender name.

Music, Videos, and Podcasts search

Spotlight searches for titles, artist, and album fields of your songs, videos, audiobooks, and podcasts.

You can enable or disable Spotlight Search for specific types of content and change the order in which results are displayed by tapping Settings > General > Spotlight Search.

If Spotlight does not return expected results:

  • Make sure you're matching the beginning of the word; Spotlight does not search the middle of words.
  • Ensure that the text you entered in the search is correct.
  • Try searching using the first few characters of the words you are trying to find.
  • Review your Search Results settings to see if you excluded any searchable content by tapping Settings > General > Spotlight Search.
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