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Google Lens for iPhone: Search & Shop With Your Camera

a close up of a camera

If you're a fan of Google Lens but prefer an iPhone over an Android device like Google's Pixel or a Samsung Galaxy phone, you may be wondering if Google Lens is compatible with Apple. Good news—while getting Google Lens working on your iPhone takes a few more steps than on an Android device, it's really not that complicated. Before we explain how to use Google Lens for iPhones, let's do a quick overview of what Google Lens is all about.

What Is Google Lens?

Google Lens is a Google software tool that automatically integrates with specific applications and camera features to provide image search and image recognition services. 

In a nutshell, Google Lens uses visual identification technology to identify, understand, and explain information from your phone or camera apps.

Google launched Google Lens in 2017. It can analyze words or objects in a picture, give you Google search results based on the web, suggest next steps, and even provide new image results. It works on iOS devices, though it’s not native to them like with devices with Google Assistant, such as Samsung phones.

The best way to understand Google Lens is through an example. For instance, you can take a picture of an outfit in the store. If you use Google Lens, Google will automatically pull up similar clothing items based on Google search results. 

That’s just one example of how you can use Google Lens in your everyday life. You can also use it to scan barcodes, live text, and much more.

How Does Google Lens Work?

Google Lens works thanks to the advanced algorithmic technology available from Google. Google takes visual information, like images stored in your Camera app, then compares those images against those already stored on the Google search engine.

Based on machine learning insights, Google Lens provides suggestions, explanations, or translations depending on your needs. 

However, Google Lens is typically only available on Android devices, such as the Google Pixel or Samsung Galaxy. That’s because Google’s proprietary phones run on the Android operating system. 

As a result, Google tries to use Lens as an incentivizing factor to get people to purchase Android phones instead of iPhones.

However, with the right tricks, you can use Google Lens for iPhones without too much trouble.

Does Google Lens Store Searches and Data?

Yes. Like other Google searches, your Google Lens searches are stored in your Google account. 

Furthermore, Google saves all Google Lens searches regardless of whether or not they are performed on a Google account. Google takes all that information to update and improve its search engine algorithms and machine learning processes.

How Can You Delete Google Lens Activity?

If you want more privacy, Google lets you delete your Google Lens search activity. To do this:

  • Log into your Google account
  • Go to the Lens page
  • Click on My Activity
  • Then delete the search history you want

This process is similar to deleting other collected searches and information on your Google account. Unfortunately, unlike Google Chrome (or other Google search apps), it is not simple to use “incognito” mode for Google Search.

How Do You Use Google Lens on iPhone Devices?

Google Lens is included as an integrated search feature on an Android device with the native Camera and Photos applications. In other words, Android users can start using Google Lens immediately.

If you have an iPhone device, you can still use Google Lens.

First, you’ll need to download the Google App. The latest version of this application should be available on the Apple App Store. 

Once that’s done, open the Google App from your home screen and click on the Google Lens icon, located to the right of the search bar at the bottom of the screen, next to the microphone icon.

Google will then ask for your permission to access your iPhone’s camera. Click “OK.” Once you grant permission, the Google App screen will transform into your camera screen. You are now ready to scan your environment and take images.

Google Lens should automatically activate and produce small bubble icons over the screen. You can tap any bubbles on the screen to get more information about the recognized objects.

What if You’re Using an iPad?

The process is different if you're using an iPad device. In this case, you should download the Google Photos app. This is the cloud photo backup that Google uses. It includes plenty of other excellent features, including Google Lens.

Once you download the Google Photos app on your iPad, you can open any image in your camera roll. Then you can tap the Google Lens icon for more information about that image.

You can use this same process with your iPhone mobile device if you prefer to use Google Lens with photos you’ve already taken instead of your camera app. Unfortunately, you cannot use Google Lens to search for visual information in real time if you use it in the Google Photos app.

What Can You Use Google Lens for?

Now that you know how to get Google Lens up and running on your iPhone, let’s break down how you can use Google Lens in many different ways.

Use Google Lens on Photos

As mentioned above, you can use Google Lens for photos you’ve already stored on your iPhone or iPad. To do that, just open up the Google Photos app — you can’t use Google Lens on your iPhone’s native photos app, unfortunately.

Once you open up the Photos app from Google, you can select the photo you want to analyze and tap the Google Lens icon. Google will search for similar images and provide you with relevant information.

Use Google Lens With Your Camera

If you have an iPhone, you can use Google Lens with your camera, provided you use the Google App to do so. 

Open the Google App. Once you give Google permission to access your camera hardware, the Google App will transform into a new version of the camera app instead of the native Apple one with the standard camera icon. 

Then you can analyze the images your camera captures in real-time.

As with photos, you cannot use Google Lens with your iPhone’s native camera app. You have to use the Google App.

Use To Translate a Language

See a foreign language you want to be translated with excellent accuracy? You can either take a photo of the text to be translated or simply point the camera-enabled Google App at the text in real time.

In both cases, Google Lens will translate the text into English or whatever native language your phone is programmed to be. This is a quick and easy way to see what a foreign sign says, for example, while traveling abroad.

Use Google Lens for Homework

Need some help with your math homework? Point Google Lens at it. Simply open the Google App as explained above, then point your phone camera to the math problem. Google will quickly calculate the answer based on what it thinks is written down.

Note that this unique Google Lens use case is most effective if your handwriting is legible or the homework problem is typed out. If your writing is a little scribbly, don’t be surprised if Google Lens doesn’t produce the correct answer or doesn’t recognize the math problem at all.

Use Google Lens To Identify Plants and Animals

You can even use Google Lens to identify different plants and animals: another handy feature if you are traveling abroad and want to learn more about the local natural environment. 

Open your Google App, give it permission to access the camera hardware, and point Google Lens at the plant or animal you want to identify.

Google Lens should quickly come up with the specimen's name and related information. However, give Google Lens plenty of space to analyze the subject; if you’re too close to the plant or animal, it might produce the wrong result.

It’s important to note that Google Lens is still learning, whether you want more information about a specific plant or animal or to translate a language. Therefore, you can use Google Lens as a tool, but never assume that it is infallible or always 100% correct.


Google Lens can be one of the most powerful tools on your smartphone, particularly when you want to identify unknown subjects or figure out just what a bit of foreign text means. Even though Google Lens is integrated into Android devices, you can use it on an iPhone.

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