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

Woman using Circle to Search on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra
(Image credit: Google)

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You may notice that the rainbow filter animation is gone, having been replaced by a series of dots and lines.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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Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.