Over the past several months, the social search service Aardvark has gained a lot of fans. But what’s somewhat peculiar is that most of those users interact with the site via email or IM, rather than some slick-looking web app. And in fact, the service’s new iPhone app, launching today in the App Store, is easily the best-looking way to use Aardvark yet.
And it also looks to be the best way to use the service, period. That’s because the way it uses Push Notification on the iPhone is pretty killer. One of the reasons that users love using Aardvark over IM is that responses come in quickly and without you having to do anything — the same is true with the new iPhone app, but it’s even faster, CEO Max Ventilla tells us. Whenever someone answers a question you ask, you’ll get an alert almost instantaneously that your answer is ready.
Ventilla says the company spent a long time perfecting this app, 4 months to be precise. And the effort shows, as the app is pretty slick, while remaining straight-forward. The main screen simply asks you to ask a question. And it lets you know that Aardvark will find the right person to answer it. Meanwhile, the Answer tab allows you to answer questions that you are interested in for other people. This works perfectly for mobile because so many people now pull out their phones when they have a few minutes to kill; Aardvark gives you a way to kill time by helping other people with a question.
Also built into the app is Facebook Connect funtionality, so you can post Aardvark questions as your status updates. The service promises this won’t spam your friends, as you can choose how much or how little to post. But sometimes you may be asking a question that requires a larger social graph than Aardvark offers — certainly Facebook qualifies as that.
Speaking of spamming, when Aardvark first launched earlier this year, there were some issues users had with the amount of notifications (mostly via IM) coming in. The service quickly made it easy to turn notification frequency down, and that has transfered over to the iPhone app as well. You can set the frequency with which you get pinged to answer a question, for example.
Using the iPhone’s location functionality, Aardvark can also tell where you are, and tailor questions and answers based on that. The service also takes advantage of the in-app browser that iPhone 3.0+ offers. This allows it to also have a form of monetization with the affiliate links it uses in appropriate situations (for example, if an answer to a question of yours is the name of a music album).
Ventilla says that eventually the plan is to expand onto other mobile platforms, but for now they really want to perfect this iPhone app. Ventilla himself realizes that it is the best way to interact with the service yet, and they hope it grows the audience. Currently, Aardvark still has under 100,000 users, but they’re quickly approaching that milestone, we’re told.
Right now, Ventilla says the vast majority of questions are answered in under 5 minutes. That was a big goal for this year, to get under that time, we’re told. Overall, about 90% of questions are answered. And the ones that aren’t are usually bogus or make no sense.
Aardvark Mobile is available now in the App Store. It’s a free download. Find it here.