iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 betas bypass Google Search on iPhones and iPads with Spotlight Search

Apple introduced a new Spotlight Search feature to iOS and iPadOS 14 that enables users to search and go directly to a site, completely bypassing Google’s search result pages.

iPadOS 14 Spotlight Search
Spotlight Search in iOS and iPadOS 14 bypasses Google Search by returning news and site results

When smart voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit started to become ubiquitous, there was concern within the SEO community that it might reduce search visits. That prediction, thus far, has not come true.

The lack of encroachment on browser-based search, even as voice assistant usage grows, is likely a result of the type of questions people ask. “The majority of voice assistant users ask their devices basic questions, search, request information and/or listen to music,” reports Victoria Petrock, an analyst at eMarketer. Subsequently, the impact on browser-based searches has been minimal because voice-based queries tend to be simpler, and a single answer is typically sufficient.

Unlike voice assistant searches, queries made on mobile devices and desktop computers are typically more diverse, and users expect a multitude of results from which they can choose. However, with the debut of iOS and iPadOS 14, Apple is looking to take that advantage away from Google Search by including search results into its Spotlight Search tool.

iOS and iPadOS 14 bypass Google Search with Spotlight Search

Spotlight Search is Apple’s copy version of the original Quicksilver app that speeds up the ability to find apps and files, search the web, and execute tasks via a swipe gesture on iOS and iPadOS, or a keyboard command on macOS. In most cases, using Spotlight Search is faster than trying to manually find an app or file on a mobile device or desktop computer.

One of the notable features of Spotlight Search is its ability to search Google. In iOS and iPadOS 13, a user can quickly type a query in Spotlight Search and tap on a result that will open Safari and display search results from Google. However, in iOS and iPadOS 14, Spotlight Search returns search results that completely bypass Google’s search engine. In version 14, users are provided with actual pages and news articles, and can now go directly to those sites.

The new version of Spotlight Search poses an existential threat to Google on Apple devices because bypassing their search results page means they can’t display ads, push users into Google search experiences, or funnel them to other Google-owned properties like YouTube.

This type of feature isn’t new. The Start Menu in Windows has had this feature for several years. While it likely sends a significant amount of traffic to Bing, Google Search and Google Ads seem mostly unaffected.

However, Spotlight Search on mobile devices is different from the desktop search experience on Windows. The most efficient way to find and do anything on iOS and iPadOS is with Spotlight Search.

Apple may end up succeeding where Microsoft has failed through more seamless integration of search results into Spotlight Search. If that happens, Google could lose a significant amount of revenue. The problem for Google could also be exacerbated if and when Apple adds the functionality to macOS.

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Jon is the founder and Managing Editor of Coywolf. He has over 25 years of experience in web development, SaaS, internet strategy, digital marketing, and entrepreneurship. Follow @henshaw