tinder leads surge in dating apps

Bless or curse the smartphone, but you can't doubt its impact. Even digital dating has become a handheld activity.

Online dating, long dominated by big outfits like Match.com and eHarmony, has in the past two years been transformed by the rise of Tinder, the mobile phone app that lets its users scan photos and short profiles of potential dates.

Then, as easy as a swipe of a finger, you can decide if you want to chat or pass on a prospect.

But Tinder's free app isn't the only game in town. Many app makers are trying to capitalize on the Tinder method of simple, smartphone-based dating.

An app called Hinge sifts only through your Facebook connections for friends of friends. Clover offers Tinder-like features but with an added, if dubious, bonus called "On-Demand Dating." Think Uber for dating — you pick a location and a date, and Clover sends someone to meet you.

And there are others with variations on the theme, including How About We, where you pose an idea for a fun date and see who bites, and the League, sort of a mobile dating app for the 1 percent: It promotes exclusivity and a carefully selected clientele.

It's easier, faster and more discreet to swipe through an app than to create laborious online profiles. The downside of that convenience is uncertainty, since mobile profiles tend to be sparse or nonexistent.

Still, this simplicity has caused Tinder's growth to explode in just two years. According to the company, it processes more than 1 billion swipes a day and matches some 12 million people a day. A "match" means two people agreed they were interested in one another. From there, they can choose whether to exchange messages or meet in person.

Tinder is indeed easy, casual and fun. To set up a profile, you log in using your Facebook credentials and then choose a few photos from the collection you have on the site. Then, you enter a short bio — or leave it blank, as some people do when they're relying solely on their looks.

After that short setup, which takes just a few minutes depending on how much time you spend writing your profile or choosing photos, you can set search parameters like distance from you, age and gender. And then you just start swiping through pictures of potential matches.