Still, the constant connectedness of mobile apps have turned off some users.
Jennifer Kelton, 47, founder of badonlinedates.com, has used Skout and thinks mobile dating has fed into a culture of instant gratification. It can be dangerous if you meet someone without thinking, and it has eaten away at wooing, she said.
Cristina Triglione, 32, who has used OkCupid Locals, PlentyOfFish and Let's Date, among other apps, said she gets many messages from men who nudge her with little more than "hi sexy," which isn't very informative. What's more, messages often come in at inopportune times.
Triglione, a special education aide in Boston, said she likes the concept of location-based dating but wishes there were a way to reveal her location to select people only or block those out of her age range. Plus, she is uncomfortable posting a date request on OkCupid. "I don't want everyone to see it," she said, "and I'm not really sure what kind of attention I would get from that."
OkCupid co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan said location-based apps should be part of "a portfolio of dating strategies and tools," good for facilitating last-minute dates. Of the 4 million active users on OkCupid, half of whom access the site through their mobile phones, 1 million have the Locals app, slightly more men than women, he said.
OkCupid also recently launched the mobile app Crazy Blind Date, which sets up a blind date — no photos, no profiles — between users who have suggested date ideas in the same neighborhood. He declined to disclose how many people have been matched on Crazy Blind Date, where men outnumber women 3-to-1, but said 70 percent reported a positive experience.
"You could watch TV tonight or you could spend 20 minutes on a blind date," Yagan said. "Maybe they're not attractive, but you met a new person, maybe you have a good story to tell."
Time will tell
As with online dating, mobile dating started off catering to people looking for casual relationships, but as it becomes mainstream more serious relationship-seekers are using it as well, said Mark Brooks, an analyst and consultant to the Internet dating industry and founder of onlinepersonalswatch.com.
As online dating growth flattens, mobile dating is on a fast ascent.
"It's more natural, you're out and about," said Brooks, who predicts that dating via mobile phone will change the game profoundly because apps can gather instantaneous feedback about how a date went, resulting in better matches. "People don't really know what they want, so the best way to match people is to look at their behaviors," Brooks said. "Your phone is going to get to know you, it is going to get to know your buying behavior."
Mobile dating tips
Laurie Davis, author of "Love at First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating" (Atria), said users have to approach mobile dating differently from online dating.
Smaller screens mean shorter profiles so people must make better use of the interest check boxes. Messages will sound more like text messages, but a quick "hey" is not enough and you must still highlight something in common or ask a question.
"You still need to know that there's something that will inspire you to meet, because otherwise why wouldn't you just stay with your friends?" Davis said. Obviously, meeting in public is advised.