It's easy to forget about the nondescript search box — you know, Google search on Android devices or "Spotlight" search in iOS — that sits on the home screens of our smartphones and tablets.
Indeed, the little Google search box has been there so long, I've ceased to even see it. Spotlight search on the iPhone and iPad fares worse, given that it's completely hidden until you give your home screen a downward tug.
That's too bad, given that Google and Spotlight search are two of the best time-saving tools on your Android or iOS device.
With a few taps on Google and Spotlight search, you can launch apps without opening the Application drawer or digging into home-screen folders. You can play music without opening the Music app first. You can call a contact, search for movie rentals in iTunes, check the weather, or even track a flight, all in one easy stop. And yes, you can search the web, too.
Read on for 9 great time-saving Google and Spotlight search tips, starting with...
Note: For most of the following search tricks, Android relies on Google Now, a "digital assistant" that can do things like suggest nearby restaurants, calculate how long your commute will take, and display recent scores for your favorite teams. As long as you have the most recent version of the Google search app installed on your Android device, you've probably got Google Now up and running.
Launch an app
Having multiple home screens and as many app folders as we want sure sounded like a good idea at the time — that is, until we had so many home screens and folders that finding the app we wanted to launch became like finding a needle in a haystack.
But with Google and Spotlight search on the case, you won't need to hunt and peck for the specific app you want to open.
Instead, just head for Google or Spotlight and start tapping the name of an app — and within a few letters, the app's icon should appear just below the search box.
Tap the icon, and boom — the app will open, no extra taps or swipes required.
Pull up a contact
Need to call, text, or email a friend, colleague or loved one? Your first instinct may be to launch Android's People app or Contacts on iOS, but there's a better, faster way.
Just type the name of the contact you want to reach into the Google or Spotlight search box — and again, within a few letters or so, the name of your contact should appear.
Play some music or videos
Again, your first step when you want to play some songs or an album on your iPhone, iPad or Android device is probably to launch either the Music or Play Music app. And again, there's an easier way (particularly when it comes to iOS's increasingly confounding Music app).
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