Couples apps have taken several different approaches for marketing their services. Avocado emphasizes convenience by combining many of the ways we already communicate with our partners — text, email, chat, video — into a single app with additional features such as a "send your mood" button and templates for shared lists and photos.
Other apps emphasize the creation and storing of romantic memories and experiences. Couple (an app company formed from the recent merger of U.K.-based private sharing app Cupple and U.S.-based app Pair) offers the opportunity for mutual real-time doodling on smartphone screens as well as a cloying feature called "thumb-kiss," in which each person places his or her fingerprint on the smartphone screen so that, once aligned, both screens glow red while the phone vibrates suggestively.
All of these couples apps market themselves as technologies for enhancing authentic romantic experience. An advertisement for the app Duet shows unbelievably adorable pairs of people dancing, eating meals outside by candlelight, picnicking, playing chess and tandem bicycle-riding. In the final image, a man and woman perched on an orange scooter and wearing their wedding clothes, zoom off to their ostensibly happy ending. It is worth noting that not a single image of a smartphone (or any technology more advanced than a light bulb or that scooter) is ever shown, suggesting that these happy couples have used Duet merely to plan the remarkable experiences they then put aside technology to enjoy. I couldn't help thinking that in real life, the lovebirds would have been tweeting pictures of their dinners or that sunset.
Even though it's Valentine's Day, before you succumb to the pressure to download a couples app, remember the warning of a character in D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers: As he told his eager, would-be paramour, "You love me so much, you want to put me in your pocket. And I should die there smothered."
Rosen is a fellow at the New America Foundation and senior editor of the New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society.