Pixel Launcher system search.

Google is most well-known for being a search company. However, Android—Google’s own operating system—doesn’t have a built-in system-wide search like the iPhone’s “Spotlight” feature. What’s the deal with that?

“Spotlight” on the iPhone and iPad is a super handy tool that allows you to search for contacts, apps, shortcuts, photos, files, and more, all in one place. Some Android phone makers have their own versions of this, but Android as an OS does not. That may be changing with Android 12, finally.

RELATED: How to Use Spotlight Search on Your iPhone or iPad

The fourth beta of Android 12—released in September 2021—included new functionality in the Pixel Launcher. The search bar in the app drawer can now be used to perform a system-wide search. Finally!

Pixel system search

The screenshots above show some of the results you can get. Apps along with their in-app shortcuts, contacts, conversations, Settings shortcuts, toggles for settings, and Google searches. In Beta 4, it doesn’t appear to be able to search for files yet.

Unfortunately, this is only available in the Pixel Launcher at this time, so it’s still not the native system-wide search that we’d love to see on all Android devices. It does show that Google is working on this functionality and it could come to the OS itself at some time.

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If you have a Google Pixel phone with Android 12, you can try this out by swiping up on the home screen to open the app drawer, then type in the search bar at the top.

Pixel Launcher system wide search

To customize what shows up in the searches, tap the three-dot menu icon at the top of the app drawer and select “Preferences.” You can toggle on or off the categories.

System search preferences

That’s all there is to it. The answer to the question “When will Android get iPhone-style system-wide search?” is not as clear-cut as we’d like. Google seems to be working on it with Android 12, but it could remain solely a feature for Pixel phones.

We’re still dreaming of that Spotlight feature for Android.

RELATED: When Is Android 12's Release Date?

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Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has close to a decade of experience covering consumer technology and previously worked as a News Editor at XDA Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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