These Dating Apps Kept Love Alive in Lockdown With 4 New Features
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every industry there is in various different ways. One in particular that’s been forced to scramble to adapt, not just to changing laws and habits but attitudes generally, is the dating app industry.
2020 saw go-to spots like restaurants and bars — where many dates take place — shuttered by governments. As well, people stopped approaching online dating with the same breakneck-speed fervor that seemed to characterize the handful of years prior to the coronavirus’s outbreak.
But another, more meaningful change seemed to take hold: people started to want to take their time and really get to know someone on the app before moving any further.
This leaves the people who run those apps in a particular bind. How does one provide an online dating experience that’s fine-tuned for the specific situation their users find themselves in amidst a global pandemic, with differing rates of transmission in different countries, states, and cities leading to differing levels of engagement?
In order to get a picture of the broader response, AskMen reached out to four of the most popular dating apps around today to ask them about the features they launched in response to the pandemic. Here’s what they added this year:
Best Dating App Features in Response to the Pandemic
1. Video and Audio Capabilities
Adding video capability to online dating isn’t exactly something we haven’t encountered before. For one, kinkier sites like AdultFriendFinder had been featuring erotic livestreaming cams within their site for some time, while apps like the recently created Curtn and Tickr made video part of their guiding ethos.
But 2020 was definitely the year that video made its way to the mainstream for one quite obvious reason: the inability to be around others in public without risk of coronavirus transmission.
Bumble, which had presciently launched voice call and video chat features back in 2019, saw a significant increase in the use of the feature in response to the U.S. being placed under lockdown — nearly 70%, according to a spokesperson, who added that “the average time spent on a voice call or video chat was close to 30 minutes,” implying that these features were making a genuine impact.
Tinder, meanwhile, launched Face to Face video in late October after testing it in various countries worldwide beginning over the summer, and Grindr increased the amount of free video chat minutes its users could have access to.
2. Personality-Based Features
One impact of the pandemic was that people slammed the brakes on the whole “swipe, match, plan a date, meet up” process in a big way. Hence, the popular dating apps of the day turned back to something online dating sites used to pride themselves on but largely did away with in favor of profile pictures: personality-based features.
Hinge, known for its cute and quirky profile phrases like “Weirdest gift I have ever given or received” and “Worst idea I’ve ever had” known as “Prompts,” doubled down on the feature this year with something called “Standouts.”
“To better serve its users, Hinge conducted a survey to understand people’s attitudes when it came to dating in 2020,” said a spokesperson for the app. “The top finding? The pandemic has caused many daters to feel pickier about their matches [in large part since] they don’t want to waste their time on the wrong person.”
Debuting in early December, Standouts is a feed that will be visible to all Hinge users, collecting the Prompts that the app thinks you’re most likely to appreciate, based on your past in-app activity.
Standouts, which will also feature Photo Prompts, will “help daters immediately focus on the people they’ll have a great conversation with, so they can go from chatting to dating that much faster,” according to a Hinge press release. However, the press release adds, to like someone in Standouts, you’ll need to send someone a Rose — “a new, premium like meant to convey a greater level of interest.”
Similarly, Bumble launched the “Question Game,” where you and a match can mutually answer questions about your sleep patterns to political leanings in order to get to know each other better.
3. Shifting From IRL to URL
While apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge are used by both straight and LGBTQ+ users, Grindr — emerging in 2009 ahead of the wave of geolocation-based mobile dating apps that came after it — serves the queer community, and, as a result of its reputation, functions as a genuine hub for community engagement outside of simple one-on-one dating interactions.
As a result, Grindr’s response to the pandemic went into territory that the aforementioned apps didn’t. It decided to facilitate virtual events to bring together its users in a party-like atmosphere, digital versions of the IRL festivities they were missing out on due to the impact of the coronavirus.
“As COVID-19 has impacted sex and dating behaviors around the world, Grindr has remained committed to helping our users connect safely from home,” says Alex Black, Grindr’s content and marketing product manager. One particular form that took? “Hosting virtual Pride and Halloween festivals in the app that helped our users celebrate safely from home,” he notes.
Bumble approached the situation by launching something called the Virtual Dating Badge, which “allowed Bumble users to find and filter their prospective matches based on who is looking to date virtually,” according to a spokesperson, who noted that nearly 1 million people added it to their profiles.
“An updated version of the badge that now indicates what kind of dates our community feels comfortable going on — whether that’s virtual, socially distanced, or socially distanced with a mask,” the spokesperson added. “This means that people who add one of these badges to their Bumble profile can easily filter and find other people who want to connect in the way that feels best to them.”
According to the app, those using this feature are seeing over 20% more monthly matches than those who aren’t.
4. Global Dating
A few weeks after the pandemic hit North America in earnest, Tinder made an unexpected move by offering its “Passport” feature for free to all users.
Meaning that while most real-life flights were grounded and few people were taking trips in real life, anyone with Tinder could take a digital trip and swipe around far-off parts of the world.
While a Tinder press release from early April, which noted an uptick in swiping and the average time spent conversing on the app, claimed that Tinder as a company was “inspired by how people are using [the app] to be there for each other” and that it wanted to “fan these flames of social solidarity,” not all the upshot from its newly costless feature was simple togetherness — some people actually found love.
At the end of the day, that’s the truth from all of this: as frivolous as dating app functionalities might feel at first blush, they can be the difference between love and loneliness when the right feature leads you to the right person.