In the past couple of years, a handful of locally developed mobile dating applications have surfaced, promising solutions for lonely hearts with a simple swipe of the finger.
The latest such app to hit smartphones has its eye on a niche clientele - Muslim singles. Mat & Minah - a tongue-in-cheek reference to colloquial slang for young Malay men and women - was launched last month and can be downloaded for free.
It is currently available only for iPhone users, but an Android version will be rolled out by next month.
Mr Zuraimie Ismail, 43, director of Skimly, the company that developed the app, sunk in $20,000 into this project after being inspired by his sister and colleagues who have yet to get hitched.
He says: "Most of them are not the sociable type and making new friends of the opposite sex is a big challenge.
"The Muslim community used to rely on parents for recommendations for partners, but this practice has declined. Using such an app provides a convenient way for them to get to know others in confidence."
Mr Zuraimie adds that there is no official body to help matchmake Muslim singles, although some mosques provide a safe environment to help singles find potential life partners.
According to the latest figures published by the Department of Statistics Singapore, the proportion of singles among ethnic Malays has been on the rise.
In 2000, 53.4 per cent of ethnic Malay men aged 25 to 29 were single, compared with 66.6 per cent in 2010. For females, that figure rose from 27 per cent in 2000 to 45.1 per cent in 2010.
For ethnic Malay men aged 30 to 34, the percentage of singles jumped from 24.4 per cent in 2000 to 30.5 per cent in 2010. For women, the number edged up from 12.7 per cent in 2000 to 18.2 per cent in 2010.
So far, there have been about 300 downloads for the Mat & Minah app, with 200 active users.
Developers of mobile dating apps say they are doing booming business.
One app, Paktor, launched in June last year, has "grown exponentially in the last few months" and now boasts a seven-figure membership base, co-founder Joseph Phua, 30, reveals.
Love Out Loud Asia (Lola), launched last November, claims to have successfully matched more than 10,000 singles to date.
Mr Kenneth Lim, 28, one of the co-founders, believes there is "proven commercial value in creating niche dating sites".
He adds: "We're also constantly exploring opportunities to create niche services that cater to specific demographics as well. But for now, our top priority is to have laser focus on effectively serving a particular segment we label as 'serious daters'."
Lola offers only one match a day to users as it caters to those who genuinely want a long-term relationship.
Will Mat & Minah be able to stand out in the crowded mobile dating app world?
The app works on a concept pioneered by popular dating app Tinder, where users sign up for an account by syncing it with their Facebook accounts.
Users of Mat & Minah can view pictures of potential matches and basic information such as age, occupation and whether they share mutual Facebook friends.
You can choose to like or dislike the person on your phone by swiping the phone screen left or right. For a fee, one can also find out which users have "liked" them, even if there is no match.
Ms Lydia Gan, 40, owner of 8,000- member dating agency Clique Wise and Love Again, which offers relationship coaching, says the app will appeal to a younger generation looking for serious relationships.
"They don't have to see users of other religions, or they can assume that everyone is Muslim, or are at least open to conversion," she says.
But the former president and current member of the Association of Dating Agencies and Matchmakers adds that with online dating, whether through websites or mobile phone apps, precautions should be taken.
"Meet in a public place on your first date, inform your friends or family of your activities and keep them aware, and try to keep an open mind if it doesn't work out. You can still be a friend, so keep a positive mindset," she advises.
Miss Nur Ain Ahmad, 27, who signed up for the Mat & Minah app, says she had a few matches.
Says the systems support specialist: "I've been on other mobile dating apps such as OKCupid, Tinder and Paktor. The plus point is getting a 100 per cent match with a local Malay or Muslim guy with every single swipe."
This article was first published on Oct 12, 2014.
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