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You can finally use Circle to Search with Android 15's action key

Circle to Search will work much better on tablets now, thanks to persistent taskbar support.

Published onJune 18, 2024

google pixel tablet pixel phones android homescreen 1
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority
  • With the Android 15 Beta 3 update, Google’s Circle to Search feature now works when the persistent taskbar is showing on tablets.
  • To activate Circle to Search on the persistent taskbar, you need to hold down the action key.
  • Circle to Search also now works when using split-screen mode.

Circle to Search is one of Google’s best new feature ideas because it makes searching what’s on your screen a breeze. All you need to do is hold down the navigation handle or home button and then tap, draw, or scribble over the text or image you want to Google search. Since the feature’s debut on the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, Google has worked to expand its availability to more Galaxy and Pixel devices. For example, in early May, Google rolled the feature out to its Pixel Tablet, but there was one issue with the rollout: it didn’t work with the action key in Android 15.

The action key is the button on the Android taskbar that launches the floating app drawer. You can see it whenever you swipe up on the navigation handle on the Pixel Tablet. Since Circle to Search can be invoked by long-pressing on the navigation handle, you might think there isn’t an issue with the feature on the Pixel Tablet. However, the navigation handle disappears when you switch to the persistent taskbar, meaning there’s no way to invoke Circle to Search unless you change back to the original, transient taskbar.

This has only become a problem thanks to the taskbar pinning feature that Google introduced in Android 15 DP2, which lets you bring back the old taskbar on your Pixel Tablet or Pixel Fold. The old, persistent taskbar style was introduced in Android 12L but was later replaced by the newer, transient taskbar style in Android 13 QPR2. With users able to freely switch between the two taskbar styles, there needs to be support for invoking Circle to Search, no matter which taskbar style is in use. That’s finally happened in Android 15 Beta 3, which makes it possible to invoke Circle to Search by holding down the action key, as shown below.

When you boot up Android 15 Beta 3 and switch to the persistent taskbar, the launcher will even inform you that this is now possible by displaying a pop-up. The pop-up tells you to “touch & hold the action key to search what’s on your screen,” as shown below.

Pixel Tablet Circle to Search action key
Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

This, of course, works when you’re using the transient taskbar style and swipe up on the navigation handle to reveal the taskbar, but since Circle to Search could already be invoked by long-pressing the navigation handle, this doesn’t add much utility there. It’s only with the persistent taskbar that this addition has value, as previously, you’d need to switch back to the transient taskbar to use Circle to Search.

Making Circle to Search work with Android 15’s action key ensures that tablet users can enjoy the feature no matter what taskbar style they prefer. Plus, with the addition of split-screen support now in Beta 3, it’s possible to use Circle to Search even when more than one app is showing on the screen.

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