The latest Google Lens update might bring Circle to Search to many more phones

Google seemingly has plans to expand its Circle to Search feature to other Android phones via Google Lens. In a recent deep dive, news site Android Authority found clues to the update within the recent Google app betas files and compiled them all together. 

What’s particularly interesting is they managed to get the tool working on a smartphone, possibly hinting at an imminent release. According to the report, they even managed to get a popup notification informing users that the update would appear.

It tells people to hold down the home button to access Circle to Search, much like the experience on the Galaxy S24. Upon activation, a three-button navigation bar appears at the bottom, and an accompanying video shows the tool in action as it looks up highlighted portions of the Play Store on Google Search. The UI looks, unsurprisingly, similar to how it does on Galaxy phones, with search inquiries rising from the bottom.

Clashing with Gemini

You may notice that the rainbow filter animation is gone, having been replaced by a series of dots and lines. Well, that’s the old beta, and the newer version has the animation and the Translate button, which shows up in the lower right hand corner next to the search bar.

At a glance, it seems Circle to Search on Google Lens is close to launching, although it is still a work in progress with a few issues to iron out. For example, how will it work on a smartphone housing the Gemini app as holding down on the home button launches the chatbot? Google might give Circle to Search priority in this instance, so long pressing opens the tool rather than the AI. However, at this point, it’s too early to tell.

New navigation option

Android Authority also found “XML files referring to pill-based gesture navigation.” If you don’t know what that is, it’s the oval at the bottom of Android displays. The shape lets you move between apps with basic gestures. Google Lens could offer this option, allowing users to ditch the three-button navigation bar, but it may not come out for a while as it doesn’t work in the betas.

Circle to Search on Google Lens will most likely stick to the three buttons, though. The original report has a theory about this, as they believe implementing the pill navigation would systemic OTA (over-the-air) updates to millions upon millions of Android smartphones, which may or “may not be feasible.” So, to get Circle to Search out sooner to people, the navigation option will have to be pushed back a bit. The three-button solution is easier to implement.

There is no word on when the update will arrive, but we hope it’s soon, as it is a great feature and currently a highlight for the Galaxy and Pixel devices that have it. 

While you're here, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2024.

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Microsoft Edge could soon get its own version of Google’s Circle to Search feature

As the old saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Microsoft is seemingly giving Google a huge compliment as new info reveals the tech giant is working on its own version of Circle to Search for Edge.

If you’re not familiar, Circle to Search is a recently released AI-powered feature on the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24 series of phones. It allows people to circle objects on their mobile devices to quickly look them up on Google Search. Microsoft’s rendition functions similarly. According to the news site Windows Report, it’s called Circle To Copilot. The way it works you circle an on-screen object with the cursor – in this case, it’s an image of the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Immediately after, Copilot appears from the right side with the circled image attached as a screenshot in an input box. You then ask the AI assistant what the object is in the picture, and after a few seconds, it’ll generate a response. The publication goes on to state the tool also works with text. To highlight a line, you will also need to draw a circle around the words.

Windows Report states Circle To Copilot is currently available on the latest version of Microsoft Edge Canary which is an experimental build of the browser. It’s meant for users or developers who want early access to potential features. The publication has a series of instructions explaining how you can activate Circle To Copilot. You'll need to enter a specific command into the browser's Properties menu.

If the command works for you, Circle To Copilot can be enabled by going to the Mouse Gesture section of Edge’s Settings menu and then clicking the toggle switch. It’s the fourth entry from the top.

Work in progress

We followed Windows Report's steps ourselves; however, we were unable to try out the feature. All we got was an error message stating the command to activate the tool was not valid. It seems not everyone who installs Edge Canary will gain access, although this isn’t surprising. 

The dev browser is, not surprisingly, unstable. It’s a testing ground for Microsoft so things don’t always work as well as they should; if at all. It is possible Circle To Copilot will function better in a future patch, however, we don’t know when that will be rolling out. We are disappointed the feature was inaccessible on our PC because we had a couple of questions. Is this something that needs to be manually triggered on Copilot? Or will it function like Ask Copilot where you highlight a piece of content, right-click it, and select the correct option in the context menu?

Out of curiosity, we installed Edge Canary on our Android phone to see if it had the update. As it turns out, no. It may be Circle To Copilot is exclusive to Edge on desktop, but this could change in the future.

Be sure to check TechRadar's list of the best AI-powered virtual assistant for 2024.

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