Google's Circle to Search on my Galaxy S24 helped me save a friendship and get the joke

The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra with S Pen drawn, demonstrating Circle to Search
(Image credit: Samsung)

I know what a Pokemon is, and I even saw the movie, the one that had Deadpool. I’ve never played a Pokemon game, though, even though my kiddo was a fan back in the day. Thanks to Google’s new Circle to Search feature, I now know about Lance, a trainer of Dragon type Pokemon, and one of the Elite Four, before he became Champion of the Pokemon League. I don’t know what any of that means, but Google does, and it helped me save a friendship. 

When I say friendship, I mean with Christian Guyton, our Computing Editor and Energy Drink Connoisseur, whom I’ve never met because he lives in the UK. But he seems lovely! I see him on our team video chats and he comes across like a cool and knowledgeable person, and I’m sure we’ll have fun and be friends if I come to the UK or he comes to the US and we hang out. 

But then, on a work Slack channel, Christian threw down the following challenge. He posted an anime character, without context, and said in the next message “image provided without context, if you don't understand it you are no longer my friend.”

Pokemon Lance the dragon trainer in a Slack conversation channel

(Image credit: Future / Pokemon)

What can I do!? This seems like such a capricious end to our burgeoning friendship. Then I remembered my Galaxy S24 Ultra. I grabbed the phone and opened Slack. I pressed on the bar at the bottom of the screen, and the whole display turned a shade of pink. I almost forgot what to do next because I wasn’t expecting the pink. I kind of forgot about Circle to Search after I wrote the review for this phone.

Circle to Search saves the day and makes me feel smart

I circled the image Christian had posted and learned it was Lance from Pokemon! This was in response to messages from our editor-in-chief, also named Lance. British humor is very much based on your name, I have learned, and I benefit from having a last name that is also a sick verb

Google returned the results for the image, and I read up quickly on Lance, realizing that he is indeed an important character. If you’ve played any of the major Pokemon games over the last few years, you know who this is. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle – a reference that shows you how old I am and why I did not know who Lance from Pokemon is. 

Then I looked at Christian’s Slack profile. Without my glasses, I thought he was using Darth Maul as his avatar, but on closer inspection, it’s another character. At first I thought it might be Garrus from Mass Effect, but not quite. I played the first and third Mass Effect games, but only once each, and that was a long time ago. 

Once again, Google’s Circle to Search on my Galaxy phone saved me. I enlarged Christian’s image, held down on the bar at the bottom of the screen, and circled on the avi. Christian is using Thane Krios, another Mass Effect character. I was close! I asked Christian to confirm and he did indeed say he is Thane Krios on Slack.

Circle to search results on a Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

I knew this is how I would end up using Google’s Circle to Search – to keep myself up to date with the youngs. I’m terrible at recognizing fads and faces, especially newer celebrities and characters. Now I can just Circle to Search, and Google will give me all the backstory I need to stay up to date.

This is great for understanding memes that people send your way. If you see something that everybody else gets, but not you, try Google’s Circle to Search. It works on the Galaxy S24 family, including the Galaxy S24 Plus and Ultra.

The phones that have Circle to Search and how to use it

Google just added the feature to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro in the latest Pixel feature drop. The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro have been able to use Circle to Search since it launched with the Galaxy S24. 

To use the feature, you just hold your finger on the bottom of the display. On most Google Pixel 8 or Galaxy S24 family phones, there will be a bar at the bottom of the screen, the one you grab to move between app windows. Or you’ll have a set of onscreen buttons, like the home and back button. Press on the bar or the middle button, or just press on the bottom of the screen near the middle of the phone, and hold your finger down. 

Woman using Circle to Search on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

(Image credit: Google)

After a moment or so, the screen will be covered in a light haze, and a Google search bar will appear. You can simply type in the bar, and Google will search related to everything on screen. Or, you can use your finger (or the S Pen) to draw a circle around what’s important.

Google will search in a robust way when you Circle to Search. When I drew a circle around Pokemon Lance’s head, I got web sites, video clips, social posts on X and Tumblr among many others, and a list of related searches that included “Lance Pokemon Character.” All of that just from drawing a circle around an anime head.

The hardest thing about using Google’s Circle to Search was remembering that it exists, but now that I have my killer use case, I’m going to circle every in-joke and reference I don’t understand, and Google is going to keep me up to date. Circle to Search is keeping me from being a square.

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Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. 


Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.