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[WASHINGTON] Smartphone dating app Tinder launched a premium paid subscription version on Monday, but drew criticism over a pricing system that charges older users more.
Tinder Plus, which has been tested since late last year, has subscription fees varying by age and country.
In the US, users under 30 will pay US$9.99 a month and older subscribers US$19.99, according to a spokeswoman. Prices will be as low as US$2.99 in emerging markets.
The new tiered plan raised some hackles, and the PhoneArena blog wrote that it "quite frustratingly.. borders on age discrimination."
Tech blog Endgadget decried the pricing scale as "sleazy." But a Tinder spokesman defended the move.
"We've priced Tinder Plus based on a combination of factors, including what we've learned through our testing, and we've found that these price points were adopted very well by certain age demographics," spokesman Rosette Pambakian said in a statement.
"Lots of products offer differentiated price tiers by age, like Spotify does for students, for example.
"Tinder is no different; during our testing we've learned, not surprisingly, that younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger."
The app has spread widely among smartphone users, getting particular attention at the Sochi Olympics when athletes bragged about "tindering" for fast hookups.
"With Tinder Plus we're giving our users access to their two most-requested features through Passport and Rewind, as well as unlimited liking capabilities." The "rewind" feature allows users to "take back" a swipe, so if someone accidentally swipes left on a picture - rejecting a potential date - he or she can find that person again later.
"Rewind lets you take back your last swipe," Tinder says.
"If you accidentally swiped left on someone you want to get to know, they're no longer lost in the Tindersphere forever. Now you can get him/her back with the touch of a button."
The "Passport" feature allows users to change their location to match with people around the world, such as ahead of a planned vacation or business trip.
"Passport lets you change your location to connect with people anywhere around the world. It's like teleporting to a different location," the blog said.
Tinder, owned by the conglomerate IAC, has not confirmed reports saying the free version of its app will include advertising.
With apps like Tinder, prospective daters can see pictures of people who are nearby. If they see someone they like, they can swipe right to indicate interest. People who both swipe right on each other's profiles can then contact each other.