Dating apps have become such an entrenched part of modern life that there’s hardly a person under age 35 who doesn’t know what it means to “swipe right” (here’s a translation for anyone who needs it: it means you’re interested in someone).
For all the obsession with meeting people online, however, there’s also been an increase in people’s desire to meet face to face. Data that Eventbrite UK collected just last year, in 2019, found that there had been a 400 percent increase in listed real-life dating events between 2014 and 2018. They also found that among Gen Z, 28 percent were wary of using dating apps because of the fear of being “catfished.”
When you add in the forced isolation that the pandemic has caused for people around the globe, it’s easy to see why the need for real-life, in-person interaction continues to grow.
Thankfully, the tech world is adapting. Instead of working to keep users locked to their phones, lots of innovative young developers are shifting the way we think of mobile apps-as a tool to facilitate real-world experiences, and in fact, decrease the amount of time users’ spend on their phones.
One app developer doing just this is Jamal Taleb, founder of the connection app BondApp. I sat down (virtually!) with Jamal recently to hear more about the trends he’s seeing in mobile development these days.
Shama Hyder: What led you to develop an app that’s focused on real-world connection, rather than trying to keep people on the app for as long as possible?
Jamal Taleb: During the pandemic, social distancing has been isolating a lot of people. A lot of urban residents, especially, were stuck in their compounds or buildings without any means of connecting with new people.
People still have a need to safely connect with each other, and BondApp has been getting a lot of traction right now because of that. The way it works is through using the location feature on your phone to connect you with other BondApp users who are within 200 feet of you. So you can actually see that they are who they say they are, which adds an element of honesty and safety to the typical connection app experience.
Often, two people might live in the same building or compound without ever formally meeting. Our app breaks that barrier in a safe manner. Users are able to restart their social activities face-to-face, while still maintaining a safe distance of 6 feet.
Hyder: What are some of the challenges of creating an app that facilitates real-world interaction, as opposed to one that facilitates an entirely online (or mostly online) experience?
Taleb: There will always be certain challenges, as some individuals will continually prefer to connect to others online, without the will to meet them in life—despite the disadvantages that come with that. And on the other hand, some users have to be encouraged to go online so they can take advantage of being able to interact on the spot safely.
Hyder: Which demographic groups are you seeing the most interest from?
Taleb: We’re seeing more interest from Gen Z and Millennials. These are the users who seem to most want to expand their network and socialize for friendship, networking, and dating.
Hyder: How do you think people’s needs and wants from apps are changing? Are they wanting them to do more than just give them a way to kill time, or escape from reality for a few minutes?
Taleb: Some people still use apps to waste time, but the majority of individuals are looking for a purpose. BondApp acts as a kind of bridge—it lets you initiate the connection, then forces you to put the phone down and socialize in the traditional way.
Hyder: Our smartphones are still with us almost every moment, but we’re also seeing people wanting to break away from screens, especially since the pandemic started. How can other online entrepreneurs capitalize on this trend, and create value that doesn’t rely on screens alone?
Taleb: Entrepreneurs need to find that focal point that will entice people—something that will give them opportunities using their smartphones, but in a strategic way. So for example, in our case, BondApp gets you started, then gives you an opportunity to socialize off-screen that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
As mobile apps continue to mature and evolve, we’re going to continue seeing developers find new ways to give users what they want: greater access to real-world experiences and interactions. In the world that Covid-19 is creating, that’s going to be the winning bet.