Even though it has been over a month since iPhone 3.0 was released, I had always wanted to write a piece on the Spotlight feature in the updated firmware.
Spotlight is the universal search for iPhone, much like Spotlight for Mac. And I love it. While Spotlight on Mac never gives the fast response of Quicksilver (probably due to it having to maintain a huge search index), the iPhone version is a lot snappier and actually acts as a viable app launcher. Not only that, you can also search through your emails (but not SMSes interestingly), contacts, Calendar appointments, notes and stuff in your iPod. The best part is, you can just double-click the Home Button to bring up spotlight and Boom, start typing (to do this, it requires you to change your setting under Settings > General > Home Button). It’s also “search as you type”, which means you often get the result you want without typing more than 3 characters. This is great, especially for those with pages and pages of apps and loads of content on your iPhone (/iPod Touch). Tip: you can also reorder your search results under Settings > General > Home Button > Search Results (not the most likely place one would look for such a setting, I know).
However, sadly, no implementation is perfect. The biggest gaping hole is probably the inability to search Safari Bookmarks, which can be quite annoying at best. This is really weird as many of us probably wants to be able to access our frequently visited sites quickly without having to tap Safari, tap the Bookmarks icon, tap the folder blah blah. I suppose there is a possible workaround by creating a web clip in Mobile Safari, but personally I am not a huge fan of Web Clips as they only take up more space and add more clutter to your already disorganized Home screen(s).
Another possible improvement is the addition of APIs for 3rd party apps to make use of. For example, it would be cool for me to be able to have near instant access to my files stored in the Files (iTunes Link) application or access to downloaded RSS feeds in Newsstand (iTunes Link). Of course I know this might be subject to abuse by 3rd Party app developers looking to cram as much cool/new features as they can into their apps – I really must pause here to talk about Push notifications for games. Do the developers have any idea how stupid it is to receive a push notification from someone else inviting you to beat their high score in the game? I mean, it’s just plain stupid. However, this can be easily corrected by giving the users an option to disable on an app-by-app basis (and maybe Spotlight can have its own menu item under the Settings app). Another possible issue might be excessively huge search indexes, but this also can be solved by maybe limiting the index size for individual apps.
All in all, Spotlight for iPhone was a much welcomed feature (at least for me). However, there can be certain improvements made to it to make it even better. After all, at Apple, it’s all about perfection isn’t it, Steve?