A new “voice-first” dating app that uses cartoon-style avatars instead of photos has launched. The app is available to download from Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
SwoonMe, a San Francisco-based startup, says it is aiming to “eliminate superficial dating” by focusing on sound bites and avatars rather than profile photos. “We want you to be swooned not by looks but by personality”, the company says on its site.
Using SwoonMe requires you to submit a photo of yourself, which is converted into a cartoon style avatar by the app and then used as your profile image. Rather than writing a profile biography, you record a voice clip about yourself and what you’re looking for in a person, plus answer questions about dating.
When a profile match is made, you can can exchange further voice messages with your match and interact with them on ‘icebreaker’ games.
Matches are not completely photo-blind. As you continue to communicate, the avatar on your profile slowly reveals the image it was based on to your match.
Tanvi Gupta, SwoonMe’s founder and CEO, said she was partly inspired to create the app after watching the US reality TV show Love Is Blind. In the Netflix show men and women talk to each other but cannot see each other, then the men can decide to propose marriage to a woman on the show, before finally meeting them face to face.
“Appearance-based dating has been normalized in our culture but I have always felt that this has been the biggest pain-point in dating,” Gupta said. “It feels like we are assessing our options in a virtual ‘meat market’ on all the online dating apps.”
She added: “I have always felt that I wanted to change this dynamic and experience in the mainstream dating market. I wanted to build deeper meaningful connections between human beings… we can tell so much about a person by simply listening to their voice: personality, sociability, emotionality, and so much more.”
Gupta said that SwoonMe’s focus on voice messages was influenced by the recent rise of the Clubhouse audio and social app.
“Platforms like Clubhouse have shown that taking video and looks out of the equation allow[s] people to lean into actual topics,” she told TechCrunch. “It creates new levels of intimacy and interaction, and we’re basically trying to capture this with SwoonMe, but in the dating world.”
SwoonMe joins an increasingly busy dating app market. Over the past year a slew of video-led apps such as Lolly, Feels and Snack have launched, each with the long-term aim of toppling the established likes of Tinder and Bumble from their perches.
Read next: Tinder left in ashes? TikTok is fuelling a new generation of dating apps