Something weird is happening with iOS Spotlight search on older iPhones, and the fix for it is even stranger. Some high profile bloggers and other names aren’t able to use Spotlight to search for their apps, and they are forced to some rather extreme measures to resolve the issue, even if only temporarily.
What’s the Problem with iOS Spotlight Search?
This possible bug first came to our attention courtesy of M. G. Siegler, general parter at GV (formerly Google Ventures), and also a past writer for TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and others. Siegler turned to Twitter, thinking Cupertino was giving him a not-so-subtle hint that it was time to upgrade his iPhone.
Apple has clearly flipped the you-better-upgrade-to-the-new-iPhone switch a bit early this year. App search hasn't worked for weeks.— M.G. Siegler (@mgsiegler) May 9, 2017
The problem, Siegler explains later in the Twitter thread, lies with seeking his apps from within the iOS Spotlight search. For example, if you pull down on an empty spot of your Home screen, you get a search bar that you should be able to use for finding apps you’ve squirreled away somewhere. In most cases, this search works perfectly and is a quick way to find your apps and launch them. It seems that isn’t always the case, though.
Fixing Problems with Spotlight App Search
There seem to be a number of steps that can fix this problem, at least temporarily. The easiest, but not necessarily most successful, method is to turn off Spotlight search, restart your iOS device, and then enable the feature again. Here’s how you can try that, if only to see how long it works for you.
- Open the Settings app
- Tap General
- Next, tap on Spotlight Search
- Under Spotlight Suggestions, disable both Suggestions in Search and Suggestions in Look Up
- Shut down your iOS device by holding the Sleep/Wake button until the slider appears to power off. Slide that, and wait for the device to completely turn off
- Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button until the Apple logo appears
- After your device is booted up, return to Spotlight Suggestions and turn those two options back on
Another, More Interesting, Solution
The previous workaround is what has solved the problem for Siegler, at least for now. Josh Elman, formerly involved in building Twitter, Facebook Connect, and others, suggested a more interesting solution that apparently worked for him when the problem cropped up. Elman switched languages from United States English to another language, then back to U.S. English. Here is how you can change your language, also from Settings > General.
- Tap on Language & Region
- Select iPhone Language
- Tap any other language, such as English (Australia), then Done
- Confirm the change in the dialog that pops up
Once that’s done and you confirm app searching is working again in Spotlight search, you can switch back to U.S. English. Or, you could leave it in the other language and enjoy some new spice in your relationship with iOS for a while.
Why These Troubles Come Up in the First Place
We don’t have any official word from Apple on this problem, but the two solutions seem to point to a caching issue that can only be cured by forcing Spotlight to rebuild its files. Since we don’t have an option to clear history in iOS Spotlight search, we have to find ways to force a refresh or reindex. That’s what turning the feature off and rebooting does, and I theorize that switching languages does the same thing.