Apps to fall in love with

WHAT WORDS come to mind when you think of Iceland?

(Iceland being the sparsely populated North Atlantic island, not the purveyors of frozen spring rolls). Is it geysers, Bjork, snow or maybe even bankruptcy?

One thing that doesn’t spring to mind is incest, and that’s the way the Icelanders would like to like to keep it.

Hence a new smartphone app has been developed to protect Iceland’s 320,000 inhabitants from dating their relatives. An article on Digitaltrends.com reported that three Icelandic app developers utilised an existing online database called The Book of Icelanders (set up to help people trace their genetic heritage online) to develop the anti-incest Book of Icelanders app for Android phones.

The app allows Icelanders to determine if they share bloodlines with whoever they are making eyes at. It may sound crazy, but with Iceland’s small population many share common ancestors so this is a practical solution to ensure you don’t fall head over heels with your first cousin.

If that all sounds thoroughly weird, then you might not be ready for the world of dating apps, but the move from traditional online dating to mobile is on, with more and more apps making it easier for singles to connect on the go.

PlentyOfFish is the world’s largest online dating site, with more than 39.5m registered users worldwide. Its free iPhone and Android apps surpassed 300m monthly visits in Jan 2012.

“With an increasingly tech savvy public, the online dating world needs to step up to accommodate the advancement of the industry,” says Markus Frind, founder and CEO of Plenty of Fish.

According to market research group IBISWorld, online dating is one of the 10 industries that will be affected by smart phones the most. It found that mobile-dating revenue grew by 29% in 2012, and the market is expected to double by 2017. The growing popularity of mobile-based services shows that daters’ habits are changing and this could mean a move away from online dating as we know it.

Putting my app designer hat on, I thought about some ideas that might spare future dating woes and came up with an idea that I think is a winner — The Relationship Time Bomb: A simple app that features a ticking clock that counts down the days, hours and minutes until you get dumped. Looking back on past experiences I would have loved the Time Bomb app. That way, when D-day arrived, I wouldn’t be half a stone overweight, sitting on the couch wearing the shirt I used to use for a painting classes in secondary school eating a Kit Kat. Instead I would be perched on the bed in a negligee, reading Descartes, so when he popped his head around the corner and said sheepishly, ‘Can I talk to you?’ I would reply: ‘Yes darling, but you must make it quick, I am finding you awfully tedious these days and have a date in town with your arch enemy — the one with the six pack and the Aston Martin — so what was it you wanted to say?’

The Relationship Time Bomb might sound pessimistic, but like the Icelanders, I’m just being practical. Imagine all the mini-breaks and holidays booked, the deposits made on apartments and houses and the hours wasted on planning weddings that were never going to happen …my Time Bomb app would save all that trouble.

Or what about the Sling your Hook app? Let’s face it, being dumped is terrible, but dumping someone is no stroll in the park either. This app would require users to input some basic details: how long the relationship lasted, the reason for break-up (infidelity, growing apart, etc) and then spew back some suggestions for doing the deed, allowing the user to chose a ‘mature’ or ‘immature’ option. For example, if you entered that the relationship was three years long, and was ending because your partner was sleeping with your best friend, then choose the immature option, it might suggest something like this: “Arrange to meet in a crowded bar, order two pints — one for Dutch courage and one to pour over his/her head — and then walk out the door while shouting something about their halitosis.”

Of course there are already a host of dating apps out there, and new ideas are coming out all the time. Independent app developer Fredrik Pettersson was sitting with his brother and an Irish friend in a bar in London when they came up with an idea for their icebreaker app. “We realised other than asking for a lighter it’s quite hard to get a chance to strike up conversation with some of the people around us.” Their app is called Polar Bear (it breaks the ice… geddit?) and should be out by the end of the summer. “Most dating apps are used like the Argos catalogue with a cup of tea in the bed after a weekend when you just realise that you had a great time but actually hardly spoke to anyone except you friends,” explains Pettersson, “Our idea is more when you’re out on the field.”

According to Pettersson, app trends are increasingly moving away from the traditional dating sites process: “You have to spend half a day writing something witty about yourself for your profile and then half a day writing messages to your matches. Newer apps just need a few taps… it’s a case of swipe right for yes, left for no. When you get a yes back the app even recommends a date, time and restaurant. We are getting lazier and lazier that’s for sure.”

Case in point — Tinder is the dating app of the moment and is being downloaded between 10,000 and 20,000 times a day. There are no tedious questionnaires about religious views and how your want to raise your children, with Tinder, you simply log in via Facebook and begin. Tinder uses your pictures and allows you to play a virtual game of ‘Hot or Not’ by ticking photos of the singles you like the look of and pressing X on the ones you don’t. Superficial it may be, but it is also fun, fast and points to the shape of things to come.

If you actually secure a date, you might need to employ the services of a chat up line app. But be warned, I downloaded iPickupLines before a blind date and was given a choice of bizarre ocular-based pick-ups such as ‘Your eyes are as blue as my toilet water at home’ and ‘Your eyes are the same colour as my Porsche’.

The app also suggested some poetry: ‘You can fall of a building, you can fall out of a tree, but the best way to fall is in love with me’. Hardly Byron is it?

Others apps are more useful, if duplicitous. If you are in the middle of a first-date disaster you might need the services of the Fake Calls app. It allows you to set up a fake call to ring at a predetermined time. You can select whom you’d like to call you (your mum, your boss) and there’s your excuse to leave.

While dating apps are undeniably making meeting people easier, and aiming to solve dating dilemmas, no app has yet nailed the key to successful dating.

There are apps that try to expose your partner’s bad habits and personality flaws in advance, but what really helps is knowing your own, and most importantly what you want out of the relationship… if only there was an app for that.

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