One of the newest features to arrive on iOS is Visual Look Up, which is Apple’s way to take on Google Lens, helping users recognize the kind of object that’s been captured in a photo. Unlike Google Lens, the Visual Look Up function doesn’t need a standalone app as it is accessible directly from the Photos app on your iPhone.
If you’re unable to see or use this new Visual Look Up option inside the Photos app, then the following post should help you figure out a way to get it to work.
What is Visual Look Up on iOS 15?
With iOS 15, Apple released a new Visual Look Up feature inside the Photos app on iPhones. What Visual Look Up does is use machine learning to identify objects from pictures you’ve saved and provide you with more information about them. The feature can be used not only to recognize the object but you can only find the exact type or category it falls into.
For instance, when you summon Visual Look Up on a picture with a dog, it won’t just show you that it’s a dog but will also try to identify the breed of dog and more info on it. For now, the feature can be used to pin down pets, landmarks, plants, and artworks but we can expect support for more objects in future updates to the Photos app.
Visual Look Up resides in the same location inside the Photos app as your other picture info, meaning you can access it using the ‘i’ button when viewing a picture. This ‘i’ button will look different for pictures that support Visual Look Up as its icon will be surrounded by stars.
In our testing, we found Visual Look Up to work on pictures we clicked as well as on those we downloaded from external sources.
Related: What does Share Focus Status Mean?
How to fix Visual Look Up not working issue in 7 Ways
If you’re unable to see or access the Visual Look Up function on your iPhone, you can check the following fixes to get the feature to work.
Fix #1: Know how Visual Look Up works
Visual Look Up is a new feature that’s available inside the Photos app on iOS 15. So, before you go ahead and check if it works, make sure you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 15. To use Visual Look Up on iOS, open the Photos app on your iPhone and select a photo that supports Visual Look Up.
You can check if a picture supports Visual Look Up by looking for the Visual Look Up button which is indicated by an ‘i’ icon with stars. If the picture doesn’t support it, you will only see the regular ‘i’ icon with no stars. For searching objects within an image on your Photos library, tap on this Visual Look Up button.
This will load up additional info on your screen. For pictures that support Visual Look Up, you’ll see a Look up section under the caption section and you’ll also see the type of object that has been detected by iOS. In this instance, you can see that the image we have on the iPhone is marked as “Dog”. To get more details and similar results based on the image, you can tap on this Look Up section.
A new popup screen should appear showing you Siri Knowledge (more info about the detected element), similar web images, and suggested websites based on the object found in your picture. In this instance, Visual Look Up shows the possible breed of the dog and pictures of similar-looking doggos found across the web.
Here’s another example of Visual LookUp detecting the kind of plant that’s been captured on a photo.
Fix #2: If you don’t reside in the US
Visual Look Up is natively available for all iPhone users who reside in the US. However, there’s a workaround to using this feature from outside the US by simply changing your region to “US” inside your iPhone’s settings. For this, open the Settings app on your device and go to General.
Inside General, select Language & Region.
On the next screen, tap on Region.
From the list of regions that appear next, select United States.
You can now open the Photos app and check if the Visual Look Up button is available for supported pictures.
Fix #3: Check if your iPhone supports it
Visual Look Up isn’t just available for the latest iPhones but you can also access it on older iPhones but it all depends on whether the hardware inside your device is powerful enough to run it. Apple says all iPhones powered by its A12 Bionic chip or newer chips will be able to use Visual Look Up inside the Photos app.
This means you can take advantage of Visual Look Up on:
- iPhone XR, XS, XS Max
- iPhone 11 series
- iPhone SE (2020)
- iPhone 12 series
- iPhone 13 series
- iPad 8th generation or newer
- iPad mini 5th generation or newer
- iPad Air 3rd generation or newer
- iPad Pro 11-inch or newer
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch 3rd generation or newer
iPhones and iPads other than the ones listed above won’t feature the Visual Look Up button for any picture inside the Photos app.
Fix #4: Turn on “Show in Look Up” for Siri
Since Visual Look Up is a machine learning tool, it relies on Siri to get suggestions based on content on your phone. It’s thus important that Siri has access to on-device learning for you to be able to use Visual Look Up inside the Photos app. Although this option is enabled when Siri is activated, you should make sure it is turned on to get better suggestions for your pictures.
To enable on-device learning for Siri, open the Settings app and go to Siri & Search.
On the next screen, enable the Show in Look Up toggle under the ‘Content from Apple’ section.
Now, check if Visual Look Up is active inside the Photos app.
Fix #5: Check your internet connection
Visual Look Up uses on-device learning to detect objects in pictures but for it to give you any definite results, it needs access to the internet so that it can fetch details about objects in a picture. If you can see the Visual Lookup button appear for a picture but clicking it doesn’t yield you any results or shows the “No Content Found” message, then chances are that your iPhone isn’t connected to the internet.
In that case, simply connect your device to the nearest Wi-Fi network or enable cellular data so that Visual Look Up can be used straight away.
Fix #6: Check if the picture is clear and centered
Although Visual Look has been touted by Apple as powerful enough to scan for objects at any different condition, it may still run into some issues if the object in question isn’t clear for the machine learning to read.
So, to make sure the Photos app detects an object present in a picture, the object needs to be visible clearly and easily distinguishable from other parts of the picture. For this, you need to ensure that the picture captures the whole of an object without any kind of motion blur or improper lighting.
It’s also important that the object is centered or positioned close to the center and the camera’s focus is set on the object and nothing else. If there are multiple objects in the frame, the object you want to be recognized should have a clear focus.
Fix #7: Understand that Visual Look Up has its limitations
Visual Look Up is a new feature on iOS and like any new tool that relies on machine learning, it has its flaws. For firsts, it doesn’t work with everything – there are several objects you may not be able to use Visual Look Up with. Currently, you cannot use Visual Look Up to scan inanimate objects. This means you cannot scan for items you wish to buy from your camera roll or dishes you’ve captured on your iPhone. For now, you can only look for different breeds of dogs, plant types, landmarks, and art.
Even with the limited support for scannable objects, the results are hit and miss. In our testing, the Photos app was able to categorize objects appropriately but was unable to point to the right type/kind within a category.
For instance, scanning a picture with a Buddha status yielded an inaccurate result about the location of the landmark, and pictures that were suggested weren’t similar-looking but similarly themed.
The same statue went undetected by Visual Look Up in the next shot as shown in this screenshot where you can see that there’s no ‘i’ icon with stars.
Besides this, the feature becomes inaccessible when there are multiple objects that can be scanned in a picture. If the picture you captured has a bunch of detectable objects, then Visual Look Up may be able to pinpoint the objects but you won’t be able to see detailed results based on them.
As is the case with machine learning, we can expect these limitations to go away as the feature gains more functionality over time.
Still cannot use Visual Look Up? Try Google Lens instead
If none of the above fixes help you use Visual Look Up on your iPhone, it’s time to consider an alternative to the feature, and what better than Google Lens? Google’s visual recognition has been in existence since 2017 and is powerful enough to recognize any worldly object you throw at it. Unlike Visual Look Up, you can use Google Lens to detect objects from pictures you have already captured or recognize items as you scan them in real-time.
Although Google Lens is available as a standalone app on Android, it’s embedded right into the Google app on iOS. So if you already have the Google app installed for searching and looking at news/weather, you don’t need to install another app to get Google Lens on your iPhone. To start using Google Lens, open the Google app and tap on the Camera icon on the search bar at the top.
First-time users will be prompted with a welcome screen. Here, tap on Open camera to go ahead.
When Google asks you access to your iPhone’s camera, tap on Ok.
You will now see the viewfinder screen for Google Lens appear. If you don’t have an existing picture of the object you want to scan, then you can point your iPhone’s camera to this object and then tap on the Search button.
If you have a photo whose elements you want to scan using Google Lens, tap on the Picture icon.
From your photos library, select the photo you want to search.
Google Lens will now upload your photo and search for relevant results across the web. When the search is complete, you should see details about the object like its name and kind inside the Search tab.
You can swipe up the Search tab to view more info of the object along with other “Visual matches”, that show similar images as yours.
In addition to this tab, you can also search for more results inside other sections. For instance, tapping on the Shopping tab will yield you products that you may buy based on the detected object. Similarly, the Places and Dining tabs will show you a list of locations or restaurants you can go to see or get the item you’re looking for respectively.
That’s all you need to know about fixing Visual Look Up not working on iOS 15.