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Start dating more efficiently with one of these 8 apps

Dating apps kind of suck — just ask anyone between the ages of 22 and 35. Despite this, they’ve become the normal way to meet people and ask them out. This puts you in a tough spot. Because everyone else is using dating apps, it’s tough to avoid using them, too. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. To help you navigate all the choices out there, we’ve picked eight of the most prevalent dating apps — or those that bring something unique to the table — along with our expert opinions on their accessibility, foibles, pratfalls, best intended uses, and everything else in between.

And we tried them. Each and every one.

While we can’t promise you won’t encounter an unwanted pornographic pic or a complete loser, we can at least tell you what you might be in for with each of these apps. That said, bonne chance!ung

Tinder

Tinder

First off, Tinder the app requires you to have a Facebook account in order to enable it, and you have to be over 18. Once enabled, you can set up a concise profile that consists of a 500-character bio and up to six images (we suggest always including a photo). You can also link your Tinder account to your Instagram, and include info about your employer and school. Discovery settings allow other users to find you, if desired, and set a few preferences regarding who you see. Then the real fun begins.

Tinder shows you a photo, name, and age. You can tap on the photo to see additional information regarding the person and Facebook friends you share (if any). You can also choose to swipe right (to like them), left (to pass), or up if you want use one of your precious “super likes” to show them you really really like them. If you and someone have both swiped right on one another, a screen will appear showing that you’ve matched and inviting you to send them a message. But most of the time, the Tinder experience will consist of flicking through profiles like channels on the television.

Tinder actually has one of the best user interfaces of any dating app around. The photos are large, the app is — comparatively speaking — svelte, and setting up your profile is pretty painless. Overall, Tinder gets an A for its usability. Also, no one can message you unless you have also expressed an interest in them, which means you get no unsolicited messages. While there are a fair few people on Tinder who use it strictly to collect swipes, many people are actually inclined to meet up in real life, which is not always the case with dating apps. Tinder is possibly the most popular dating app, too, meaning the likelihood of matching with someone you’re interested in who doesn’t live super far away is greater than with apps that have fewer users.

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OkCupid

OkCupid

OkCupid is one of the few dating apps that doesn’t require Facebook to sign up. You create a username and fill out a very long profile, which you can link to your Instagram account if you choose (which is, admittedly, almost Facebook). You can answer questions, giving both your answer and what you’d like your potential match’s answer to be. This creates a percentile score for users that reflects your “compatibility.” You can also choose to make your answers public and note how important they are to you.

All options, including those for accessing the settings and viewing profiles, are located in a slide-out menu. To browse for someone you like, you merely tap the “matches” option, which, oddly, does not show you the people you’ve matched with but rather the people you could potentially match with. If that interface is too chaotic for you, tap the “quickmatch” option, which restricts the results to photos only. You can like people or message them in a similar fashion to Tinder, but messaging is your better bet: Users can see who has liked them only if they have upgraded to “A-list” status.

OkCupid has as many downsides as Tinder, and fewer positive ones, with the exception of learning a lot more about your potential dating partners. The interface is extremely clunky and the photos are a little small. You also have to tap on a user’s small image to see a larger version and the person’s profile, which is simply too large for an app. It might work on a dating website where that much information would presumably be read on a larger screen, but it’s overkill on an app, and the amount of scrolling required makes it annoying to access. When you exit back to the list, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be in the same order or that it will return you to the spot you scrolled down to, making it extremely obnoxious to keep track of what you’ve already viewed. Worse, you can’t see who has liked you unless you pay for an upgrade.

Sadly, you also will only be able to see the five most recent visitors to your profile unless you pay for an upgrade and — worst of all — anyone can message you. Anyone. And they can message anything to you. If you don’t reply, they’ll probably just keep on messaging you, too. Frankly, some things can’t be unseen. Facebook verification helps block a percentage of bots and catfishers from creating accounts, so without it OkCupid loses a level of accountability.

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Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel is another dating app that piggybacks on Facebook. Once you’ve set up your profile and input your preferences, it will send you one “bagel” a day, which is essentially the profile of a potential match. You then have 24 hours to decide whether you want to “like” or “pass” on your bagel. If you like your bagel and they have also liked you, you’ll connect, meaning that you’ll be able to message one another in a private chat. That chat room expires after eight days, regardless of whether you’ve talked with your bagel or not. You can also earn “beans” that allow for extra app functions, either by purchasing them outright or recommending the app to your friends.

Props to Coffee Meets Bagel for having the cutest name of all the dating apps. The service also offers more specific preference options, meaning you can narrow your choices to certain religious beliefs or ethnicities, if those things are important to you. You can load up to nine photos and have a much more prolific profile, too, and if you’ve entered any ice breakers into your profile, the app will send one of them to a bagel you’ve connected with as the first message for greater convenience. The fact that the chat room expires after a week puts some pressure on you to exchange phone numbers or meet up in real life, or to just quietly fade away without any fuss. The interface is also relatively user-friendly, with large photos and clean text.

Appearances can be deceiving, though. Although Coffee Meets Bagel allows for a range of super specific preferences, the bagel it sends you may or may not match your specified preferences and, more often than not, if they do, they will be a significant distance away. The app can also be glitchy, often resulting in slow update and load times, and sometimes it’s frustrating that it sends you only a single bagel a day. You can speed things up a bit by using the “give & take” option, but it’ll cost you 385 beans to like someone who catches your eye.

The slow pace and infrequency of actually connecting with someone makes it all too easy to be super passive in the app, which can render it useless. In addition, once you like or pass someone, Coffee Meets Bagel asks you to specify your reasons for doing so, making you feel judgmental and kind of like a jerk if your answer is “unattractive.” The answers are only sent to the developers, who supposedly use the information to help better curate your resulting bagels. Still. Weird.

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Hinge

Hinge Thumb

Hinge is kind of like Tinder. Okay, it’s actually a lot like Tinder, but with a few key differences that make it superior. Interface-wise, it looks like Tinder’s younger sister. However, function-wise, it relies more on your Facebook friends to make connections for you. Hinge also connects you through friends of friends of friends, and shows you not just the people you have in common, but also all the things you have in common. It does this by having you answer a bunch of questions through a Tinder-like interface. Have you been to Berlin? Swipe right. Don’t play croquet? Swipe left. This makes answering questions far easier and less time consuming, not to mention more fun. The questions themselves aren’t as asinine as those in some other dating apps — ahem, Score — and give you a better sense of someone than 500 characters might.

If you want to know more about someone, you can always just ask the friend you have in common, which is a nice human touch that’s absent from most dating apps. Moreover, people can message you only if you’ve matched, so no unsolicited “greetings” from someone you would never match with. You can see what sort of relationship people are looking for, and while that doesn’t sound that revolutionary, it reflects the fact that Hinge carries more of a dating expectation than a just-hooking-up expectation à la Tinder. Furthermore, because of the friends-of-friends connection, you’re less likely to run across inappropriate photos. That’s a plus in our book.

You can only add photos of yourself from Facebook or Instagram, though, which is kind of limiting if you’re not very active on either. Also, while the friends-of-friends concept has a lot of benefits, it’s also restricting. It’s possible to run out of matches after 10 minutes of browsing, which is a let down if you’re actually enjoying the app or are serious about finding a date.

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Tastebuds

Tastebuds Gall

Tastebuds is a dating app that highlights music tastes to ascertain compatibility. You can link it to your Facebook account or not, depending on your preference. You can also make your profile as detailed or sparse as you like — character limits for each question, which are mostly centered on music, are pretty high. Once started, you can flick through individual profiles to view all the information the user has included, including song clips from artists they like. You can “like” a person if interested, and if not, simply “skip” them. You can even send a song or message users before or after they match with you.

The overall experience is also enjoyable. The user interface is clean and simple, and creating your profile is uncomplicated, allowing you to use both Facebook and non-Facebook photos. Even if profiles are a bit long, they’re never cumbersome and only include what you actually filled out. Listening to a song that the person likes while scrolling through their profile is also an added personal touch, as is being able to send someone a song. It’s the updated, truncated version of making someone a mixed tape. Moreover, a lot of people use the app to find friends and concert buddies, as well as dates. Of all the information dating apps use to determine compatibility, music seems the least arbitrary.

Unfortunately, Tastebuds is not without its drawbacks. There isn’t a place in the app to see all people you’ve matched with — just those with whom you’ve started a messaging thread. The app also only plays clips of songs and they occasionally stall, which is annoying, especially when someone has a longer profile and a good song selection. Possibly our biggest complaint with Tastebuds, though, is that it is very easy to accidentally skip someone you didn’t mean to skip. There are a few reasons it’s easy to unintentionally skip someone, most of which have to do with the way the app is laid out. Simple fixes, such as positioning the “like” button on the right and using a different motion to view addition profile photos, would help immensely. We can dream, right?

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Match.com

match

Match.com was at the top of the dating game long before the service ever released an official mobile app. Thankfully, you don’t have to log into the app via Facebook, though you will have to go through a sign-up process that requires you to add a few photos, answer some questions about your gender and preferences, and create a username and password. The same login credentials will work with the desktop version of the site.

The Match.com iteration of flirting is sending someone a “wink,” and you can search through the Match.com database to find people to wink at. The service will also provide you with personalized matches on a daily basis, which take your interests into consideration. To really make the most of Match.com, however, you’re going to need a subscription, which can get a little pricey — the cheapest option currently available will run you $21 a month for six months. A premium subscription does allow you to see who’s recently looked at your profile and who has liked your pictures, though, and includes a host of other features.

The Match.com interface is also pretty sleek and minimalist, but it’s not as easy to use as, say, Tinder. It utilizes a set of tabs that run along the top of the display — i.e. “matches,” “search,” “viewed me,” and “mixer” — which break up the service’s various functions. It’s not an overly complicated app, but it does take a few minutes to get used to.

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Bumble

Bumble App Gall

Bumble looks eerily similar to Tinder, but functions a tad differently. The big catch with Bumble is that once two people of opposite genders match, the woman must message the guy first. She has 24 hours to do so before their connection disappears. Guys can extend matches for 24 hours, if they’re really hoping to hear from a woman, as can ladies, if they want to initiate something with a match but just haven’t had the time during the first day. For same-gender matches, either person can initiate the conversation first. It’s also unsurprising that Bumble requires you to have a Facebook account to sign up — as its primary concern is dodging scams, spam, and detritus from annoying its female users.

Profiles are concise and settings are also pared down, like with Tinder, but swiping up allows you to scroll through additional photos instead of super liking someone. This means that just because someone twitched their thumb up on your photo, you won’t have to see their profile first every time you open the app, even though you swipe left on their profile every time.

Bumble also checks off the boxes for usability, a slick user interface, and easy setup. In addition, the relatively ballsy move of designing a dating app specifically with women in mind — but that is definitely also meant to be used by men — pays off. It’s also the only app that clearly states plainly and prominently that it prohibits pornographic material, requires its users to respect one another, and its code of conduct is specifically in place to make it a safe and friendly place. We only found one other dating app that had a code of conduct — and it was hidden within the Terms of Use, which no one reads. The 24-hour time limit to connect with someone adds just enough pressure to say “hello,” so that matches don’t languish and get reshuffled into the deck. And if you accidentally nixed someone? Well, just shake your phone to undo your rogue swipe.

However, if you’re a woman and you really hate being the first person to initiate a conversation, then Bumble probably isn’t for you. Profiles are also very short, consisting of short blurb and six photos or less. This can make it hard to gauge whether or not you’re interested, even at the most superficial level, in someone. Furthermore, because Bumble places the onus on the woman to initiate the conversation, we’ve found that it can attract a more passive crowd than other dating apps.

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Happn

Happn

How often do you cross paths with the love of your life before you actually meet them? Maybe you smile at your crush every day when you get your morning coffee, but you can’t build up the courage to talk. Happn could be for you. It’s a dating app that shows the profiles of other singles and pinpoints the last place and time you were near to each other. All your prospective matches are people you’ve crossed paths with, so you’re always starting out with something in common.

You can like people secretly, and they won’t find out unless they like you too. If you’re comfortable being bolder, then you can tap the Charm button to let them know you’re interested. However, Charms cost coins which you’ll have to buy with real cash via in-app purchases. When you get a match — which Happn calls a Crush — you can start chatting with each other.

It’s very quick and easy to set up and use. The profile creation is pretty standard. You add photos, age, profession, and interests, and you can also specify what you feel like doing, whether that’s a walk in the park, a movie, or a drink. Happn has some nifty integrations, so you can use Facebook to set up your profile, hook up your Instagram account to automatically add photos, and add Spotify to see if your musical tastes align.

Happn uses the GPS functionality in your phone to track your movements. If you’ve been within 250 meters of a potential match, then you’ll see their profile. For that reason, it works best for city dwellers. People can’t contact you unless you tap the Heart on their profile. Happn never displays your position to other users in real-time, and you can also block users if you have stalking concerns.

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