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The stigma toward dating apps is fading, and these apps are quickly becoming the normal way to meet and connect with other single people. To help you navigate the deluge of dating apps, we’ve selected some of the best dating apps, as well as some of those that bring something unique to the table. And if that wasn’t enough, we’ll also offer our expert opinions on their accessibility, foibles, pratfalls, best intended uses, and everything else in between. Hopefully, Cupid’s arrow is in your favor!
We spent five days trying out 10 different online dating services to figure out which one is the most effective and affordable. That meant monitoring three fake profiles for 24 hours, collecting match data and using the features of every website and app. We looked at which websites give free access to other users’ profile photos and messaging, and whether you have to pay to access extra features. For on-the-go dating, we also used apps and evaluated them based on how user-friendly they are.
There are dozens of expert reviews and roundups of online dating sites, many of which involve hands-on testing. The most helpful include detailed comparative reviews and rankings based on real-world usage from sites including Ask Men, Top Ten Reviews and Digital Trends. Expert roundups from sites such as CNET were also helpful, even if they didn't involve rankings.
With over 25 million monthly users (that's more than eharmony) as well as live video options, chat rooms, groups for ultra specific kinks, and more, you can probably assume how wild this site can get. But there's such a large and diverse group of potential matches, you're very likely to find someone who's on the same page as you. The part that you wouldn't expect is the fact that they do offer tons of compatibility questions and matchmaking services, because they're that intent on finding you a good lay.
One of the better-known gay and lesbian dating apps, HER is a top option for queer women (and womxn) seeking a Tinder-style dating app that's exclusively focused on the LGBTQI+ experience. In its previous incarnation, it was known as Dattch; as HER the app's aim is to be a more-inclusive queer dating hub. Yet, with initial matching based on liking photos from a grid of nearby users, those seeking a serious relationship will have to be ok with asking questions to see if there's a personality connection.8
Let's say, hypothetically, that you already have some potential hookup partners in mind, and that they just so happen to be your friends on Facebook (or friends with your friends on Facebook). Don't you wish there were some way to see if they were interested in some type of casual arrangement? That's where DOWN Dating comes in: the app that connects you with your Facebook friends (and friends of friends) who are down to get down. But don't worry, the lady you have your eye on won't know you're down for a hookup unless she says she's down for one with you, too.
Once you’re a full-fledged member of The League, the fun begins. While there is a free option, most users opt for the paid membership option at $99 a month or $250 a year. As a paid member, you receive up to seven prospects each day during Happy Hour; tap the heart button if you like the prospect, or the X if you wish to move on. If you do match with another member, you have 21 days to contact each other. If you continuously fail to contact or reply to members, you will be deemed “flaky” by The League and it may send fewer prospects your way in the future.
Sexual orientation, religion, and age are also some of the top qualities and characteristics people don’t want to budge on, and reasonably so. When a dating app has a targeted audience, it can be easier to connect with the exact person you’re interested in. For example, Zoosk is great for younger singles, while eHarmony members tend to lean slightly older. Save yourself some time and effort by picking a dating app that has your preferred user base.
OkCupid is one of the most popular dating apps out there. You've probably heard of this one before. It boasts over 40 million people although we're not sure how many of those are daily active users. It uses a more traditional dating site method. It'll ask you a bunch of questions and try to find matches based on similar interests. It also has some more modern dating apps features, like swiping away profiles you want or don't want. It'll ask you to subscribe to a monthly payment plan to unlock all the good features. The app has some strict, ambiguous rules about some things and the app itself is occasionally slow and buggy. Otherwise, it's actually not half bad.
But this isn’t one of those stories where I tell you I downloaded one little app, swiped twice, and, to quote Tom Hank’s character Joe Fox, found “the one single person in the world who fills your heart with joy.” Whether it’s been because of a friend’s suggestion, trying to up my odds, or pure frustration with not getting messages back, I’ve downloaded and used a plenty of apps! So when the InStyle team was looking for volunteers to write a real-life, first-person review of dating apps, well… I guess we had a match. Read on for my findings:
Why it's awesome: On OkCupid, users can offer a ton of information about themselves through the site's Match Questions. Examples include: "Would you date someone who keeps a gun in the house?" or "Should the government require children be vaccinated for preventable diseases?" The answers to these questions help OkCupid determine which members might be a good match for one another. Of note: Per OkCupid's own stats, liberal women in particular have luck on the site. And in 2017, the site offered users the chance to answer 50 "current events" questions that illuminate a user's politics."OkCupid has been a favorite of mine for years," Spira says. "I always liked OkCupid because they have a great critical mass and they have the thought-provoking questions that really allow you to think about how you feel about some of these issues, whether it’s politics or gun control, and how do you feel about your date’s answers. People spend a lot of time on site just perusing the questions that other people answer, and I like that."
You can even say we're living through a worldwide Introvert Revolution. Just look at the success of self-proclaimed introvert Susan Cain's wildly popular book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her book has sold millions of copies worldwide, a TEDtalk she gave on the topic has been viewed over 19,294,447 times and counting, and she reportedly gets paid five-figures for a single appearance.
Most of Bumble's functionality is free to use. To get started visit their website or install their app. You can then sign up with your phone number or Facebook account, upload additional photos, edit your profile, and set your search filter parameters. Then, it is onto matching. Swipe up and down to see more photos, and left or right to say yes or no. If a mutual match is made, a conversation may be initiated. Tap the chat box icon to view your match queue and current conversations. If you see someone who would be perfect for a friend, long press their photo or open up their profile and tap “Send to a Friend” to play matchmaker.
Bumble has set unprecedented standards for respectful behavior to ensure all users feel safe, including banning shirtless bathroom mirror selfies (seemingly a staple of all dating apps) and implementing photo verification to ensure users are who they claim to be. Bumble also attacked the problem of ghosting head-on by implementing time limits on communication.
Recommendations: "The Bumble app is free and I have had the most dates with this app. It's an easy format and given the female makes contact first, you can eliminate unwanted attention. RSVP is good if you're looking for something more serious. You have to pay to contact the user, but the advantage is that you can see their photos and profile description."
Our findings are in line with 2016 Consumer Reports data that found users were most satisfied with OkCupid over numerous other dating services. With free dating apps becoming more popular thanks to Tinder, people are gravitating toward predominately free online dating services. Setting up your profile is fun because of the unique questions you’re asked, like what your ideal date would entail and whether you’d prefer to be weird or normal. You also answer these questions from the perspective of your ideal mate to ensure you are paired with compatible people. Along with up to six photos, you can also add more information to your profile about your lifestyle. In our tests, OkCupid gave us the most matches. On top of that, about half of them were an 80 percent match or higher, meaning they are much more likely to be a compatible match. To eliminate the likelihood of being bombarded with too many messages, you can only see messages from users you’ve “liked,” which we thought was a clever feature. The free mobile app is also well designed and easy to use.
I heard about this app from a friend who described it as “basically, kind of like meeting someone in real person.” Happn connects you with people that you’ve crossed paths with once or even multiple times. It’s like a digital interpretation of what could happen if you finally talk to the guy that’s always in front of you at the coffee shop. If you both like each other, you can start a conversation. Seems cute, but I personally found this app a little stalker-ish. Someone, theoretically, could see exactly where we’ve crossed paths, and I don’t know if I’m about strangers knowing my exact whereabouts. Also, because I have data on the subway, I was crossing people’s paths underground on the 3 train while they were outside above ground getting a bagel. I deleted it within a week without going on any dates because I got scared. I’ve watched enough Lifetime movies to know how this turns out.
Happn is a local dating app. It uses your GPS to find people close to you. It does so with varying degrees of success depending on where you live. Like most dating apps, this one won't do you any good if it's not a popular app in your area. Thus, if you don't get a ton of matches, you should probably give up on this one. The app works by showing you who you cross paths with in real life. Once it happens enough times, their profile shows up on your timeline. You can then connect and chat. This is a neat concept because you're automatically matched with people who are usually in the same kinds of areas you are and that can be a helpful ice breaker. You can buy coins as in-app purchases. Like Coffee Meets Bagel, they're useful for adding functionality and increasing your visibility to other users.
Starting in 2016 Bumble added related but separate modes to the app. Bumble BFF can be used to find platonic friends and Bumble Bizz is for making business connections. To switch modes in the Bumble app tap/click on the Bumble mode at the top of the screen/page. This will bring up a mode-switching menu where you can toggle between Bumble Date, Bumble BFF, and Bumble Bizz.
When you're using apps to find a local hookup, there are a few ground rules to keep in mind that will set you up for success in the long run. The first is deciding what to put on your profile. If you're truly here for a good time and not a long time (for casual sex instead of a long-term thing), Elite Dating Managers founder Isabel James says that attracting your next casual encounter can be as easy as being upfront in your profile right from the beginning. "Explicitly state that you're looking for a hookup on your profile," she says. "Something like: 'Not looking for a long-term relationship. Looking to have fun tonight!' makes it clear." Being direct with your expectations from the get-go means you'll only be matching with women who are also looking for something casual with no strings attached, saving you the time it'd take to gauge whether or not your matches are here for the same reason as you are. Dating sites work much better if your match knows what you're looking for, and you're not being misleading.