Finding love on the cell phone

Analysts find growth in the use of mobile dating services

This Valentine's Day, more lonely hearts than ever before will use mobile dating services to make a personal connection, according to analysts and mobile dating companies.

The growth is happening in part because of newer cell phones that have cameras, broadband wireless connections and clear color displays, allowing singles to send and receive photos and text messages to check out prospective partners, according to research from analysts and vendors.

In addition, a cell phone is easier to use in the middle of the day; PC-based dating services, on the other hand, are used mainly in the evening hours, according to findings from Webdate Mobile, a mobile subscription service offered by Trilibis Mobile in San Francisco.

"A lot of the interest in mobile dating is tied to Internet communities, which are certainly growing," said Tole Hart, an analyst at Gartner.

"Mobile dating will continue to grow because Internet communities like MySpace and Jumbuck Island will grow," Hart said. "If you can easily show somebody pictures or share music, that's almost inadvertently dating at times."

"A cell phone is a personal device which lends itself to mobile dating," Hart added. "Today's cell phones can do more things, with higher-speed data and with more picture capabilities." The ability to show a person something you are seeing via a wireless camera, often called "see what I see," supports this trend, he said.

Trilibis said it has noticed an increase in interest in mobile dating, with a 23 percent surge in Webdate Mobile subscribers in the past year, for a total of nearly 92,000 registered users.

Meanwhile, analysts at Frost & Sullivan put the revenues for global mobile dating services at US$31 million in 2005, a number that is expected to grow to US$215 million in 2009. Visiongain, a market research firm in London and San Francisco, said that about 13 percent of all U.S. dating service members were accessing Web sites through their mobile phones.

As a sign of mobile dating's popularity, carriers such as Sprint Nextel and AT&T's wireless unit (formerly Cingular Wireless) are supporting mobile dating with faster wireless data rates, easy text-messaging connections and subscriptions to specific mobile-capable dating services.

For example, Sprint offers a Webdate Mobile subscription for US$3.99 per month. Sprint also offers Jumbuck Island from Jumbuck for US$3.99 per month, giving users the ability to create an avatar to meet and chat with others via cellular in a virtual world.

For its part, Jumbuck Island announced this week that it has upgraded its Fast Flirting service, making it available to carriers globally. About 40,000 unique visitors per day use the Fast Flirting service over various carriers worldwide, the company said.

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Matt Hamblen

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