Google Search Circle makes visual searches incredibly simple

It's hard to think of a feature that's more self-explanatory than Circle to Search: it does exactly what it sounds like. You can circle something on your phone screen, click a button, and voila! A page full of Google search results telling you what you circled. Easy right? New feature It's launching on five phones to start – the three members of Samsung's all-new Galaxy S24 series, plus Google's Pixel 8 and 8 Pro – before it comes to other “select and premium” Android phones.

Well, maybe so Do Needs a little explanation. If the feature sounds familiar, you might think of Google Lens, which is similar. But instead of opening the Google app, you can use Circle to search anywhere on your device. Simply long-press the home button if you're using three-button navigation — or the navigation handle if you're using gesture navigation — and it will appear on top of whatever app or screen you're currently using. You can circle, highlight, or click on a topic, including text and images.

I tried it on a Galaxy S24 for a short trial period, and it worked well, both isolating my research topic and returning useful results. Is it a radical new way to search for things on the Internet? No, but it seems legitimately useful. Sometimes, there may be an administrative overhead of taking a screenshot, closing the app, or opening it last Application, screenshot selection is unbearable. Circle to Search takes the hard work out, and it's one of those features that makes sense, as if your phone could do it all the time.

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After you use Circle to search an image, a thumbnail appears in the search bar with a prompt to “Add your search” using multiple search.
Photography by Alison Johnson/The Verge

The search circle support is an update to Google's multi-search feature. Multi-Search is a feature in Lens that lets you tweak your visual searches — take a photo of a pair of white shoes, search for them with Lens, then add the word “red” to see a different set of results with a red shoe. Now, you'll be able to add complex questions to enhance your visual search. You can take a photo of the plant, add it to your search, and ask, “How often should I water this plant?” This is the same Google example, but I find it very relevant to someone who killed more than one plant due to overwatering.

The way Google explains it, multiple search is the tool you want when you want to know Why Something, and not only What Something. You can take a picture of one of the Stanley Cups that people are holding now and ask, “Why are these mugs so popular?” Related: I'd love to know why these mugs are so popular. I think I know what I'm going to use in multiple search.

Unlike Circle to Search, the upgraded Multi Search will be available in the Google app starting today for any Android device — but only in the US for now.

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