Google Lens may bring Circle to Search to more devices

Google Lens may bring Circle to Search to more devices
Image credit —  Google

Google might be expanding the reach of Circle to Search beyond its current limitations through Google Lens. This is suggested by recent findings of hidden code in beta versions of the Google app on Android. Circle to Search is a feature first introduced on the Galaxy S24 series that allows users to easily search for information related to what's on their screens.

Google has been gradually expanding access to Pixel smartphones and aims to reach 200 million users by the end of 2024. Although not explicitly stated, it seems that Google Lens could be a key factor in achieving this goal. There have also been reports of the feature being tested on iOS and Chrome for Desktop under the Lens branding.

Several clues have been found in recent beta versions of the Google app. For example, a pop-up within Google Lens mentions searching the screen directly by holding the home button, which is how Circle to Search works. Furthermore, when using a three-button navigation bar, the Circle to Search feature could be activated from within Google Lens.

A clue that Circle to Search functionality may be embedded into Google Lens | Image credit — Android Authority

In newer betas, the Translate button and Circle to Search animation were also activated, all handled by Google Lens rather than the actual Circle to Search feature. Interestingly, Circle to Search is internally codenamed "Omnient," while the similar feature within Google Lens is called "Lensient." Currently, this feature within Google Lens is restricted to three-button navigation bars.

One hypothesis suggests that the restriction to the three-button navigation bar might be related to the system updates required for Circle to Search on Pixel and Galaxy phones. These updates could have modified code related to gesture navigation, making it incompatible with the feature. Extending these updates to a larger number of devices might not be feasible, so limiting the functionality to the more universal three-button navigation bar could be a practical solution.

Another possibility is that Google is using Google Lens as a way to bring Circle to Search to a wider audience more quickly. Circle to Search is currently limited to recent Google and Samsung flagships, while Google Lens is supported on all devices running Android 6.0 and newer. By incorporating the functionality into Google Lens, Google could reach a larger user base without requiring system updates on a massive scale.

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While these findings are based on pre-release code and may not reflect the final product, they strongly suggest that Google Lens could play a crucial role in expanding the availability of Circle to Search. This would allow more users to enjoy the convenience of searching for information directly from their screens, regardless of their device, thus democratizing the once exclusive feature.

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