Skip to main content

Originally published February 6, 2015 at 3:53 PM | Page modified February 6, 2015 at 7:07 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments
  • Print

Led by Tinder, mobile dating game surges

The popularity of websites such as and eHarmony has spawned a whole stable of mobile-phone apps designed for simple, smartphone-based dating.

The New York Times


Bless or curse the smartphone, but you can’t doubt its impact. Even digital dating has become a handheld activity.

Online dating, long dominated by big outfits like and eHarmony, has in the past two years been transformed by the rise of Tinder, the mobile-phone app that lets its users scan photos and short profiles of potential dates.

Then, as easy as a swipe of a finger, you can decide if you want to chat or pass on a prospect.

But Tinder’s free app isn’t the only mobile dating game in town. Many app makers are trying to capitalize on the Tinder method of simple, smartphone-based dating. Of course, they add a twist to the swipe.

An app called Hinge sifts only through your Facebook connections for friends of friends. Clover offers Tinder-like features but with an added, if dubious, bonus called “On-Demand Dating.” Think Uber for dating — you pick a location and a date, and Clover sends someone to meet you.

And there are others with variations on the theme, including How About We, where you pose an idea for a fun date and see who bites, and the League, sort of a mobile dating app for the 1 percent: It promotes exclusivity and a carefully selected clientele.

“Because there’s such an increase in smartphone usage, it directly relates to the increase in dating app usage,” said Julie Spira, an online dating guru who runs a site called Cyber-Dating Expert. “People are dating on the fly, they’re dating in real time, they’re hooking up or meeting for dates, they’re doing both. Same day, same hour.”

It’s easier, faster and more discreet to swipe through an app than to create laborious online profiles. The downside of that convenience is uncertainty, since mobile profiles tend to be sparse or nonexistent.

Still, this simplicity has caused Tinder’s growth to explode in just two years. According to the company, it processes more than 1 billion swipes a day and matches some 12 million people a day. A “match” means two people agreed they were interested in one another. From there, they can choose whether to exchange messages or meet in person.

Traditional dating sites like, eHarmony and OkCupid also have apps that let their users keep tabs on their profiles, messages and matches, of course. In fact, Tinder, Match and OkCupid, among other dating sites, are all part of the IAC/InterActiveCorp media conglomerate.

While Tinder, which may eventually add a premium service for a fee, has had a reputation as a way to find casual encounters, it appears to be moving beyond that. I found plenty of people my own age using the app, including quite a few friends and acquaintances. And some are even finding love on Tinder.

“I heard about Tinder in a funny, joking, laugh-about-it way,” said Sara Chamberlin, a 31-year-old marketing manager in San Francisco. “But I started hearing that friends of mine had met significant others on this app, and I thought maybe it’s not just this hookup thing. It’s for finding relationships.”

Chamberlin met her boyfriend on Tinder. They’ve been dating for about a year, she said, and are preparing to move in together.

“The thing that I appreciated the most was efficiency, and just the lack of pressure to come up with this persona,” she said. “The very thing that made it feel seedy and not like a good idea is the exact reason I liked it so much — how casual it was.”

Tinder is indeed easy, casual and fun. In the interest of, ahem, research, I set up profiles on Tinder and then one on OkCupid, the popular free online dating site, as well as

To use Tinder, you must have a Facebook account. Most Facebook profiles are tied to real identities and real names, and the app shows you if you have friends in common.

To set up a profile, you log in using your Facebook credentials and then choose a few photos from the collection you have on the site. Tinder will automatically fill in a few for you. Then, you enter a short bio — or leave it blank, as some people do when they’re relying solely on their looks.

After that short setup, you can set search parameters like distance from you, age and gender. And then you just start swiping through pictures of potential matches. You tap one for more information, and if you like what you see, swipe right. If you want to pass, swipe left.

If you match with someone — you both swipe right — you see a pop-up saying you can either send a message or “keep playing.” In that way, Tinder really is like a game.

One thing I particularly liked about Tinder: No one can send you a message unless you both like each other. It’s an instant filter.

Spira, the online dating expert, says that people who use Tinder are also using other dating sites, sometimes even paying for memberships.

She said that having easy access to lots of different dates actually increases your odds of eventually finding a match.

“It’s making dates happen a lot more quickly,” she said. “The more dates you go on, the better dater you become, so let mobile dating apps become your new best friend.”

Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

Also in Business & Technology

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.



The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►