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Get to know iOS 8: Spotlight, Siri, and notifications

Christopher Breen | Sept. 18, 2014
iOS 8 isn't the radical departure from previous versions of Apple's mobile operating system that iOS 7 was. While there exist brand new features, some of the most attractive elements of the latest OS are refinements to existing features. They include notifications, Spotlight searches, and Siri interactions. Let's dive in to see how the changes will affect you.

To contact one of these people, just tap on their icon. The results you see depend on the kind of information you've added to their contact screen. For example, if you've added FaceTime, texting, and mobile phone information to Bubba Jones' contact card, tapping his icon will expose links to each means of communication. Tap FaceTime and a FaceTime call will be placed to the number or account associated with Bubba's contact. Tap Message and the Messages app opens, ready for you to compose and send a text.

Shining a light on Spotlight

Under iOS 7 you could swipe down on an iOS device's screen to explose the Spotlight field. You'd use this to launch apps or access information stored on your device — contacts, music, events, email, messages, and so on. If you wanted to look for something not on the device you could enter a search term or phrase and then tap Search Web or Search Wikipedia.

With iOS 8, Spotlight is in contact with the outside world to a greater extent. Now, instead of having to specifically tap Search Wikipedia, Wikipedia entries automatically appear in the results. Spotlight will also search news sources, nearby places, Apple's stores (iTunes, App, and iBooks), and suggested websites. It's also able to show you movie showtimes at theaters near you.

When you tap an entry an appropriate app will launch and display the results. For example, if you've installed the Fandango app and tap on a movie result, Fandango launches and presents you with the information you want. The Safari app has access to these same sources, so you'll get similar results when performing a search within it.

As you could before, you can limit what Spotlight searches for. To do so, tap Settings > General > Spotlight Search and you'll see a list of search results. These include Applications, Spotlight Suggestions, Contacts, Music, Podcasts, Videos, Audiobooks, Notes, Events, Mail, Voice Memos, Reminders, Messages, and Bing Web Results. If you disable Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Results, Spotlight will search only the contents of the device rather than crawl the Web for results.

So, about Siri

Siri sports two significant improvements. The first is that it's more responsive under iOS 8. Instead of waiting for you to complete your thought, it recognizes words as you say them. Another trick up Siri's sleeve is that if you plug your iPhone into a power source, saying the words "Hey Siri" will cause Siri to come to life, ready to do your bidding. This will be particularly helpful when you've jacked your iPhone into a car's power outlet and want hands-free help from iOS's digital assistant.

If you're in the habit of shouting "Hey Siri" in your sleep, you're welcome to switch off this feature by going to Settings > General > Siri and switch off the Allow "Hey Siri" option.

 

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