Circle to Search Is the Best New Android Feature in Years

Circle to Search Is the Best New Android Feature in Years

I love Circle to Search on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. It has added multitasking to Android that I have not felt in a long time. At its core, Circle to Search is not an entirely groundbreaking feature. It snaps a screenshot and then transcribes any words or pictures you highlight into a Google Search. But that’s precisely the point. It makes it easy to access the main reason I’m an Android user in the first place: immediate access to Google.

It also hits a differently that it’s debuting on the back of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S24 series launch. It’s a different strategy than pushing it to the Pixel devices first, which often gets the special new Google feature drops before the rest of the platform. Is Google finally conceding that Samsung is the primary driver of its mobile platform in the U.S. and Canada?

Frankly, it’s better for it because it gives Samsung a little boost among the Cool Phone™️-carrying crowd while keeping AI on the minds of the Android faithful. It also puts the feature at the front and center for users who might not have considered this capability if it merely rolled through as a software update.

How to use Circle to Search

If you’re on a Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra—all three sizes of the phones start shipping this week—it’s easy to use Circle to Search, especially once you’ve figured out the cadence of launching the ability.

A screenshot of Circle to Search from a TikTok still.

If using the navigation bar on Android, long-press the circle button or what you might call the Home button. You’ll see the screen light up around the edges as if taking a screenshot, and then you can circle an area where to conduct a visual Google Search. If you’re using Android’s gestures to navigate around the interface, you can still use the Circle to Search shortcut. Touch and hold on the gesture bar that hovers up a bit from the bottom.

Circle to Search works well because it feels native to the operating system. Once you queue the software to fetch results for a query, a Google Search panel appears from below the screen. You can then swipe up on that screen to bring the search page to the forefront.

You can search for all sorts of things using Circle to Search: people, places, things, and nouns of all types and sizes. I prefer using Circle to Search to highlight words and phrases that I want to store for later. It’s quicker than attempting to long-press and underline the text, and that’s only if the app lets you do that. Apps like Instagram won’t let you touch the typography, but with Circle to Search, I can long-press and then highlight the name of a restaurant to save it to my “Want to Go” list in Google Maps without navigating away and shuffling between app screens. It also works with phone numbers and email addresses.

Will other devices get Circle to Search?

Samsung is the first to roll out the feature since it comes loaded up on all models of the Galaxy S24. But Google also announced the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro would have the capability rolled out by the end of this month. I’m still waiting for it on my Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8 Pro.

Google and Samsung have not said whether more devices will get Circle to Search in the future. But we can assume it will be a part of the rollout when Samsung brings Galaxy AI to the rest of its marquee devices—namely, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5, as well as last generation’s best sellers.

iPhone users, there’s some hope on the horizon in the form of conjecture. There’s nothing in stone about whether Circle to Search would ever make it to iOS, but theoretically speaking, it is part of the Google app, which is a popular iOS app. It’s too early at this stage, as Google is likely trialling the feature with Android folks before it attempts to woo the other side. Third-party players are already flirting with the idea of AI-enhanced search for Apple fans.

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