Jelly review: More fun than Google, but not as useful

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The Good Jelly taps your friends and extended social network to find quick answers to your unique or location-specific queries, giving you more personal answers than Google.

The Bad Navigating the app can be clunky and questions aren't organized into topics.

The Bottom Line Don't mistake it for a search engine, but Jelly delivers a fun and more personal information experience.


7.6 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 7

Part Snapchat, part Quora, Jelly (Android|iOS) is an photo-focused Q&A app that lets you ask any question of your friends and extended social network to get answers. You can ask any question you want, from, "Is that Thai restaurant is any good?" to, "What kind of weed is this?"

The app was built by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who describes Jelly as a new social search engine. Instead of heading to Google, Stone's goal is to get you to ask you friends and family for help, just as you would before the Internet. You'll still need Google, but for questions that you might call your friends to get an answer to, Jelly gets the job done, especially because it reaches more than just your immediate social circle.

Getting started and design
You need to connect either your Facebook account, Twitter account, or both to Jelly to use the app. The app recommends that you connect both accounts so that you get the widest network of people who can answer your questions, but it's not required.

Jelly gets its name from jellyfish (because jellyfish have several tentacles, and your question has several ways to find an answer), and there's a marine theme throughout the app, which is especially noticeable when you get a thank-you card from another user (more on that later). There are really only two screens, one where you can ask questions, which has a camera viewfinder, and another where you swipe through questions that others have asked.

The only issue I have with the Android app's design is that it doesn't have enough navigational cues to help you get around when you first start using the app. The iOS app explains the parts of Jelly in much more detail.

Ask questions, get answers
Jelly is divided in two parts: asking questions and answering questions. I'll tackle the question-asking part first.

Jelly's philosophy is the old adage that a "picture is worth a thousand words." That means the app emphasizes photos over text. Each question is required to include a photo, and you're encouraged to choose one that helps illustrate your query or provide context. A great example of an ideal Jelly question comes from Mark Zuckerberg (yes, the real Zuck), who snapped a photo of a spider in his shower and asked someone to identify the species.

You ask your own questions by snapping a photo with the in-app camera viewfinder, which allows you to switch between your phone's front and back cameras and adjust the flash. Your photo can be of anything that's relevant to your question, such as a close-up of a weed in your garden, or a wide shot of a city skyline. You can draw on the photo to emphasize any part of it, such as a faraway building on the horizon. Because the app is so photo-focused, you can also grab photos from your phone's library or search from images on Google to illustrate your question. If you cannot find something that's relevant, you can just wing it by taking a picture of a blank wall or your hand.

Snap and crop a photo (left), then add your text question. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Once you're satisfied with the photo, and have cropped it to your liking, it's time to add your question, up to 240 characters. You can also include links if you'd like to offer even more context, by tapping the link icon in the text field. When you're ready, submit your question to Jelly by tapping send.

My first question was, "What it would take for the San Francisco 49ers to get to the 2014 Super Bowl?", asked just after the team had won its first NFL playoff game against the Carolina Panthers. I was pleasantly surprised to get a helpful and useful response less than 1 minute after I submitted my question, from someone who follows a friend of mine on Twitter. Around 2 hours later, I had gotten a total of six answers. Some of those were simple, bland answers, such as "Win," or, "Hell freezing over," but others were informative and detailed.

As others on Jelly start to answer your question, you'll get a notification in the app. The app doesn't send any notifications to your social networks on Twitter or Facebook. You can thank people who give you answers that you like or find helpful, and that person gets a thank-you card with a pretty teal-colored underwater design.

Sharing your knowledge
The other half of Jelly is answering questions from other people using the app. When you launch Jelly, you'll see a bar at the bottom of the screen that shows how many people need your help. Tap that bar and you'll see the first question, with its photo and text, in your queue.

If you can't answer the question, or just want to move on to the next one, just swipe down on the photo to dismiss it. In both versions of the app, I occasionally struggled to dismiss a card, needing to swipe down several times before it finally disappeared. The interface didn't feel responsive, and made me frustrated.

You can browse questions that others have asked (left) and get notified when someone answers your questions. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

When you've swiped away all the available questions, you'll get a screen that says, "We couldn't find anyone who needs your help right now." You have to wait until someone asks another question before that screen disappears.

According to Jelly, once you swipe away a question it will never appear again. (However, I found that sometimes questions reappear when I close and then open the app later.) I wish there were a way to go back and view past questions.

Below each question's photo, there's a stack of cards that indicate how many answers the question already has, if any. You can swipe up on that stack, and then swipe left and right to view each answer. Unlike dismissing a card, those swipes felt fluid and responsive.

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