Dubai: A new mobile app developed by two young expatriates in the UAE is attracting hundreds of residents looking to meet new people or expand their social network.
Jeltee, which means ‘speed up,’ connects UAE residents to people who share their interests through a like-or-pass swipe function. Touted by some people as the new Tinder, a dating app that has been banned in the UAE, Jeltee lets users browse through photos of people in their area.
If two users like each other, they can start chatting online. The chat function, however, is limited up to 24 hours, so matched users have to decide quickly whether or not they would like to meet or move on to the next person.
Founders of the new app, who are both from Armenia, clarify that their service is not meant solely to help singles find love or set up blind dates. The idea for the app is to encourage people to go out, meet new friends and discover new places, rather than spend hours online.
“We came to realize how people started losing connection with real life by spending so much time online. By brainstorming on how to change this, we came up with the idea of Jeltee, which is a platform where users can instantly connect and discover the new places nearby,” Rafael Harutyunyan, 25, the app’s co-founder, told Gulf News.
“We believe people would be [happier] if they used some of the time they spend on the internet on real world interactions. This is pretty much universal. Most of the world has shifted towards virtual interface based communication. This takes away the thrill of real interactions and rules out the chance of genuine serendipity,” added co-founder Ashot Mnatsakanyan.
Harutyunyan is a PhD student at Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, while Mnatsakanyan, 27, is a former student of the same school. The expatriates have created the company BROgrammers LLC.
The app, which is completely free, is now available for iOS and Windows Phone users, but not for Android yet. The Android version is still in the development stage and will be released in one and a half months.
To be able to use the platform, UAE residents, who must be over 18 years old, only need to have a smartphone and a Facebook account. Once the app is installed, users can then sign in with their Facebook account, choose a photo and start “discovering new people and places.”
There are currently 10,000 Jeltee users in the UAE and the app’s founders, who wish to attract more from the 21-30 age group, are confident that they will have about 90,000 members in the country alone within the next 12 months.
“We are getting a lot of positive feedback about the concept of disappearing chats and the ease of sending/accepting invitations. Chatting on Jeltee is seen as some kind of a social game where each party cares about not losing the contact after 24 hours,” the company said.
“Frankly, we are very happy that this concept has been largely accepted by Jeltee users.”
On the request of some Jeltee members, the founders are working to extend the chat connection time after matched users have agreed to meet in person, so that they can continue talking online before the actual meeting.
A new version will be introduced later, allowing users to continue their communication for another seven days, but only if they agree to meet. “That way, the social component of Jeltee will be redefined, enabling users to chat for 24 hours plus seven days.”
However, even before it could hit mainstream, the mobile app is attracting negative feedback, with some people citing that the new service is a copy of Tinder. The limited chat function is also seen to discourage some users.
“It’s exactly like Tinder because it follows the same like-or-pass swipe function. You see photos of people and you say if you like them or not. There’s no material difference except for the 24-hour limit,” one information technology (IT) expert said.
“By limiting conversation to 24 hours, the app just drives users to other communication platforms (Whatsapp, Facebook, SMS, etc.) which is the exact opposite of what a growth phase app needs to do,” said one Reddit user.
Harutyunyan points out that it is wrong to label their app as a duplicate of Tinder because it is designed mainly to promote “venue discovery” and “offline networking.”
“The only similar thing is the matching technique. We put focus on venue discovery and offline networking while Tinder only connects people. Saying that Jeltee is Tinder would not be correct,” Harutyunyan says.