Visual Lookup With Siri Knowledge in Photos Is Only Available in the U.S., Which Is Something I Learned Earlier Today

Until this evening, I had mostly forgotten about Visual Lookup, the feature where you can take a picture of something and Siri will tell you what is in the photo. But I spotted a tree today that I wanted to know more about, and was disappointed when Siri refused to identify it. Then I noticed that it had not identified anything at all: not plants, not landmarks, not any type of bird.

I thought I had somehow misconfigured a zero-configuration feature, so I tweeted about it. It turns out that Visual Lookup is only available in the United States — but you will have a hell of a time figuring that out from Apple’s website.

If you visit the iOS 15 webpage, the only footnote pertaining to Visual Lookup is that it is “available on iPhone with A12 Bionic and later”, and my iPhone 12 Pro checks that box. Live Text is available in Canada, so I falsely assumed the same should be true for Visual Lookup. There is a general footnote indicating that “some features, applications, and services may not be available in all regions or all languages”, but there is no link to a more specific page, nor is there one on the feature list page.

I found the feature availability page by searching the web. And then you have to know that it is called Visual Lookup and that it is not indexed under “Photos” or “Siri”. Only then will you learn that it is only available in the U.S.

In fairness, Apple’s Canadian marketing page does not have a Visual Lookup section, which ought to have clued me in. But Apple’s marketing is worldwide, and its press release in Canada did not give any indication that it was a feature only for iPhones that speak American.1

Anyway, I changed the language on my phone about half an hour ago, plugged it in, and have now learned through Siri the tree I spotted is a horse chestnut or buckeye. Neat.

  1. One side effect of all tech companies being based in the U.S. is that feature availability typically means U.S.-first, followed by the rest of the world, which is where I and billions more people happen to live. ↥︎