Home / Technology / App News /  In times of covid-19, dating apps innovate with new features

NEW DELHI: Finding love in times of a pandemic can be challenging and dating apps recognize that. With people cooped up indoors for close to two months now, dating apps in India trying to use this time as an opportunity to help people find more connections through new features.

The online dating market in India is dominated by the likes of Tinder, TrulyMadly, OkCupid, among others. User penetration that stood at 2.7% in 2018 is expected to hit 3.2% by 2023, according to online market researcher Statista.

Whitney Wolfe-founded women-first social networking platform Bumble has announced a bundle of customised features including a virtual dating badge that will appear in profiles of users who are open to date via video chat, allowing users to find and filter prospective matches based on who is looking to date virtually.

Given social distancing requirements that allow only virtual dates, Bumble has expanded its distance filters to allow users to match with anyone in their country. The app would only allow users to connect with people within 1 to 100 miles of their location earlier, but now users will see the option to connect with people nationwide in their app settings. Further, Bumble has tied up with American online marketplace company Airbnb to allow users to not just connect and date virtually but also enjoy online experiences together, from Turkish Fortune Coffee Reading in New York to a Tango concert in Argentina, among others.

OkCupid has started suggesting its users virtual date ideas on what they can possibly do with someone they met online to help them get to know the match better. These include binge-watching stuff together, cooking, building a playlist, working out and dressing up and drinking. The app has also partnered with YouTube channel The Screen Patti to bring out a video called TSP’s Lockdown wala Match about a couple that meets and dates online.

“The pandemic may have become our reality, but it doesn’t have to take over our dating lives completely. The upside of dating your match virtually is that you have even more encouragement to be yourself," the company said in a statement.

A couple of weeks ago, Tinder had rolled out the ‘passport’ feature, initially a paid feature for Tinder Plus and Gold subscribers that was later made available for free. Members can now search by city or drop a pin on the map to begin liking, matching and chatting with Tinder members in a destination of their choice and not have to navigate around their current location, as was the case earlier.

Locked up at home, dating apps say their users are looking to make more connections.

“When people can’t meet in person they still find a way to date. With restaurants, bars, gyms, offices, and entertainment establishments around the world all temporarily closed, people are looking for human connection now more than ever before," Ariel Charytan, chief execuitve, OkCupid said.

Bumble saw a 29% increase in messages sent on its platform in India by the end of March and noted that more than two in five chats were turning into meaningful conversations. Because of this increased usage of Bumble’s chat platform, the company is adding its existing chat, voice call, and video chat options with facilities to record and send audio notes to their matches and reply to specific messages within their chats. Free online dating site QuackQuack is on-boarding around 18,000 new users on its platform since the lockdown was announced on a daily basis. Extramarital dating app Gleeden has also reported a 166% increase in subscriptions during March and April.

“We are well aware that the return to normality after a pandemic of this extent will bring new challenges to the online dating industry, people will be cautious to meet with strangers and scared about possible contagions," Sybil Shiddell, Gleeden’s country manager for India said. “Therefore, online affairs are the safest choice to all those who simply seek a distraction from their everyday life."

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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