I'm single, I live on my iPhone, and I'm cautiously optimistic about online dating. Those qualities make me the perfect match for Let's Date, an iOS-only application for finding love, or whatever it is you're looking for, in an unconventional fashion.
Let's Date, first released in San Francisco in early November, today launches more widely to offer people in all major U.S. markets, Canada, London, Sydney, and Melbourne a funky new way to find dates.
Just as I would with any would-be suitor, I gave Let's Date the twice-over. After all, it's my duty as a single woman to understand the inner workings of an application that throws out the manual search process in favor of a more automatic and scientific way to uncover great people to date. The dreaded V-Day is also just a week away, which means I'm on a personal deadline of sorts.
I'm not sure about the science part just yet, but I can say with complete certainty that I'll give Let's Date at least one more go. If the app had its own dating profile, or a "dater card" as it's called here, it would pass the initial attractiveness test. Designed to be touched, the app is a thing of beauty, and it possesses the kind of qualities that may make you question your relationship with other dating applications.
Superficially speaking, I quite like the look of Let's Date dater cards, which essentially break down a person's deets into an easily digestible baseball card-stye format. The cards include photos and activities imported from Facebook -- you have to have a Facebook account to use Let's Date -- but they also allow for self-expression and individuality, so you can identify yourself as a techie crossfitter who's a bit of a spitfire.
Dater cards are the essence of the Let's Date experience. The app serves up a stack of cards for you to judge. Yes, judge. The experience is as pleasurable as picking apart men while people-watching with your girlfriends -- not that you or I would ever engage in that sort of activity.
If you're repulsed by a guy's card, hit the "No, thanks" button at the bottom and swipe on. Or you can take a big red edit pen, aka your finger, and cross out all the qualities that make your stomach turn. Alternatively, if you love what you see, tap "Let's Date" and wait for the experience to get really interesting.
Everything you do with these cards contributes to what Let's Date founder Sean Suhl calls "stack logic." The app shows you an ever-changing stack of cards and attempts to introduce you to the type of people you're most interested in meeting. He thinks this approach, versus letting you search for people based on a predetermined set of qualities, is more true to life. You'd never walk up to a hostess and rattle off all the things you want to find in a partner, he said. I guess his logic depends on how drunk you are.
"We're trying to put together a night club," Suhl told me. "We have people waiting in line to get into your stack, and we change that stack of cards to try to present you with the best experience."
Behind the scenes, there's apparently a bunch of modeling going on -- not the catwalk kind, but the data variety. Essentially, Let's Date tries to figure out who you'll like by your similarities to other daters. If you cross out pictures of 40 men who you think are ugly and another women crosses out the same photos, Let's Date will associate your physical preferences with hers to show you more men that you will find attractive.
In theory, the more you cross out qualities and photos, the better Let's Date is able to understand your personal tastes. You won't notice that side of the app on day one, however. I can't tell you how many guys I eliminated on youth alone. Yet, Let's Date kept finding me 18-year-old boys with no jobs. No thanks.
Suhl begged me to try the app again later. He said it takes a day or so for Let's Date to get your preferences right and show you people better suited to your tastes.
My frustrations aside, I bet you want to know what happens after you choose the "Let's Date" option. The hottie in question gets a notification that someone picked him. Your card is then slyly inserted toward the front of his card stack, though he won't know that it was you who picked him (unless he picks you back). If he likes your card enough to hit "Let's Date," then you two can start messaging each other for the first time. The app also suggests a public place to meet for your first date and nudges him to ask you out.
When your date is over, Let's Date will pepper you with questions to determine how the date went and whether your guy, if he's not a match for you, is a good fit for other ladies.
I haven't been able to experience that part of the app yet. So far, I've received plenty of notifications about guys picking me, but I've only returned the favor twice, and I've had to sacrifice some of my non-negotiables to get that far. Perhaps, that's more a reflection of the dating pool in San Diego than it is a fault of the app. Either way, no dates to report just yet.
On the whole, Let's Date should fare quite well on the market. The prevalence of mobile-friendly dating applications ranging from OkCupid to Grindr, and the abundance of I-fell-in-love-thanks-to-Match anecdotes, have all helped to eliminate some of the stigma around online and mobile dating. Most people I talk to are open to it -- until they tire of the work involved, the bad dates, or the gross feeling they get when they look at one too many profiles of unacceptable men or women.
At the very least, Let's Date does a great job at making the weeding-out process seem more like a game than a chore. Plus, the startup, which is seed-funded by Science, insists that the app really does get people out on dates. In one day, Let's Date coordinated dates for 8,000 people, Suhl said.
Of course, the true test of a good dating application is whether it works. If you're a twenty-something with low to medium standards, Let's Date will, at the very least, be a fun distraction that pushes you to get out of the house more. The rest is obviously up to you.
As for me, the novelty of the gorgeous mobile experience is wearing off. I need substance. I'll give it a day or two to improve, but only because Suhl impressed on me to do so. Most likely though, I'll avoid the application until San Diego's selection includes more eligible, gainfully employed men. Wishful thinking, I know, but a girl can dream.