How to Use Your Smartphone Camera to Search

Whether you're trying to identify something you'd like to buy, checking for deals or looking for information on what you see in the world around you, visual search apps can help.

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Searching with words is so 2010 —searching with images is the wave of the future. Whether you’re trying to identify something you’d like to buy, checking for deals or looking for information on what you see in the world around you, visual search apps can help. Armed with a smartphone and one of these apps, all you have to do is snap a photo and the app will try to identify the object or landmark and find information on it.

Ready to get started? Here are our favorite visual search apps.


Best app for searching for anything and everything: Google Goggles

No matter what kind of information you want, Google Goggles — not to be confused with Google Glass — can help.

This is a stand-alone app for Android, but it’s built into the Google Search app for iPhone (tap the search bar and then the camera icon to search by image). Take a picture of whatever you want to know more about, from a place to a work of art to a barcode or text (even in a foreign language), and Google will bring up more information. If the item is for purchase, you’ll also find shopping links and reviews.

If you just have one visual search app on your phone, this multipurpose search is the way to go.

Price: Free on iTunes and at Google Play


Best app for all kinds of shopping: Amazon Mobile

If shopping is what you’re interested in, Amazon Mobile makes it easy for you to find anything they stock using your smartphone camera.

Just fire up your Amazon app and click search, where you have the option to search by text, barcode or “flow,” which searches based on what your camera can see. Though flow has difficulty recognizing some items — we found it identified a paperback book immediately but couldn’t figure out a Jawbone Jambox was — its overall image recognition is pretty good.

If you want to shop on Amazon, this is the perfect helper. If Amazon isn’t your thing, however, you may be better off with Google Goggles.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play



Best for house hunting: Homesnap

Looking for the perfect home? Homesnap is the app for you. If you see a property you like while you’re driving around looking at neighborhoods, take a photo using the Homesnap app to pull up the home’s complete real estate listing.

You’ll get easy access to the property’s full details plus photos, all without having to get out of your car to grab a flyer.

Price: Free on iTunes and Google Play


Chic Engine

Best for fashion shopping: Chic Engine

If you’ve just seen the perfect fashion accessory but aren’t sure where to buy it, use Chic Engine for iPhone to hunt it down (or at least find similar items). You can even use Chic Engine to grab photos from PinterestFacebook and other social networks to help you snag items you simply have to have.

No iPhone? You can also use Chic Engine on the web. Just copy the web address for an image (an option when you right click) or drag and drop from your social networks or computer and it will hunt for shopping details.

Price: Free on iTunes and

Why waste your time with typing? One of these image search tools is sure to help speed up your hunt for information — or shopping spree. Happy hunting!

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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