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Changing Android’s default assist app disables Circle to Search (which makes sense)

2 months ago 59

circle to search

Google debuted Circle to Search earlier this year as a big new AI feature in Android. While it’s only available on some devices, the feature does have one limitation that seems rather obvious, which is that Circle to Search is disabled if you switch your default assist app.

Android has, for years now, offered the ability to switch the default “assist” app on your device. This is generally Google Assistant by default, but you can use other options such as Alexa (and maybe soon ChatGPT) in its place.

With the new Circle to Search feature, changing your default assist app comes with the consequence of disabling the handy new feature. Unless the Google app is set as your default assist app, Circle to Search simply won’t work. We tested this on our Pixel 8 Pro and, sure enough, switching to Alexa means that Circle to Search no longer works.

This was highlighted by the folks over at Android Authority, who noticed the limitation in a teardown of the Google app. The publication also noticed a bit of code that says:

Circle to Search unavailable due to your choice of default online search engine. To screen search, set Google as your online search engine.

To search your screen, set Google as your default assistant app.

The former sentence implies that Google must be set as your default search engine in whatever browser you may be using, but in context, we believe this is simply telling users that they need to have the Google app as the default assist app. As it stands today, switching your default browser does not affect Circle to Search in any way, nor does changing the default search engine of your browser.

The only context this seems to make sense in is in the EU, where users are prompted to select a default search engine during device setup. But, again, this makes sense, as Circle to Search is powered by Google Search, so I’d personally struggle to call this a major restriction on Google’s part.

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