In 2019 and 2020 I led the design of a new feature for the Safari web browser on iOS and iPadOS: Voice Search. It launched with iOS 15 in 2021.
The keyboard’s built-in dictation button has always been the quickest way of entering text, but for this project we rethought not just text entry itself, but the end-to-end workflow of invocation, speech and action.
Whereas in a general context like messaging, the user must explicitly tap to close the microphone, for Safari we decided the system should take action automatically after it detects you’re done speaking. Just tap the button at the right side of the address bar, speak your query, and the search is carried immediately using your default search engine. Easy as pie:
(On mobile, swipe to see additional screens)
You can also speak the names or URLs of specific websites to jump directly to them (we improved the speech recognizer’s handling of words like “slash” and “dot org”).
Sometimes Safari can use Spotlight search to directly answer your request — no need to delegate to a third-party search engine. This works great when you just need a quick fact or figure, like “Weather in San Jose,” “Rihanna’s net worth,” or “LeBron James height.”