The love machine: 5 dating apps
Your smart phone might help you get a date, but it can also steer you wrong.
Before your next date, prepare your cell phone to serve as your wingman.
Smart-phone applications aim to help users with every stage of a relationship, from hunting for a date to wining and dining to breaking up. While some of the advisory apps are free, others are pricey -- a background check on your dinner mate might run $40 -- and the information can be inaccurate.
Just remember: It's rude to pay more attention to your phone than to your date, says Jodi R. R. Smith, chief executive of Boston-based etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith. That's true even if you excuse yourself to better review your next move. "You want to be careful of leaving your date alone at the table frequently," she says. "If they are attractive, that gives someone else time to move in."
Use these five apps to plan and hone your dating skills, but tuck the phone away before you make your approach.
DateCheck. It's free. Phones: iPhone, Android (BlackBerry version in development). Check up on the background of your blind date right there at the dinner table. DateCheck checks public databases against information on your date. A name or phone number can turn up compatibility hurdles, including astrological sign, job history, and the names and ages of other people living at his address (i.e., wives and parents).
But users’ complaints about the app say it doesn’t always correctly match up the right John Doe with his criminal record (or lack thereof), so take the info with a grain of salt. “The results depend on how active that person is online,” says Megan Berry, a spokeswoman for Mobclix, which tracks app data. Detailed reports are pricey, too, costing as much as $40.
WhosHere. It’s free. Phones: iPhone. No more wondering if the cutie on the next bar stool is single. Free social-networking apps including WhosHere, Skout Dating (free), iGirl Meets iGuy (free) and SpeedDate (free) use your phone’s GPS chip to find other users nearby and send messages to see if they would like to meet up. “It’s a way of announcing, ‘Here I am,’” says Brad Spirrison, managing editor for Appolicious.com, a site that offers expert and consumer app reviews. You must be logged in for the app to work, eliminating the possibility of awkward approaches at the doctor’s office or outside your apartment door.
Such apps are still prone to the usual pitfalls of niche dating sites, Spirrison says. The pool of potential dates is likely to be small, and advanced features may require a subscription. (SpeedDate, for example, charges $16 to $30 a month to let you choose members for three-minute messaging dates.)
Get Any Girl. It’s 99 cents. Phones: iPhone. Come here often? What’s your sign? You can do better -- if not on your own, then with the help of pickup artistry and flirting guide apps such as Get Any Girl, iFlirt (99 cents) or A+ Pickup Lines (free). You’ll learn how to make a successful approach and seal the deal, as well as a few great opening lines.
“As a woman, I can tell you some of them are actually really funny,” Berry says. If that’s not quite the effect you’re going for, it might be smart to run a few by your friends before testing them out on a dateable target.
OpenTable.com. It’s free. Phones: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm. Adam Rich, co-founder of guy-focused event newsletter Thrillist.com, credits the OpenTable.com app with a few last-minute saves when hunting for brunch spots with his girlfriend. It lets users find a nearby restaurant with the right vibe (romantic, foodies, late night, hotspot, etc.), peruse menus and reviews, and make a reservation right then and there.
Just make sure to keep your on-date use to a minimum, Rich says. Spending the night playing on your phone ruins the edge a well-planned date gives you.
Excuse Me. It’s free. Phones: iPhone. Escaping from a nightmare date is simple with an app like Excuse Me, Fake-a-Call (free) or A Fake Caller (free). Set a timer, and the app will simulate an incoming phone call, down to an indistinguishable voice on the other end of the line that could be your boss, mom or best friend. "It can be a real lifesaver on a bad date," Berry says.
Even if the app functions well, it’s unlikely any date will buy your sudden emergency, Smith says. “If you have to rely on your cell phone ringing to excuse yourself, as an adult that’s poor form,” she says. Keep the date short through more legitimate means -- say, by declining after-dinner drinks or pleading out of further plans. That sends a clear message without making you look like a jerk.
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