Writer Jean Tang’s next date might be closer than she realizes — in her pocket.
Tang and thousands of other New Yorkers are turning to mobile dating apps on their smartphones to find nearby matches.
The mobile dating industry is growing rapidly, and is expected to be worth $2.3 billion by 2016, according to Juniper Research.
"Dating happens in the real world," said Joy Martinez, marketing director of dating app MeetMoi. "It’s not a solitary activity of sitting at home for hours looking at profiles."
MeetMoi and other apps like OkCupid Locals provide location-based matches, meaning users with GPS on their smartphones can find connections nearby and meet up in minutes. Daters don’t have to sift through profiles to find someone they like — the app does it for them.
MeetMoi will host several events throughout the city this fall where users can meet up; venue suggestions are also on the horizon. MeetMoi users chatting in SoHo, for example, might get an alert recommending they meet at Balthazar nearby.
Tang has had varying results using OkCupid Locals. During a business trip last year to San Fransisco, a man nearby messaged her saying he was interested.
"He wasn’t looking for a relationship, just hanging out with someone at that moment," Tang said. "I got a tour guide for the morning and he got to buy a pretty girl some breakfast."
Tang’s other matches through the app have resulted in fun dinners, some romances and once even a freelance job.
But other people are uneasy about the idea of meeting someone on a moment’s notice, and Nick Soman took notice. He co-founded LikeBright, an app that connects users with matches through mutual Facebook friends, meaning they share connections.
"Being really close to people you don’t know can be uncomfortable," Soman said. "Our focus will always be on how we can provide better comfort and better interactions."
Escape from your bad date
Dating apps aren’t only for introductions. DateEscape allows users to set alarms for fake texts and phone calls, providing fast excuses for dates gone downhill.
For those enjoying their dates but finding lulls in conversation, the What If? app poses hypothetical questions to keep the banter flowing.
Apps such as Sonar and Blendr tell users what nearby locations are dating hotspots, such as bars filled with lots of registered app users. So leave that boring coffee shop!