Using perplexity as the default search on iOS

Feb 2024

Perplexity is a new search engine that popped up on my radar this week. It is a very impressive AI search engine, and after spending a few minutes playing with it, I decided I wanted it to replace Google on my phone. The problem is that iOS only offers a small set of default search engines, so a workaround is needed.


I discovered this small app whose primary function is to add the ability to create search engine shortcuts to use in Safari - so for instance you can type w {search term} and it will search Wikipedia. This alone is quite useful, and it's possible to set a shortcut for Perplexity in the same way. But the killer feature for me is that it enables replacing the default search engine globally.

By changing the global search engine, you can search with Perplexity either in Safari by entering your search term in the good old omnibar (are we still using that term?) or in Spotlight by selecting one of the suggested terms as seen in the screenshot:

A screenshot from iOS showing the Spotlight search results

xSearch is not free - it is a one-off purchase of €1.99. It works on iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS (although on MacOS you should probably be using Arc).

I think it is worth the buy. Here are the search engines I have enabled, some of which were enabled by default. I can type "sp Tool" in Safari's omnibar on iOS and it will launch a Spotify search for Tool. On the Mac this is something I might use Raycast for, but having this functionality on iOS & iPadOS is a nice little productivity booster.

A screenshot of xSearch on iOS