Google Made a Take on ‘Circle to Search’ Available on iPhone Through A Shortcut

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Key Takeaways

  • Google has made a spin on Circle to Search available on iPhone through a shortcut.
  • iPhone 15 Pro owners just have to push a button to start a visual search in Google Lens.
  • The release appears to have been unapproved.

iPhone owners now have a Google-developed way to reproduce Android’s Circle to Search feature, if not quite in the way you might expect.

Google Lens design manager Minsang Choi posted a (since-deleted) announcement on X that the iOS app team created a shortcut to launch a Lens visual search using the action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. While it’s not exactly the same as Circle to Search (where you draw around an item), it achieves a similar effect of searching what’s visible on screen.

You can replicate the Circle to Search trick yourself by using the iPhone’s Shortcuts app. The shortcut should take a screenshot and perform “Search Image with Lens.” If you don’t have an iPhone 15 Pro, 9to5Mac noted you can use the Back Tap accessibility feature to launch the shortcut on other handsets.

We’ve asked Google for comment about the shortcut, and we’ll let you know if we hear back.

The shortcut is effectively necessary for Google to bring Circle to Search to the iPhone in its current state. As Google can’t modify iOS itself, there’s no way to otherwise make the feature ubiquitous across the device. While it’s no surprise that Google can easily bring the feature to Android when it controls the platform, that OS also gives developers more flexibility to implement similar features themselves.

Apple won’t necessarily build an iPhone equivalent to Circle to Search on its own. However, the company has readily indicated that AI will be a major focus when WWDC 2024 starts on June 10th. iOS 18, macOS 15, and other platforms are expected to receive AI-oriented updates, including a smarter Siri voice assistant.

Circle to Search functionality won’t necessarily be a part of the iPhone upgrade. Even so, search is expected to get a significant boost when the finished software arrives sometime this fall.