One of the most underappreciated features on Google’s Pixels, in my opinion, has been the “Select” tool that lets you grab text and images straight from recent apps to quickly look stuff up or share. I expected Select to spread to other Android phones when it launched, but nope. And I miss having it on my Galaxy S24.

That’s finally changing with the arrival of Circle to Search – a fresh way to look stuff up on your phone that also offers good old text selection. The idea behind this feature is simple: no more screenshotting random stuff just to search or share it. The obvious use case here is shopping, but it goes way beyond that. You can ID plants and animals, define words, get context on anything you see…you get the picture.

So how does it work? Just long-press the home button or gesture pill. It’s pretty easy to get started with – that’s the entire point of the feature – but you do need a supported device. Samsung hyped the feature at the Galaxy S24 launch, so those phones obviously have it baked in. The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro now also support it. Other phones aren’t in luck at the moment, but some reports speculate it could come to other Android devices after October 5, 2024.

circle to search 1 Launching Circle to Search is easy. (Image: Zohaib Ahmed/The Indian Express)

But why’s the feature such a big deal? Well, it finally makes one of Android’s biggest perks actually accessible. Google Search offers tons of features, but unfortunately, many of those tools get buried where average folks won’t find them. A glaring example is Google Weather. Lens is another, which basically does everything Circle to Search can do, but getting to it hasn’t been so simple.

Circle to Search fixes that by putting the feature front and center. To launch it, all you do is hold down the UI element that’s visible to you regardless of what you’re tinkering with on your phone – the gesture pill. Or the home button on the navigation bar if that’s your cup of tea.

Festive offer

A full-screen overlay will occupy your screen immediately after. While the name conveys that you have to “circle-to-search,” that’s not the only way to go about it. You can underline text, scribble on images or just tap something. This usually works with surprising accuracy, although trying to catch elements towards the either ends of the screen can trigger the ‘back’ gesture accidentally. So I had to be more careful with those.

circle to search 2 Circle to Search can recognise people and can be asked for specific details about a product on the screen. (Express image)

At the bottom, you get the standard Google Search bar too. Most Android phones put that front and center on the home screen, but Circle to Search gives fast access without leaving your current app. The mic icon lets you add more context to searches too, with your voice. So you might ask “What can I put this on?” for a sauce, or “What can I do with this?” for a random tool, or “What does this emoji mean?”

To sum up, I dig the addition. Being able to search straight from any app, no matter what – Instagram captions, web images, album art, you name it – is clutch.

To close Circle to Search, just tap the X in the top left corner. You can also fire up the three-dot menu on the right to view search history or delete the last 15 minutes of searches.

One bummer: unlike the old Pixel Select feature, you can’t grab images to share with Circle to Search yet. I hope they add that soon.


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