Cell Phones That Literally Locate Love

Looking for love in all the wrong places or searching through too many faces online? Soon, your cell phone may help you find dates and mates -- or have them find you -- anytime and anywhere.

Sure, Web-based dating services such as Match.com and eHarmony.com have become the tools of choice for an estimated 40 million online romance-seekers. But in the fast-paced digital age, electronic matchmaking services are already shifting their focus to an even larger market -- cell phone-equipped singles.

"Today, there are more people accessing the Internet worldwide through their cell phone than PCs," says Mike Baker, president of Enpocket, a mobile media company in Boston. "In the U.S., the number of mobile [phone] accounts exceed the number of homes with broadband [high-speed Internet connections]."

And companies such as Enpocket believe that just as Web-savvy singles flocked to online dating, the hundreds of millions of people who depend on their cell phones every day will catch on to mobile matchmaking.

Simply Mobile Matches

Already in Europe and Asia, where mobile phone use far outstrips that of personal computers, mobile dating services are attracting the attention of tens of millions of wandering singles looking for love. Services such as Enpocket's SpeedDater Mobile allow tens of thousands of British users to post and search personal profiles and then anonymously "chat" with others using short text messaging service, or SMS.

Such mobile dating services are slowly making inroads in the United States as well.

Top online dating sites such as Match.com and LavaLife.com offer "mobile" versions of their Web service through almost all of the major cellular services providers in the United States. From their cell phones, Match Mobile and Lavalife Mobile users can search short profiles and text-message each other -- just as if they were online on a computer.

But Andrew Osmak, vice president of corporate development at LavaLife Mobile, says the appeal -- and ultimate success -- of such services will come because date seekers will no longer be tied to their home or office computers.

"A lot of what we do is outside, not sitting at home in front of our PCs," says Osmak. "Our users in mobile service hop on when they want, where they want to fill that immediate need and when they're satisfied, they hop off."

Osmak may think the future of online dating is in cell phones, but for now computer-based dating sites still dominate. Osmak won't disclose exactly how many use the mobile version of LavaLife, except to say they number in the "tens of thousands." Industry analysts estimate that fewer than 6 million people -- 15 percent of the online Web dating population -- in the United States use mobile matchmaking services.

Still, the industry is optimistic. At a recent mobile dating conference in San Francisco, industry analysts said mobile dating services will generate roughly $31.4 million in revenue this year, and they predict that number could jump to $215 million in the next four years. The revenue from mobile dating will jump higher when you add in the amount cellular service providers would rake in from text-messaging and access fees.

Local Loves and Friends

Industry watchers believe mobile phones will increasingly offer new features that will draw in many more harried date seekers. One improvement over Net-based matchmaking in particular is so-called "location-based dating."

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