Google launches new 'Circle to Search' tool – Here's how it works

You can now Google search for something on your phone without the need to switch apps using a new tool called "Circle to Search."

The new feature is currently only available on certain Android smartphones. Using a finger to circle, highlight, scribble or even tap, a user can quickly identify items in a photo or video without needing to switch over to their mobile internet browser. 

Google introduced the new feature in a blog post this week, sharing an example of someone watching a fashionable creator’s video on social media. Perhaps they want to identify the clothing – and perhaps purchase those items themselves – but the creator didn’t tag the brands. 

"Just long press the home button or navigation bar on your Android phone to activate Circle to Search," the search engine giant explained in the post. "From there, you can select any item that you see with your preferred gesture — like circling their sunglasses — to quickly find similar, shoppable options from retailers across the web. You could scribble the bag and tap on the boots to look those up, too — all without leaving where you are."

Using AI-powered upgrades, users can also search with text and images at the same time to more easily understand concepts, ideas, or topics from information that’s pulled together from across the internet. 

"Let’s say you're browsing social media and come across an image of a delicious corn dog with some unique toppings," Google wrote on its blog. "You’ve been seeing a lot of these online and are curious to learn more."

The user can simply circle the corn dog and ask a question, like "Why are these so popular?" 

"You’ll quickly learn that these sweet and savory treats are Korean corn dogs," Google explained. "And they’re trending because of their unique combination of flavors and textures — including meat or gooey melted cheese surrounded by a crunchy exterior — and the growing popularity of Korean cuisine." 


Google’s new Circle to Search tool can help users quickly identify items or topics/concepts in a photo or video without having to leave the app and switch over to a mobile internet browser. (Credit: Google)

Circle to Search launches on Jan. 31 on select Android smartphones: the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro and the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series. The tool will be available in all languages and locations where they’re available, Google said. 

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.