Coffee Meets Bagel is now a true mobile dating contender

If you’re a single, semi-techie person under the age of 40, you’re probably familiar with the mobile dating app trifecta: Tinder, Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel. The trio, with Tinder leading the way, have redefined what it means to find love on the go with simple user interfaces and minimal text baggage. There are lingering, entrenched dinosaurs like Match.com, Ok Cupid, and Plenty of Fish, but they’re not the future of romance in the smartphone era.

You can imagine my surprise, then, to discover that until Tuesday Coffee Meets Bagel didn’t actually have an Android app. It’s been around for more than two years, and 40 percent of its users were stuck using the mobile web version of the service. It’s rather remarkable the app carried on at all.

“We’re a very lean team. We still have today only 11 full time people,” co-founder Dawoon Kang told me as way of explanation. “We decided we would learn as much as possible through iOS before translating all that learning into Android.”

Until now, Coffee Meets Bagel was hindered by its lack of Android. It was shutting off more than half the smartphone market. But now the path is cleared for it to battle its rival: Up-and-coming favorite Hinge. Kang doesn’t see it that way. “There is definitely room for more than one winner,” Kang said. “A lot of single people end up using multiple services because there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t.”

She makes a fair point. Freemium mobile dating services are almost a commodity. As a young single person in San Francisco, I’m on both Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel…and Tinder, although I’m on the latter reluctantly.

Although Tinder may be thought of as the premier mobile dating app, the more popular Tinder has grown the more casual it has become. It’s dating-as-entertainment, an endless swiping past faces, addictive hits of ego boost when matches are made. It’s turned into a game that rarely translates into real life.

In its wake are the two remaining mobile romantic champions: Both Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel. Their designs keep the dating focus by limiting the number of matches a day.

With Coffee Meets Bagel’s new Android app and upcoming appearance on Shark Tank on Friday, it’s doubling down on its product.