Neighbourly is the new hyperlocal service that aims to connect people and share their collective knowledge.
A decade ago, when only a fraction of people had smartphones and internet access, we always used to resort to our parents, neighbors, or the neighborhood shops for directions, information, and more. But now, with the power of the internet at our fingertips, answers to our queries is just a search away. Google wants to change that with its new hyperlocal social app, Neighbourly.
There are times when you are looking for smallest of things, like a puncture guy or a mechanic nearby, or an estate broker to rent a flat. Take my example, my office has a canteen, and we get decent food. But there are times I crave for a burger, or Chinese, or biryani. I do a Google search for nearby restaurants, but I have to choose from the listed restaurants. What I need is a friendly neighbor to advise me where I can enjoy the biryani or a bacon burger. And that is where Google wants the hyperlocal community to help people like me via the Neighbourly app.
Neighbourly has been launched in India under Google’s “Next Billion Users” initiative and it is currently in beta. As a pilot, the app is available for Android users in Mumbai, and it will be expanded to other Indian cities too, but there is no word on when it will happen. If you are one of those outside Mumbai, you can join the waitlist and invite neighbors as well.
As the app is made for India, it supports English, and 8 Indian languages including Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and more. What’s more, the app also supports speech recognition and voice input, so you can ask queries in your own language. Here’s how to go about it.
How to set up Neighbourly
Head over to Google Play Store on your Android smartphone, and download Neighbourly. The app is close to 20MB in size.
Once the installation is complete, open the app, sign-in with your Google account and tap on continue. The app will then ask you for location permission, just allow and let it load.
The app will take your geo-location based on GPS, and set the neighborhood accordingly. Next, accept the terms and conditions, and tap on ‘promise’ to continue in the app.
How to use Neighbourly
Using Neighbourly is very simple. On the home screen top left has an icon to access your profile information and settings to change your neighborhood, see your activity, and more. On the top right, you have an icon tapping on which you will be able to see your notifications.
You will also see a card-based interface on the home screen where you will need to swipe to the left or right to read through questions asked by users. You can tap on the card which will show you the answers given by neighbors. At the bottom of the card, you will see an orange bar to submit your answer.
If you want to ask a question, you will see a “+” icon to “Ask a question.” You will get some pre-filled templates such as “How do I..”, “Where is…”, “Can you recommend…” and more. Once you are done writing your question, there is a send button at the bottom right, tap on that post your question.
In case you don’t want to type your query out, there is voice input option too, with a “mic” icon at the bottom. After tapping, you will see the next screen where you can start speaking, and then tap on the stop button. In case you want to ask a question in one of your regional languages, select a language from the drop-down menu at the bottom, and then speak.
I tried posting questions in Marathi and Hindi, and the voice recognition feature works well without a hitch. The best part is there is already a community that will answer your questions. I had asked a couple of questions, and despite the app just launched one day ago, I got a lot of responses from people. In fact, I also ended up giving some recommendation to some people about places where they can eat good food.
The best part is, Google only shares your Name and photo, and not your full name, which is good. And when someone comments on the question you ask or likes your comment, you get notified about the same. Now, in a scenario where you are in Dadar (where your office is located), and when you go home (say Vashi), you can head over to profile, settings and change your neighborhood to ask a question, or answer the ones asked by others.
Every time post a question or help someone by answering, you earn points. While you win and unlock badges of honor, you don’t get any incentive of any sorts. Overall, the app is interesting, and I ended up discovering a couple of good places to eat, that I wouldn’t otherwise via Google search or Zomato.
It’s not just food, say, you are new to Mumbai, and living in Dadar. You want to head to a place in Andheri and you’re clueless how to commute, your friendly neighbours (who may be strangers) can help you with the commute routes, but it taking a cab, a bus, metro or trains. Your questions can also be as simple as where to find a good pet doctor, or a plumber in your locality, cake shops, and more.
The app UI is good, and it isn’t confusing to use. Google’s approach is good, but even the likes of Google Wave, Allo Messenger and Google+ among others had good number of users initially. What ultimately matters is the number of daily active users in the long run, and how the platform is helping the community and others. We will have to wait and see how the app performs as Google expands its reach beyond Mumbai in the coming months.
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