For many people, your phone's camera is one of its most important aspects. It has a ton of uses, from superimposing wild creatures into reality with AR apps to taking sharp pictures in the dark.
That said, you might be missing out on another major use for your smartphone camera: it can work as a visual search engine and identify just about anything you see in the world.
In short, if you've ever come across an item while shopping or in your home and thought, "What is this?" then one of these apps can help you out. Check out the best Android and iPhone apps that identify objects by picture.
1. Google Lens: For Identifying Everything
Many people might be unaware, but you can pair Google's search engine chops with your camera to figure out what pretty much anything is. With computer vision, its Lens feature is capable of recognizing a slew of items.
By uploading a picture or using the camera in real-time, Google Lens is an impressive identifier of a wide range of items including animal breeds, plants, flowers, branded gadgets, logos, and even rings and other jewelry. The biggest exception is people.
Plus, for compatible objects, Google Lens will also pull up shopping links in case you'd like to buy them. Instead of a dedicated app, iPhone users can find Google Lens' functionality in the Google Photos app for easy identification. We've looked at some other interesting uses for Google Lens if you're curious.
Download: Google Lens for Android (Free)
Download: Google Photos for iOS (Free)
2. Pinterest: Art, Design, and Decor Identifier
Similarly, Pinterest is an excellent photo identifier app, where you take a picture and it fetches links and pages for the objects it recognizes. Pinterest's solution can also match multiple items in a complex image, such as an outfit, and will find links for you to purchase items if possible.
Pinterest's visual search is primarily designed for what the social network is known for: designs, outfits, and other similar categories. For purposes such as exploring nature, you'll have a better time with Google Lens or PictureThis.
Download: Pinterest for Android | iOS (Free)
3. Snapchat: Identify Cars, Plants, Dogs, Music, and More
Snapchat's identification journey started when it partnered with Shazam to provide a music ID platform directly in a social networking app. Snapchat now uses AR technology to survey the world around you and identifies a variety of products, including plants, car models, dog breeds, cat breeds, homework equations, and more.
This is incredibly useful as many users already use Snapchat for their social networking needs. So there's no need to download a secondary app and bog down your phone.
Once you use a lens to identify different objects, you can use the AR lenses to continue manipulating your environment. These lens features include many unique filters, from puppy dog filters to environment warping.
Download: Snapchat for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
4. Amazon Shopping: Price Comparison and Amazon Availability
Although Amazon will only allow you to view products it and its associated retailers are selling, this is still a great option for identifying everyday items. It is also potentially the picture identifier with the easiest purchasing options.
You can take a photo with the Amazon search camera, scan a barcode, or upload a photo directly from your camera roll. Amazon will then automatically search for the most closely related purchase options available. You can then have these items delivered to your home in a few easy clicks.
Download: Amazon Shopping for Android | iOS (Free)
5. Image Recognition and Searcher: Image Identifier
Although Image Recognition and Searcher is designed for reverse image searching, you can also use the camera option to identify any physical photo or object.
After taking a picture or reverse image searching, the app will provide you with a list of web addresses relating directly to the image or item at hand. Images can also be uploaded from your camera roll or copied and pasted directly into the app for easy use.
Google, Bing, and Yandex are the three services used by the app. These search engines provide you with websites, social media accounts, purchase options, and more to help discover the source of your image or item. This app is only available for the iPhone and iPad right now.
Download: Image Recognition and Searcher for iOS (Free, subscription available)
6. TapTapSee: Audible Item Recognition
TapTapSee is an app designed specifically for those who face visual impairments.
TapTapSee is an audio interpreter. All you need to do is point your camera at any item and take a photo. The app will then identify the item and audibly tell you exactly what it is. TapTapSee automatically autofocuses your camera, so there's no need to worry about any shaky hands. It even has a barcode and QR code reader for difficult packaging.
You can upload photos from your camera roll for identification and even save them to your phone afterward with the provided definitions for easy reuse. Please note that you'll need to turn on Apple's VoiceOver setting for this app to function.
Download: TapTapSee for Android | iOS (Free)
7. PictureThis: Plant Identifier
If you're an avid gardener or nature lover, you absolutely need to download PictureThis. This app is perfect for identifying that pesky weed that's killing your cucumbers or discovering which beautiful moss is covering your campground.
Using this app is incredibly simple. Snap a photo of the plant you are hoping to identify and let PictureThis do the work. The app tells you the name of the plant and all necessary information, including potential pests, diseases, watering tips, and more. It also provides you with watering reminders and access to experts who can help you diagnose your sick houseplants.
Download: PictureThis: Plant Identifier for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
8. Vivino: Wine Identifier
Vivino is one of the best wine apps you can download if you consider yourself a connoisseur, or just a big fan of the drink. All you need to do is shoot a picture of the wine label you're interested in, and Vivino helps you find the best quality wine in that category.
The app then processes the photo and presents you with some information to help you decide whether you should buy the wine or skip it. It shows details such as how popular it is, the taste description, ingredients, how old it is, and more. On top of that, you'll find user reviews and ratings from Vivino's community of 30 million people.
Download: Vivino for Android | iOS (Free)
What Is This? These Apps Have the Answer!
Thanks to advancements in image-recognition technology, unknown objects in the world around you no longer remain a mystery. With these apps, you have the ability to identify just about everything, whether it's a plant, a rock, some jewelry, or a coin.
At the heart of these platforms lies a network of machine learning algorithms. They're becoming increasingly common across digital products, so you should have a fundamental understanding of them.