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The best dating apps for 2021

Whether you’ve been online dating for what feels like forever or are totally new to the search for love — or a date — online, there’s no denying dating apps are growing in popularity. In these strange, uncertain times, searching for your significant other, online speed dating, or simply connecting with locals you may not have encountered yet through dating apps have become commonplace activities. But with so many dating apps around to choose from, each offering unique and exclusive features, how do you know which one will help you find The One?

We’ve gathered and broken down some of the best iOS apps and Android apps around so you can get back to the dating life, and we’ve answered some of your most commonly asked dating questions. You can also check out the best dating apps for dating during the coronavirus to help you find The One while social distancing, or explore our picks of the best dating apps for women.

Getting started with dating apps

If you’re totally new to the world of online dating, where do you start? That depends on a few factors, like your age and what you’re looking for from online dating.

Searching for a serious relationship? We’d recommend avoiding apps aimed at — or commonly used for — hookups, like Tinder and Pure, and opt for those providing paid membership. Apps like Match, Hinge, and Heybaby tend to attract members looking for something more serious than a hookup — or download a local dating app such as Happn if you’re keen to discover potential dates in your neighborhood. These same unofficial rules apply for older daters too — paid apps tend to appeal to a more mature audience, so avoid gamification and “swipe left/right” apps in favor of those apps that ask you to include a bit more than just a picture on your profile.

Younger daters under the age of 18 will often find most dating apps require you to be over 18 to use them — and although there’s often no age verification process, the requirement is for your own safety, so sticking to it is recommended. Apps like Kippo and XO — where the focus isn’t solely on dating but on sharing interests, activities, and games — would be our recommendations for younger people dating online, but do check the terms and conditions before downloading apps and signing up.

Fairytrail

Fairytrail is a fairly new app aimed at remote workers, digital nomads, and travelers. The app claims 93% of its users are fully mobile or aspire to live this type of lifestyle. So if you’re never in one place for too long or you’d like to travel more, this is a great way to meet a like-minded mate.

You can sign up with email or your Google or Facebook account, after which a cute animated owl asks you some questions about yourself. The profile you’re creating digs a little deeper than with some other dating apps, asking you questions like, “What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?” and “What values matter most to you?” Then you’re asked to choose a Fairytrail character from a selection of characters, each with their own specified personality type — such as Rapunzel (adventurous) or Pocahontas (open-minded). Upload three profile pictures — one of which must show your face, and another which has to show your full body — and you’re good to go.

You can get started exploring profiles straight away or set your preferences. You can choose what type of character you’d like to meet, like Aladdin (ambitious) or Peter Pan (youthful), or filter matches by age, gender, current country, mobility, religion, ethnicity, and more. In the Explore tab, you can view profiles, tapping Skip to pass over the person or Adore to like them — it’s that simple. It’s worth noting you won’t be able to chat until you pay your one-time entrance fee of $2.99. Profiles here are more in-depth than some other apps, covering things like hobbies, values, top wishes, how mobile somebody is (in terms of traveling or being a digital nomad), as well as their height, religion, and the languages they speak. If you both “Adore” each other, it’s a match! You can then video or text chat through the app for your first date.

If we had any criticisms of Fairytrail, it’s that it isn’t particularly inclusive. You can only choose between two gender options, male or female, when creating your profile, which is sure to turn many users off the app. There have also been some complaints that the small fees you’re charged for various activities can quickly add up — and there isn’t much information about this when you first download the app. Fairytrail also seems to focus quite heavily on looks, with a guide to what’s attractive available on the photos upload page, plus the requirement to upload a full body picture. It’s also not the most colorful app around, and the design is fairly basic, so if this is important to you, you might want to look elsewhere. Finally, it’s worth noting that Fairytrail is fairly new, so it might be harder to find a match if you’re not willing to explore living a fully mobile lifestyle or if you want to match based on a more obscure location.

iOS Android

Heybaby

Heybaby

Heybaby is the dating app for those with kids or those who know they want them someday. If that’s you, you’re in luck. Unlike other apps, where you need to have the awkward, “So do you … um … want kids?” conversation, you already know that if somebody’s on Heybaby, they most definitely want kids, or they already have them. They may even have some and want more. The app is a great place for single parents to connect with others, but it’s also ideal if you’re thinking about starting a family in the near future and don’t want to waste time dating those who aren’t of a similar mindset.

Heybaby was founded by Diko Daghlian, Chas McFeely, and Rene Van De Zande, three dads who decided “the kid conversation” should be front and center when dating. When you sign up, you’ll answer questions about your family and your hopes and dreams for the future — such as if you already have kids and if you want to have more. The app also asks you lifestyle questions about your work, travel preferences, and interests in a bid to connect those with a compatible lifestyle and views on parenting.

With its sleek, modern design and minimalistic interface, Heybaby is a delight to use, but it’s anyone’s guess how the app’s user base will grow. There are plenty of positive reviews so far, with the main complaint among users being that there aren’t enough people on Heybaby to match with just yet — the user base is pretty small as Heybaby has only been around since the summer. The app launched first in San Francisco, so if you live here, you might strike gold — and, generally speaking, those in major cities have more chance of finding a like-minded match than those living in more rural areas. The latest features include the option to record a 10-second video for verification purposes and to introduce yourself to others. You can choose to show this on your profile or keep it hidden. Heybaby is iOS-only for now, but an Android version will hopefully soon be in the works.

iOS

Chispa

Chispa

Chispa is the largest Latino dating app with over four million downloads. Created by Match Group, it’s designed to help Latino single men and Latina single women connect with those who share similar interests. The app operates on a swipe functionality: swipe right if you’re interested — and if the match is mutual, you’ll be able to chat — and swipe left to pass.

There are plenty of options available to customize your search for the perfect partner, whether you’re looking for somebody who’s a specific height or body type or prefer to match on shared interests. It’s free to use the app but you can upgrade to Premium for $10 per month, which gives you unlimited swipes, five “Super Chispas” (like Tinder’s Super Likes) a day, profile boost, and the ability to rewind swipes. There’s also Elite membership, which gives you all the aforementioned features plus the ability to see who’s liked you.

The most recently added feature is a collaboration with Tragos (the Latino party card game) which acts as an ice breaker, using common Latinx themes and universal cultural anecdotes to pose hilarious questions that you can display answers to on your profile. It’s a great opportunity to connect with others on cultural references and upbringing, with questions like “Do you fear la chancla?” or “Ever get hit with ‘¿el novio/la novia?’ at family gatherings?”

It’s worth noting that Chispa isn’t available in the U.K., so if you live there you’ll want to choose another app from our list instead.

iOS Android

Filter Off

If you’re fed up with turning up to in-person dates only to find there’s zero spark, Filter Off is the app you’ve been waiting for. Founded by Zach Schleien, this “anti-catfishing app” has been responsible for no less than four marriages and six engagements during the pandemic, with the New York Times covering one of the weddings.

Essentially a video speed-dating app, Filter Off asks you to sign up using your phone number, so it’s pretty quick and easy to get started. Choose your display name — use your real name or a nickname — add your birthday, tell the app how you identify, and whether you’re interested in men, women, or both, and then add your photos and email address for receiving date invites and you’re good to go! You’ll need to tell the app where in the world you are, then write your intro — this part is important as your profile picture is blurred before your date, so your bio will be the first thing your date sees — and set the age range of the person you’re interested in meeting.

In the Events tab, you’ll find themed events, such as those aimed at divorced singles, ones themed around users of apps (like Clubhouse), and events for creatives or members of specific communities. Sign up for these and you’ll have a better chance of meeting like-minded individuals on your speed dates. You’ll need to fill out the Matchmaker to tell the app more about what yourself and what you’re looking for in your perfect match, such as whether you’re okay meeting somebody with kids, somebody who is divorced, or somebody with political views that differ from your own. Take your time on these questions, as they’re used to choose your dates, which should arrive over the next few days. If this all seems a little confusing, don’t worry — the app has a tutorial section that takes you through how to make Events and Matchmaker work for you. You’ll find this under the Settings tab.

Once your Matchmaker is complete, you’ll receive five or more live video matches every day, and the option to sign up for a 90-second video date with each one, to see if you’re compatible. After your date, you can choose to pass or continue chatting over text or video. There’s a Report feature too, so if anybody bothers you, it’s easy to get help.

If we had one criticism, it’s that there have been some issues where people have flaked on dates — much like in real life — but as you’re presented with multiple speed video dates every day, it’s not quite so much of a big deal compared to being stood up in person.

iOS Android

Lantern

Lantern

If you’re the kind of person who likes their dating apps a little … different, then check out one of the newest apps to hit the dating scene. Lantern is the first app to take an entertainment approach to online dating, with story-driven narratives that leverage gamification technology. Combining a weighted algorithm, relationship psychology, and a gorgeous design, the app promises a more meaningful online dating experience.

When you first log in, you’re presented with various genres of “adventure” to choose from. The app then dives into the narrative behind each adventure, presented as a series of written questions or choose-your-own-path videos. Questions are thought-provoking, such as “You just won $50 million. The jet is fueled up. Where do you go? After each question is answered, you’re shown other people who answered the same as you. It’s up to you to take it from there and reach out to start a conversation — but the narrative definitely makes breaking the ice that much easier.

Created by co-founders Caroline Gyllensporre and Yehuda Neuman (son of licensed therapist and award-winning New York Times bestselling author M. Gary Neuman), the app’s playful scenarios are a world away from the mundane swiping-based-solely-on-physical-appearance ethos of some apps. It’s free to download, and there are no ads, but you can sign up to Premium for $5 per month to unlock additional narratives and genres and access other premium features.

The user base is still fairly small, and sometimes the matching doesn’t always work — but the developers are responsive to user feedback and the app is regularly updated. Right now it’s available for iOS only.

iOS

Curtn

Curtn

Rather than wasting time scrolling through photos on other dating apps, only to find out your match is awkward in person and doesn’t share your sense of humor, why not check them out on video first? That’s exactly what you can do with Curtn, an iOS-only app — for now — which focuses on video chats. Instead of photos, users upload a brief video clip for their profile — and it can only be recorded at the time, so there’s no risk you’re viewing an outdated video from someone’s camera roll. You’ll get a much clearer sense of somebody’s personality and humor from a video profile, spending less time searching for your perfect match.

Curtn is a lot of fun whether you’re stuck in lockdown or just cozied up at home looking for a date, hookup, or even some new friends to chat to. It’s free to use, and once you match, you can start a video chat or carry on the conversation via text, if you prefer. It’s safe too, as both users need to agree to a video call before it starts — so there’s no risk you’ll be caught sipping coffee in your cat onesie without your knowledge. The app recently increased the number of people you can view a day from 10 to 20, and added the ability to share what city you live in.

The only downside? Curtn is relatively new, so has a small user base and is currently iOS only, although you can sign up on the site to be notified when the Android version launches.

iOS

Kippo

If you’re the type of gal or guy who spends your weekends trying to top the Fortnite leaderboards, raiding with your guild in World of Warcraft, or just enjoying a casual game of Overcooked with friends, then this is the dating app for you. Kippo has been around since 2019, co-founded by former Raya executive David Park. It’s designed to help you find your “player 2” — whether that’s just for gaming on an infrequent or regular basis — or to find romance. The app focuses on “self-expression and authentic connection.” The aim is to get to know each other over a game of League of Legends or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare rather than feeling pressured to dress up and meet for dinner or drinks.

You can meet gamers locally and worldwide, chat about your favorite games, connect, and plan a game or date night. It’s free to use the app, but you can upgrade to Kippo Infinity for $10 per month to enjoy unlimited DMs and utilize seven cards in your profile instead of three. As well as dating, the app has spawned thousands of friendships, with gamers searching for teammates and guild members through the app — so, if you’re a gamer, this is a great app to download even if you’re not searching for your soulmate.

The latest features include a new Compatibility Card that lets you introduce all the basics about yourself, from sexual and romantic orientation and gender identity to whether you have or want kids or pets — and whether you’re looking for a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship. You can now multi-select gender preferences too, for more control over who you want to see.

It’s worth noting that Kippo isn’t available in the U.K., so if you’re reading this and you live there, you’ll need to choose one of our other apps to boost your dating life instead.

iOS Android

Her

Her is the largest and most popular free dating app in the world for LGBTQ women, with 7 million users worldwide. You’ll need to use your Facebook or Instagram account to sign up, after which you can view other verified users both locally and around the world. The app isn’t just about finding a date or your perfect match, though — there are informative articles about LGBTQ issues, queer events local to you, and a community to be part of, so you can make friends with like-minded women who believe in LGBTQ+ equality and empowerment. To match with another user, just like their photos — if the interest is mutual, the app connects you so you can chat.

Her also hosts social meets and parties in 15 cities worldwide (like London, New York, and Los Angeles). Although there might not be much happening right now due to the pandemic, you can find out when the next event is by downloading the app, and you can also get discounts on tickets.

Her is free to use, but there’s a premium subscription available that lets you see who’s online right now, filter searches by sexuality, and more. Premium starts at $15 per month.

iOS Android

Pure

OK, so Pure is designed for hookups rather than serious dating, but don’t judge a book by its cover — or in this case, an app by its intended purpose. Pure is for those who prefer their dating life with no strings attached, so if that’s you — we’re not judging — then it’s well worth checking the app out. Designed with some pretty cool art, there’s a millennial vibe to Pure — and it’s a space for over-18s only, with a strict no nude photos rule.

When signing up, the app asks for your phone number to prove you’re a real person and uses your location to find potential matches — or you can sign up with your Apple ID on the iOS app. Make sure you outline what you’re looking for when creating your bio — as well as mentioning any boundaries. The aim here is anonymous, spur-of-the-moment connections, so your bio, selfies, matches, conversations, and likes automatically self-destruct every 24 hours — and they’re only visible to others when you’re online. Privacy isn’t a concern, as any photos you send in messages can’t be saved — and if anyone tries to screenshot an image you’ve sent, the app notifies you. Pure recently added an anonymous video chat feature where you can wear a virtual mask to hide your identity.

The user base right now is admittedly a little sparse, so unless you live in a major city, you might strike out with Pure. On the plus side, a smaller user base means fewer bots and people trying to scam you — so Pure remains a fairly safe app to use. On the downside, retyping your bio and uploading your photos every 24 hours can get old pretty fast, but it’s great if you prefer your apps with no strings attached. You can communicate with anybody who messages you for free, but to see other profiles you’ll need to upgrade to Pro for $15 per week or $30 a month.

Pure’s newest features include video chat, where you can enjoy a totally anonymous video chat and opt to “wear” a virtual mask to hide your identity, giving you the opportunity to get to know your match a little better before deciding to meet up in person.

iOS Android

NUiT

Our next app is a little bit different from the others on this list — it’s strictly for those who are into astrology. Not the “Today you will win the lottery” horoscopes that you find in every magazine and newspaper on the planet, but actual, real astrology. We’re talking about the time of your birth, which, along with your sun sign, can be used to create your birth chart — but who has time to create a birth chart to work out your supposed compatibility with your potential match? NUiT takes care of all that, asking you to sign up with your date of birth, then creating your own unique birth chart, which will not only give you insights into your own personality but can also help you see how you connect or clash with others. There are daily horoscopes too, if you’re into that.

NUiT is actually a lot of fun, and it’s a gorgeously designed app that’s free to use. OK, so it can’t tell you if that Cancerian born at 4:45 p.m. on July 5 is going to be your soulmate, but it can give you insight into behaviors, letting you use that insight to understand why people act and think the way they do. NUiT is geared toward inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community, and includes non-binary gender identity, as well as an expanded spectrum of orientation preferences — so if you’re looking to date somebody of the same sex, your profile won’t be shown to straight users, unlike most heteronormative dating apps.

NUiT’s user base is fairly small, but hopefully, this will grow in the future, and the feedback from users has been mostly positive, with many commenting that they use the app to make friends as well as find potential matches.

iOS Android

OkCupid

OkCupid was once one of the biggest names in the dating biz — and the desktop version has been around for what feels like forever (long before apps were even a thing). These days the reviews for the app are fairly mixed, but it’s still a popular choice if you’re getting back in the dating game. After creating a username, you’ll start your OkCupid journey by filling out a very long profile, which you can link to your Instagram account. You can answer questions, giving both your answer and what you’d like your potential match’s answer to be — creating a percentile score that reflects compatibility between users. The survey has been recently changed to include questions about contentious issues like climate change, so you can filter out people with diametrically opposed views to yourself. You can also choose to make your answers public and note how important they are to you, so prospective matches can see for themselves how compatible you’re likely to be.

All options, including those for accessing the settings and viewing profiles, are located in a slide-out menu. Tap the “matches” option to browse, 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 OKCupid Basic, which costs $10 a month or $30 for six months, and also gives you unlimited likes, removes ads, and unlocks all intros at once.

It’s not perfect. OkCupid has as many downsides as Tinder, and fewer positive ones, with the exception of learning a lot more about your potential dating partners — which can get interesting at times. 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 works on a website, 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 hard to keep track of what you’ve already viewed.

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. Facebook verification helps block a percentage of bots and catfishers from creating accounts, and without it, OkCupid loses a level of reliability. It’s worth noting that if you’re having issues with unwanted messages, you can subscribe to Incognito Mode, which hides your profile from anyone on the site you’ve not already messaged or liked — it also removes ads, and you can turn it on and off at any time.

iOS Android

Tinder

Some other websites may be older, but Tinder is undoubtedly the most famous dating app out there. As such, it’s an obvious choice for our list of the best dating apps. As successful as it is at forming long-distance relationships and successful marriages, Tinder has long been accused of changing dating into some form of hookup game. But it’s the king of the dating hill for a reason and the first port of call for many daters.

Thankfully, the Tinder app no longer requires you to have a Facebook account, but you do have to be older than 18 to sign up. You’ll set up a concise profile that consists of a 500-character bio and up to six images (we suggest always including a photo of yourself doing something fun with friends, or your best selfie). You can also link Tinder to your Instagram account and include info about your employer and/or school. Discovery settings allow you to set preferences for who can find your profile, from distance and proximity to age range. But once that’s over, the real fun begins.

Tinder’s interface is svelte and shows you only a photo, name, and age of each prospect. You can tap on the photo to see additional information about the person, as well as Facebook friends you share (if you’re logged in through your Facebook account). You can then swipe right (to like them), left (to pass), or up if you want to use one of your precious “super likes” to show them you really, really like them. If you and another person have both swiped right on one another, a screen will appear showing you’ve matched and inviting you to send them a message. There’s also a recently added video chat option that lets you check out your match before meeting in person. Free membership comes with limited swipes, and you’ll have to sign up for Tinder Plus, Gold, or Platinum to get features like unlimited swipes.

The photos are large, the app is — comparatively speaking — elegant, and setting up your profile is pretty painless. All things considered, 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. Since Tinder is also one of the most popular dating apps, you’re more likely to come across someone you like who lives nearby. Dating is a numbers game, and Tinder has numbers on its side — even if the app itself is widely regarded as one of the buggiest around.

iOS Android

XO

XO is a solid dating app, but with one big difference: Instead of the usual corny pickup lines and awkward first chats, you and your match play a fun game together, which allows you to get to know each other in a much more natural way. There are a number of icebreakers available, including drawing and word games, so you should be able to find something worth playing with every one of your matches. Playing a game helps to make conversing much more natural, and it gives you an easy conversation starter — even if it’s only about which games you prefer. You can also share funny results on social media, which helps to immediately introduce your new amour into your social circles.

Matching works similarly to other dating apps. You can match with individuals from your Match screen and tap the checkmark for anyone you’re interested in meeting. Or, if you’re the more adventurous type, you can tap the Blind Date option to be matched with someone completely different. You’ll play a game with your blind date and only have your identities revealed at the end of that first game. While you may find that a little scary, the chance to reach outside of your usual physical type may reap dividends, as you could end up connecting with someone you might usually not have.

The free version gets you a limited version of the app, so you’ll need to subscribe for additional features like unlimited likes, seeing who’s liked you, changing any mistaken selections you’ve made, and stripping out ads. A monthly subscription is expensive at $15, but you can buy six months for $60 or a year for $95 to save a little extra cash — though, as always with dating apps, paying upfront can be a little risky, as you’re essentially paying with the hope of not needing it eventually.

Recently added features include the option to invite people to play games by username, so you can play with your friends or a crush; Group Date, which lets you play a four-person game; the Love Letters game; Astrology Match, which matches you with other users based on your star sign — if you’re into that kind of thing; and Mystic Mondays. Also new to the app is Third Wheel, which is pretty much what it sounds like — you’ll be matched with someone, but a member of the XO team will also be in the chat as the third wheel on your date! They’ll perk up your conversation if it gets stale, help out with topics, and play group games with you to help you get to know each other. If you’ve joined the app with a friend who’s also single, check out the new Double Date feature which lets you hunt for matches together. The Role Play feature is also a fun way to see how you and your match navigate different scenarios.

On the downside, the app is still quite new, which means its audience is going to be quite a bit smaller than other dating apps. If you live in a less populated area, this might mean you’re much less likely to find someone within close proximity to yourself. However, it’s definitely one to keep an eye on, as the icebreaking games are definitely a new and fun way to meet people.

iOS Android

Facebook Dating

Why add information to a completely new app when you could just use an app you probably use every single day? Facebook Dating is now available in the U.S. and Europe, and it can leverage everything Facebook already knows about you to help you find a partner.

You don’t have to download a separate app to get started with Facebook Dating, as it’s built into the main Facebook app. To try it out, tap on the menu icon on the upper-right side of your Facebook app. From there, just tap the Dating option — though you may need to tap See More to find it. Tap on Get Started, and you’ll be taken through several steps to set up your profile, including the gender you’re looking for, a confirmation of your location, and a choice of profile picture for your dating profile.

The big advantage of using Facebook as your dating platform is that it already knows an awful lot about you, and while that’s a bit creepy, that data is used to refine your dating choices, making it a boon in this particular case. Facebook can also skim your regular profile for details that it thinks might appeal to potential suitors — though you can remove anything you’re not happy with sharing.

The big worry is that Facebook will accidentally suggest your friends or show that you’re open to dating on your regular profile. Thankfully, this isn’t the case, and Facebook keeps such details quiet. It might take a few days for your first match to arrive, but you’ll get a push notification when it does. If you find someone you like, you just have to tap the Heart icon on your profile to unlock the option to message them.

But there’s another feature that allows you to reach out to that friend or follower you’ve been secretly crushing on for so long — if they return your feelings, that is. Called Secret Crush, this feature allows you to choose up to nine of your Facebook friends or Instagram followers as a secret crush on Facebook Dating. If they have a Dating profile and also select you as one of their crushes, well, Facebook Dating will let you both know your feelings are returned. If your feelings aren’t returned, no one will ever know, making it a no-lose situation. The Stories feature, which works in the same way as Stories on Facebook, lets you share moments from your life to connect with those who are into the same things as you.

Following delays due to privacy concerns, Facebook Dating finally launched in the U.K. and Europe in October and is also available in the U.S. and a variety of South American countries. If you’re in the U.S. and are finding you can’t sign up for Facebook Dating, just check back at a later date and try one of the other apps on this list in the meantime.

iOS Android

Grindr

If you’re gay, bi, trans, or queer, then there’s no better place to find love than Grindr. It’s the largest LGBTQ dating app and dating site out there, and it’s a must-download if you’re looking for that special someone — or just a little fun. Signing up is easy — you can either choose to enter your details the old-fashioned way by filling in the form, or you can quickly sign up with your Facebook account. Once you’re signed up, you’ll want to set a profile picture and a display name, and make it clear whether you’re looking for love, a hookup, or just friends.

With that out of the way, you’ll be able to start seeing who’s in your area. You can favorite people if you want to speak to them later or just really like them, and you can even browse other locations — perfect if you’re heading somewhere else for the weekend or want to make some new friends before a big move. It’s easy to message people — just tap the Messaging icon on their profile — and there are large, high-quality pictures available for each of your matches, so you have a good idea of who you’re meeting up with. You can even location-share for really easy meetups. If something goes wrong, it’s also easy to report or block accounts — though there are a limited number of blocks for free users, which is odd and a serious turnoff.

Using the service is free, but there are limits. Free users only get to see 100 profiles in their area and are limited in other parts of the app, too. If you want to lift those limits, then there are two subscriptions you can take out. The first, Grindr XTRA, allows you to see up to 600 profiles in your area, view people who are online now, remove ads, and add other upgrades for $20 a month. But if you want the best possible experience, then there’s Grindr Unlimited, which has no limit on the number of people you can see, lets you see who’s viewed your profile, and allows for browsing in Incognito mode, as well as allowing you to undo sent messages and photos. Unlimited’s newest features include expiring photo mode, where your sent images expire after one 10-second view, and chat translate, allowing you to communicate with other users who don’t speak your language. Unlimited will set you back $25 a month, though, so it’s quite the investment.

iOS Android

Ship

The first dating app you can download (guilt-free) if you’re not single, Ship has a unique concept. Rather than just being a one-on-one affair, this dating app allows your friends to get in on the dating process by vetting potential matches and sending them over to you — with a few thoughts of their own, most likely. Otherwise, you can use it as a regular dating app, with the option of inviting friends later to get their thoughts before you commit to a date.

Getting started is easy. If you’re looking for love, you download the app, set up your account, and then invite people to join your Crew. Once set up, you can send profiles to your Crew, who’ll then be able to check them out for you and let you know if they think you’ll be a match. If you’re more the matchmaking type, you can individually search on your friend’s behalf and send them any potential suitors, along with your thoughts. A recent update has increased the number of Crews you can have, so you can have separate Crews for different groups of friends.

Once a match has been found, you can chat with them through the app. If you’re a more private individual, you probably don’t see the attraction here. But if you’ve ever sent over screenshots of a potential match to your friends for approval and discussion, then this app is an absolute must-download.

iOS Android

Tastebuds

If music is the food of love, then it’s likely to break your heart if a potential life partner can’t stand your favorite tunes. Tastebuds’ dating app gives you a chance to avoid that, with dating and social pairing matched primarily on musical love. Simply sign up, add the music you like, and get matched up with nearby people who share a similar taste in tunes. If your taste is constantly evolving, you can add your Spotify profile, too, so your profile is kept impeccably up to date. There’s a website version, too.

It’s on the smaller side where these sorts of apps are concerned, with only 500,000 people registered worldwide at the last count. Being iOS-only is only going to restrict that even more — though surveys say Android and iOS owners don’t want to date each other anyway. So, if you’re a bit farther out from an urban area than your average person, well, you may not find many people near you. If you are lucky enough to be close to some Tastebuds members, though, then it’s also worth keeping in mind it’s not just for dating — it’s also useful for finding new friends with similar musical tastes, concert buddies, and even collaborators and new band members.

iOS

Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel used to require Facebook to create an account, but that’s thankfully no longer the case. Instead, you’ll need to use your phone number to verify yourself, making signing up even easier — and slightly less intrusive.

Once you’ve set up your profile and input your dating preferences, Coffee Meets Bagel will send you a few “bagels” a day — otherwise known as a potential match’s profile. 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 and 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, and that expiration date imbues an immediacy not found in most other dating apps. You can also earn “beans” that allow for extra app functions, either by purchasing them outright, recommending the app to your friends, or logging in on consecutive days.

The service also offers more specific preference options, so you can narrow choices to certain religious beliefs or ethnicities if those are particularly important to you. You can load up to nine photos and create a much more prolific profile than some other apps. And if you’ve entered any icebreakers into your profile, the app will send one of them to a bagel you’ve connected with as the first message, allowing for a convenient, immediate connection. The fact that chat rooms expire after a week puts some pressure on you to exchange phone numbers or meet up in real life, or you can 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 a hefty 385 beans to like someone who catches your eye. When you consider a bag of 200 beans will set you back $3, it can quickly become expensive if you’re the impatient type.

You can also subscribe to Premium from $35 per month, $75 for three months, $120 for six months, or $180 for 12 months. This gives you access to read receipts, so you won’t waste time wondering whether your potential match has read your messages, as well as activity reports, which show you how your potential match interacts with the app — and whether they’re likely to make the first move.

Despite the expiration of bagels, the slow pace and infrequency of connecting with potential matches make it all too easy to be super-passive with the app, which can render it useless. However, if you prefer a slower pace, then Coffee Meets Bagel is appealing.

iOS Android

Hinge

Hinge

Load up Hinge, and you might think you’ve accidentally booted into Tinder. Yes, Hinge looks a lot like Tinder’s younger sister, and given the dating context, that might make you a little uncomfortable. But dive a little deeper, and you’ll uncover more differences. Function-wise, it’s very different and uses common interests to pair with prospective matches. 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, and they give you a better sense of someone than 500 characters of description can.

People can message you only if you’ve matched, so there are no unsolicited greetings. You can immediately see what sort of relationship people are looking for, and while that doesn’t sound revolutionary, it reflects the fact that Hinge carries more of a dating expectation than a hookup expectation à la Tinder. Best of all, since the matches are curated by your answers to questions, it’s quite a bit harder to come across someone who’s just looking to send inappropriate pictures — and that’s a big plus in our book.

You can add photos of yourself from Facebook, Instagram, or your camera roll  — and link your Instagram, if you like. Hinge used to be based around a Facebook friends-of-friends model, but it has since distanced itself from Facebook, which means it’s a lot harder to run out of potential matches. However, this means Hinge is a lot less unique than it used to be. Like other apps, there’s a free version and a subscription-based version called Preferred. The free membership has limited filters and likes and a reduced ability to see everyone who likes you. The paid membership lifts those restrictions and costs $10 a month, with a reduced fee per month if you sign on for three or six months.

Hinge recently conducted a survey which revealed 65% of users who have been on a video date plan to continue using virtual dates post-pandemic — after all, it’s an easy, no-pressure way to gauge whether you click before meeting in person. Recently added features video chat, which lets you hop on a video call with users you’ve already exchanged messages with, and the new Video Prompts feature, which you can open from the corner of your screen during a video call. Video Prompts is designed to help you kickstart a conversation and share your interests and personality. You can select from one of eight unique conversation themes and you’ll be presented with five Prompts to ask each other, from “getting to know you” questions to interactive Prompts that take you on mini scavenger hunts around your home.

iOS Android

Match

Match

There was no way we could discuss the best dating apps without mentioning the granddaddy of them all. Match was at the top of the dating game long before dating apps like Tinder existed, and its experience shows. Signup is simple but can take a little time — it involves entering your details, answering a few questions about your preferences, and adding a couple of photos. Facebook registration isn’t needed, thankfully.

Match’s version of flirting is sending someone a “wink,” and you can search through the Match database to find winkable people. The service will also provide you with daily personalized matches, which take your interests into consideration. There’s also a personalized dating coach that sends recommendations of people who match your desires — one of the most popular features mentioned in user reviews. The Match interface is also pretty sleek and minimalist, but it’s not as easy to use as, say, Tinder. It uses a set of tabs that run along the top of the display (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.

However, to make the most of Match, you’re going to need a subscription, which can get a little pricey — the cheapest option currently available will run you $23 a month for 12 months. If you don’t want to sign up for a year, it’ll cost $42 a month for three months or $26 a month for six months. Is it worth it? Probably — a premium subscription does allow you to see who’s recently looked at your profile and who has liked your pictures, and it includes a host of other features.

The app’s latest updates include the option to start free conversations with your Top Picks.

iOS Android

Bumble

Bumble looks eerily similar to Tinder but functions a tad differently. The big catch with Bumble is that when opposite genders match, the woman must message the guy first — and she only has 24 hours to do so. Guys don’t have as much power, but they can extend matches for 24 hours if they’re really hoping to hear from a particular woman. Ladies can do the same thing if they want to chat with a match but haven’t had time during the first day. For same-gender matches, either person can initiate the conversation first.

It’s a system that promotes an active approach, but not enough to be punishing. The 24-hour time limit to connect with someone adds just enough pressure to start a conversation, so matches don’t languish and get reshuffled into the deck. And if you accidentally nixed someone, just shake your phone to undo your rogue swipe. Profiles are concise, and settings are pared down, like with Tinder, and swiping up allows you to scroll through additional photos. 

Bumble also checks the boxes for usability, a slick user interface, and easy profile setup. Also, the relatively ballsy move of designing a dating app where women take the driving seat definitely pays off. It’s the only app that states plainly and prominently that it prohibits pornographic material, requires its users to respect one another, and has a code of conduct in place specifically to make it a safe and friendly place.

If you’re a woman and you hate being the first person to initiate a conversation, then Bumble definitely isn’t for you. Profiles are also very short, consisting of a concise blurb and six photos max. This can make it hard to gauge whether or not you’re interested in someone, even at the most superficial level. 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. However, if you’re a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it, Bumble is worth a shot.

Bumble recently added in-app voice and video chat functions, as well as the option to send audio notes if you don’t fancy chatting in real time.

iOS Android

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’ve never built up the courage to talk. If so, 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 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, 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 like doing, whether that’s taking a walk in the park, seeing a movie, or going for a drink. Happn also has some nifty integrations — 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 with matches.

Happn uses the GPS functionality on your phone to track your movements. If you’ve been within 800 feet 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.

Recently added features include video calling — just go to the conversation tab and tap the Video Camera icon to start a call.

iOS Android

Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish is one of the oldest dating services out there, and it’s certainly the biggest after hitting 90 million users in May 2017. With that many users, you’re more likely to find matches quicker. Plenty of Fish itself likes to point that out, saying that users are 2.7 times more likely to be matched in their first 24 hours.

That sort of massive following is a selling point in itself, but Plenty of Fish has more going for it than just pure size. It takes things that work for other apps and includes them in its own, adding Tinder’s swiping mechanics and a Happn-style ability to see matches near to you. It does have its own little twists on the formula — the Spark system allows users to quote any part of their match’s profile, so icebreakers are much easier when you can see what a message is referencing.

Much like other dating apps, Plenty of Fish has you take a chemistry test of your likes and dislikes, and it quizzes you about your wants and needs from a relationship, so you can be sure that you’re likely to be matched with people who are looking for similar outcomes to your own. The best part? It’s completely free and doesn’t charge to message or browse your matches. That makes it the ideal app to download if you’re on the market but aren’t actively searching for love. And if you’re going out of your way to find someone, Plenty of Fish may have your perfect catch. However, the signup process is pretty lengthy, and the layout is rather fiddly on mobile.

You can subscribe to access the app’s premium features, which will set you back $39 for three months, $60 for six months, or $90 for a 12-month subscription.

Recent updates include the LIVE! feature where you can livestream to an audience or host one-on-one video chats, as well as NextDate, a virtual speed dating feature that lets you participate in a series of 90-second video chats from the comfort of home.

iOS Android

Do dating apps really work?

When it comes to whether or not dating apps actually work, the jury’s still out. There are stories of people meeting their future husbands and wives on dating apps, and at the other extreme, horror stories of online dates gone wrong — but neither necessarily represents the average person’s experience of dating apps. The majority of daters in the U.S. report a positive experience with dating apps, but it’s true that to some extent your level of success hinges on choosing the right app for what you’re looking for — and you get out what you put in. Spend time perfecting your dating profile, and, crucially, being honest about yourself and what you’re looking for, and you’re likely to see results. Whether you’ll meet The One on a dating app, we really can’t say, but you will meet people you may never have encountered in everyday life — and it’s worth a shot, right?

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