Really, it was only a matter of time. We have apps to control central heating, help us get fit, deliver food and find love, so it’s no wonder the latest life-improving tech is targeting our ability to make friends.
In a crowded marketplace, many apps zero in on particular groups, such as mums, over-50s, travellers or dog lovers.
And, with today’s greater emphasis on wellbeing and alleviating anxiety and depression, it’s only right that the value of good, active friendships is going up.
FEMAIL investigates which phone apps could help you find friends in your local area
Studies have shown a large circle of friends can improve confidence and happiness levels and even give you a higher pain threshold. But do we really need an app to find these friends?
How can conversing with a profile picture, however well attuned to our own personality, compare to the joy of meeting someone in real life? Here, we road-test some of the best friendship apps vying for your business . . .
FOR BUSY GIRLS
Peanut can help busy girls make friends with each other
What it does: Helps you meet local mums, share parenting tips or just complain about your children to sympathetic ears. Input your and your offspring’s age so it has a better shot at matching you with someone at a similar point in motherhood and life. Next, pick categories that best describe you, from ‘outdoorsy’ to ‘always on vacay’, to build a profile.
Any good? It’s a kind community recommended by the NHS, with forums on topics including speech disorders, baby clothing rental apps and the school run, as well as a group for military mums. I found information about swimming classes — and four potential friends.
Sticking point: None, to be honest.
FOR PLATONIC RELATIONSHIPS
Patook helps you find platonic relationships
What it does: Patook (Armenian for ‘little hug’) uses artificial intelligence to detect anything that sounds like a romantic advance, to prevent flirting. Sixty per cent of users are women, and the app has a simple format — just a deck of profiles to browse and an inbox to chat.
A points system matches potential friends by asking questions, such as your pet peeves, interests and profession — as well as what traits you look for, such as their gender, languages they speak, their education level and their marital status, to bolster your chances of success.
Any good? Popular with those working long hours for the NHS, introverts, single parents, mid-lifers and some with debilitating conditions that prevent them getting out and meeting others, such as multiple sclerosis.
Sticking point: To get better matches, you’re encouraged to have long conversations with multiple users and generally use the app lots, which takes time.
FOR FINDING YOUR ‘TRIBE’
WE3 aims to find a person’s ‘tribe’
What it does: First, a questionnaire deciphers your personality, goals, beliefs and values, then complex computer algorithms are used to place three people into one group chat (called ‘tribes’). This helps those who find making one-on-one friendships awkward. Profiles are private, so only those matched with you can see you.
Any good? You have to pass through three lengthy levels of questioning to be matched to a tribe, then another two before you can start one of your own.
Signing up felt like being cross-examined by a psychologist. It did work, though. I was matched with two intriguing women within 5km of home, a management consultant and a research fellow.
Sticking point: You need to set aside half-an-hour to enter enough information to make it useful. You’re only matched with your own gender unless you pay.
Price: Free, but you can buy credits (‘stars’) from £1.89 that let you start more tribes of your own. A premium service from £6.99 a week also lets you start groups with the other gender.
FOR THE OVER 50S
Stitch is for people over the age of 50
What it does: A bit of everything. Look for friendships, romance or travel partners, browse local events or join open discussions.
Any good? It’s easy-peasy to navigate and message its wide database of worldwide users. You can take part in lengthy and energetic discussions on topics such as politics, online dating, sex, science, being a widow, genealogy and vaccines.
Sticking point: Basic membership is free, but so limited (you can browse just one profile a day and cannot direct message or take part in discussions) that it’s hardly worth it. To get the most from the app, you’ll have to pay.
Price: Free for basic membership and £54.99 a year for full access.
FOR FEMALE TRAVELLERS
Tourlina is for linking up female travellers
What it does: Enables women to find female travel companions with mutual interests, or meet up with like-minded app users at home or abroad.
Any good? It prides itself on being safe and reliable, and is one of the few apps that require user verification. It’s pitched at both backpackers and luxury travellers and spans 160 countries.
Users include women whose friends have become mothers and effectively burned their passports, divorcees and those working abroad. You can specify the age of your preferred co-traveller.
Sticking point: Flexibility is needed with dates, and your planned destinations should be mainstream (Europe or America) to ensure a decent match.
Price: Free to download and message one person, and £15.99 for a year of unlimited chats.
FOR DOG LOVERS
TheDogApp is for fellow dog lovers
What it does: Sign up with pictures, your details (name, location, interests) and those of your four-legged friend (name, gender, breed, birthdate and size) to join a community of dog aficionados for breeding tips, canine- friendly businesses, hotels and restaurants, get-togethers and dog banter.
Any good? It has had positive reviews. Come for the cute pictures of sleeping dogs and stay to join groups on breeds, dog news and fashion trends.
Sticking point: As yet there’s no way to private-message users.
FOR NEIGHBOURLY FOLK
Nextdoor is for neighbourly folk
What it does: It’s an ultra-local version of Facebook, for those who want to get to know their neighbours without door-knocking them, stew in hand.
Any good? Surprisingly so. Find people on your street (five on mine in North-West London had signed up), buy and sell things, hire nearby professionals or babysitters, and get neighbourhood recommendations as well as crime and safety alerts.
Sticking point: You are encouraged to make your street address (not necessarily the door number) and name public for accountability, so it’s not for those who like to hide behind anonymity.