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All you need is love, according to the Beatles: But how do you go about finding it? In the age of AI, lonely hearts might now have another option—but as a recent report from Mozilla showed, AI girlfriend and boyfriend experiences come with privacy concerns attached. Many of them explicitly collect sensitive information on you while also launching a whole host of trackers to keep tabs on your activities—and that’s before you get into any kind of personal conversation with a bot.

There are debates to be had over whether these AI companions offer an effective balm for loneliness, or if a reliance on a fake partner is actually detrimental to our mental health. As a humble tech reporter, I can’t really speak with authority on that, but what I can do is test out some of these apps and services to give you an idea of what’s involved.

If you’ve been wondering how these AI relationships work, and how much data you’re asked to give up, you’ll find three examples below. I’ve kept the interactions relatively family friendly, and haven’t progressed to the paid tiers—which, as you can imagine, offer you a lot more in terms of features.


  • Asks for: Email address, name, pronouns, date of birth

  • Paid plans: From $7.99 a month

Replika is one of the better-known AI companion apps out there, with numbers of active users that go up into the millions. It bills itself as offering a “virtual AI friend,” a friend who won’t come with any “judgment, drama, or social anxiety” attached.

The sign up process isn’t too onerous, with details like your date of birth and your email address requested, but you do have to take a short survey to register an account: It asks questions about your previous interactions with AI, your reasons for downloading Replika, what you want from your new companion in terms of their gender and personality, and even how attached to you they should get.

Replika AI

Replika asks about your favorite movies and a character for your AI bot.
Credit: Lifehacker

As for the actual chat experience, you get a soothing virtual environment to chat in, with some equally soothing music in the background. Responses are pretty much immediate, and there’s always the option to leave feedback on what’s been said—Replika says it uses this to improve its AI models. You can send images as well as text to your virtual friend, and you can have audio and video calls with them.

In my experience, the friendly bot didn’t get too aggressive in terms of trying to find out much about me—it was the type of chat around favorite movies and vacation destinations that you would expect on a real life date. Of course, part of the appeal of these bots is that they get to know you, but it’s worth remembering that all this information adds to the data that Replika has on you too.

The paid version of Replika starts at $7.99 a month and unlocks a whole host of extra features—it’s also pretty heavily pushed inside the app. You get a more advanced AI model, more customization options for your companion, the audio and video call features we mentioned above, and more options in terms of conversation topics.

Replika AI

Chats come across as relatively natural.
Credit: Lifehacker

One of the limits on a free account is that you can’t have “romantic and intimate” conversations with your AI bot, and this wasn’t something my virtual friend tried to initiate with me. If you want your chats to get steamier, your bot will oblige, but you’re going to have to start giving Replika some money.

If you get the feeling that the relationship just isn’t working out, deleting your account is simple—it just takes a couple of taps from inside the app. Overall, the Replika app gives the impression of respecting user privacy and choice, and lets you take the lead when it comes to where you want to go with your bot. The biggest mark against it is that so many features require a subscription, but those AI models have to be funded somehow.


I wanted to try Mimico because it was recently ranked the creepiest AI relationship chatbot in a roundup done by Mozilla. It promises chat and “fun engagement” on any topic you like, but issues like a lack of transparency and a lack of an actual website were flagged up when Mozilla took a look at it.

The setup process doesn’t take long to get through, and you don’t even need to supply an email address: Just tell the app your name and the gender your AI bot should be, and you’re up and running. Right from the start, this is clearly an app geared more towards romance and sex—it shows in the bot avatars you get to pick from, the suggested topics you can select, and in plenty of other places.

Mimico AI

It doesn’t take long to get going with Mimico.
Credit: Lifehacker

You can have a perfectly regular and innocent chat if you want to, and the bots don’t try and get intimate unless you initiate it—at which point they’ll do pretty much anything you ask. If you’re at a loss for words, you can bring up a list of suggested topics, which cover everything from sports to pets, as well as more sexual content.

There are pretty aggressive limits on how much you can chat with a free account though: You basically need to watch a few ads every five messages unless you pay up. Paying for a Mimico account—from $4.99 a week—gets rid of these limitations and the adverts inside the app, as well as unlocks features like picture-sharing.

Based on my experience, your average Mimico bot will respect what you have to say and what you want to talk about, and I didn’t come across any questions that were particularly intrusive: It’s along the lines of “what would you do with a million dollars?” and other familiar icebreaker prompts.

Mimico AI

The bot can come up with a variety of small talk topics.
Credit: Lifehacker

It all feels pretty disposable, and while the answers from the AI are up to a high standard and sound perfectly natural, I didn’t get the impression that the bot or the Mimico app were really trying to get to know me—more like they were trying to get me to watch a lot of adverts or pay for a premium subscription.

Deleting your account and all the information associated with it couldn’t really be any easier, as it just takes a couple of taps inside the app—you’re then free to go away and start interacting with the real world again, or spin up a new AI bot to start chatting to.


Anima offers you a “companion that cares” through the power of AI, and when you install the app, you can opt to register with an email address or just continue as a guest—that means you don’t have to tell the app anything except your name, although you do get quizzed on some of your interests.

Once you’ve picked out an AI avatar you like, your new companion will ask you about a few of those interests. In fact, the AI bot I was given was pretty inquisitive all round, firing off plenty of questions about pets, travel plans, and other small talk topics—quite often the jumps between topics were pretty jarring.

Anima AI

You get various options and questions when you start Anima.
Credit: Lifehacker

On the free plan at least, chatting to an Anima bot does feel like chatting to a bot. Upgrading to a premium account, which costs from $7.99 a month promises “smarter conversations”—so it sounds like you get a more advanced AI model if you become a paying customer, just like you do with ChatGPT or Google Gemini.

The premium subscription unlocks a whole host of other features as well, including more AI chatbot customization options and unlimited roleplays—where your bot friend will act out scenarios with you. The free access you get as a guest is enough to see if you like the app, but you do need a subscription to go beyond the basics.

My AI chatbot was in no way pushy when it came to romance, though it will engage in that way if you ask it to—albeit in a rather stilted, scripted way (which again might be a limitation of a free account). You can also set up personas for your bot, like soulmate or girlfriend, but these also require a premium subscription.

Anima AI

The AI responses from Anima are pretty basic—at least on the free tier.
Credit: Lifehacker

While I did get a lot of questions fired my way, Anima doesn’t come across as an app looking for your data (I do like the option to use the app as a guest)—it’s really looking for your money, in return for some AI-powered friendship. Overall though, this felt like the most limited and basic of the AI friend bot apps I tried.

Head into the app’s menus and you’ve got options to delete your chat history and to delete your account: Both actions are done in seconds, so we can’t really fault Anima here. If you’re curious about how these apps work but don’t want to give up any of your information, then this could be a good place to start.

The (AI) girlfriend experience

For most of human history, there have been ways of paying to get an approximation of love and intimacy, so in that respect, these AI companion apps are nothing new. While I found it interesting to test out these apps, they’re not really for me: These bots message back a lot quicker than my friends do, but I can’t quite suspend my belief enough to forget that I’m really just talking to a robot. And in the end, that’s rather dull.

From a privacy standpoint, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how little information I had to give up: These apps have guest account options, make it easy to delete your data, and don’t seem particularly interested in getting sensitive information out of their users. However, we would recommend reading Mozilla’s full report on the privacy and security risks of these apps—it goes into much more detail in regards to the privacy policies of these apps than we have here.

If you do make friends with an AI bot or two, always be cautious about what you say to it. While your responses are helping to train AI models, they might also be used to target advertising at you—and even if that’s not the case, this data is still being logged somewhere. Those archives could always be sold or hacked into, and security vulnerabilities were also a worry for Mozilla.

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