Samsung and Google's most popular AI feature could be coming to iPhone soon

Apple users might get access to a really useful AI feature from Android

Circle to Search
(Image credit: Future / Chris Hall)
Quick summary

Samsung and Google's popular AI feature – Circle to Search – might soon be coming to iPhone through Chrome.

It allows users to circle something on the screen and use it as a visual search.

Google has made quite a splash with its AI features over the past couple of years, with Samsung joining the party with Galaxy AI with the launch of the Galaxy S24 phones. Apple, by contrast, seems to have been lagging behind in the AI race. That could be about to change, with a popular feature jumping from Android to iPhone.

Circle to Search was one of the headline AI features that launched with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, before making its way to Google's Pixel phones too. It's powered by Google's AI, but Samsung was first to announce it and showcase its skills. It allows you to circle something on the screen – anything on the screen – and use that as a visual Google search.

It uses the skills we've previously seen from Google Lens, where anything can be identified. It allows you to circle something in an image and find out what it is, be that a place, a model of shoe, type of plant – whatever you want really. And that functionality could be coming to Chrome for iOS too.

The Mac Observer did some digging and found references in code to "Lens Circle to Search", suggesting that it will be a feature that's available within Chrome for iOS.

It might be something Google is enabling as part of the app, rather than being overtly supported by Apple. That's the case for some other features, like the enabling of Magic Editor through Google Photos on iOS too.

But we know that Apple is under pressure to bring AI features to the iPhone. We've heard that Apple was working on a deal with Google to enable some Gemini features and this could be part of that package. Apple has long offered Google as the default search engine on iPhone, so this would just be an extension of existing functionality.

At this point, however, we're just looking at a snippet of code. On Samsung and Pixel devices you need to trigger it by long pressing at the bottom of the screen to open the Google search overlay which then lets you circle what you want to know about. It will be interesting to see how that might be implemented on iPhone, and whether it's only restricted to use within the Chrome browser.

Chris Hall

Chris has been writing about consumer tech for over 15 years. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Pocket-lint, he's covered just about every product launched, witnessed the birth of Android, the evolution of 5G, and the drive towards electric cars. You name it and Chris has written about it, driven it or reviewed it. Now working as a freelance technology expert, Chris' experience sees him covering all aspects of smartphones, smart homes and anything else connected. Chris has been published in titles as diverse as Computer Active and Autocar, and regularly appears on BBC News, BBC Radio, Sky, Monocle and Times Radio. He was once even on The Apprentice... but we don't talk about that.