Text answers service kgb this morning announced the release of an app for the iPhone and Android platforms. The app on either platform costs $1.99 and offers three free answers. After that the cost is $0.99 per question.
The competitive positioning of kgb Answers emphasizes the fact that there are "special agents" (humans, often college students) behind the scenes who can provide a more direct and efficient response to a question on the go vs. conventional search, which requires sifting through links on the small screen.
Previously the kgb service was only available via SMS at kgbkgb (542542). However the new iPhone and Android apps entirely change the nature of the experience and even turn it into something of a game in certain respects. I haven't yet downloaded the Android version, but I spent some time yesterday with the iPhone version.
I was impressed by the creative "reimagining" of the kgb service and the way the additional features and content expand it significantly. Here are some screenshots that offer a sense of the iPhone version of the app:
The app's home screen allows users to flip through a broad range of previously asked questions, mirroring the Q&A "scroll" on the company's site. If you want to find out the answer to one of these questions, you can submit the question and get the answer free of charge. Some example questions from just a few minutes ago include:
The app also gives users the ability to explore related questions and answers free of charge. For example, one of the free questions I submitted was "What is the infamous first word of the movie Citizen Kane? (Answer: Rosebud). The answer page provides a list of several related Citizen Kane questions and answers that users can browse for free.
All of this free content creates a kind of trivia-game experience (in many contexts), which is a way of getting users engaged and to recognize the value of the service. In addition the app takes advantage of integration with the iPhone. Accordingly, if there's an address in a response or answer the app provides a map. Answers can also be shared via email or Facebook and are saved and can be searched or starred as favorites for later access.
All these features make the kgb app much broader and more useful than the traditional SMS version of the service.
Arguably the only direct competitor to the core kgb Answers service is free, ad-supported ChaCha, which does not have an iPhone app at this point but provides the ability to call a phone number and speak queries instead of typing them. There are a range of other, somewhat more indirect competitors the closest of which is probably Aardvark, which relies on a network of peers to answer questions. There's also Yahoo! Answers (and similar Q&A services). Of course Google and other traditional search engines are competition as well. However, as I suggested above it's often frustrating to click back and forth through a bunch of links on the small screen. Google in mobile is fast but often paradoxically inefficient.
Because kgb Answers is a premium service and consumers pay per use, the company doesn't have to worry about advertising coverage or clicks (though one might imagine selective advertising at some point). However it does have to demonstrate enough value to convince users to keep paying. Generally that means it must deliver better answers than can the other free services or Google. Yet the iPhone App also changes the nature of the kgb service into something more engaging and entertaining than a straightforward Q&A service.
We understand that kgb has some other interesting apps in the pipeline as well. The company also operates the 118 118 and 118 218 telephone-based services in the UK and France.