Valentine’s Day is here, and if you’ve not gotten yourself a date yet, time is running out. Dating apps kind of suck — just ask anyone who’s ever used one — but there’s no better way to look out for a date this February 14.
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!
Tinder is one of the most famous dating apps out there, and the obvious first choice on 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.
The Tinder app no longer requires you to have a Facebook account, but you do have to be older than 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/or 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 you’re logged in through your Facebook account). You can also choose to 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 that you’ve matched and inviting you to send them a message. The free option comes with limited swipes, and you’ll have to pay per month for unlimited swipes.
The photos are large, the app is — comparatively speaking — svelte, and setting up your profile is pretty painless. 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 one of the most popular dating apps too, so you’re more likely to come across someone you like who lives nearby.
OkCupid is another one of the biggest names in the dating biz. After creating a username, you’ll start filling out a very long profile, to 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 — this creates a percentile score for users that reflects 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. 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 “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 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.
Coffee Meets Bagel does require logging in through your Facebook in order to create a profile. Once you’ve set up your profile and input your preferences, it will send you a few “bagels” a day — 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, recommending the app to your friends, or logging in on consecutive days.
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 icebreakers 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 make it all too easy to be super-passive in the app, which can render it useless.
Hinge is kind of like Tinder. OK, it’s a lot like Tinder — but with a few key differences that make it better. Interface-wise, it looks like Tinder’s younger sister. But function-wise, it relies more on your Facebook friends to make connections for you. Hinge connects you through friends-of-friends-of-friends and shows you not just the people you have in common, but all the interests 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, 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 human touch that’s absent from most apps. Moreover, people can message you only if you’ve matched, so there are no unsolicited “greetings”. 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 letdown if you’re actually enjoying the app or are serious about finding a date.
When it comes to dating apps, Raya stands out from the pack. The members-only site caters specifically to those in creative industries, and it’s as much for dating as it is networking.
If you want to join Raya, be prepared to do a little legwork. After downloading the app, you need to complete an application and have a referral from a current member. Your application is then assessed by certain algorithmic values before being evaluated by an anonymous committee. The entire process can take anywhere from several weeks from several months, and once you’re approved there’s also a monthly membership fee of $8.
The app itself is well designed and pretty straightforward. You need to set up your profiles; there’s one for dating and one for networking. Once your profile is active you can review closely curated dating prospects or access the Social Mode that shows you different hotspots where other members are hanging out. Since the initial application process is so rigorous and Raya has a strict code of conduct, you will find members tend to be more respectful of others. They’re also more invested in the app overall, meaning they’re more likely to meet other members in person.
So is Raya worth all the trouble? That’s a call you’ll need to make on your own, but if the reviews on the App Store are to be believed, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Overall, Raya seems like a good app for people who are serious about finding like-minded partners or friends. Unfortunately, there’s no Android version yet.
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 apps existed, and its experience shows. You don’t have to log into the app via Facebook — though you will have to go through a signup process that requires you to add a few photos, answer some questions about your gender and preferences, and create a username and password.
The Match iteration 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 personalized matches on a daily basis, which take your interests into consideration. To really make the most of Match, 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 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.
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 has 24 hours to do so. 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.
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.
However, if you’re a woman and you really 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 or fewer. 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.
Dating apps generally try to give themselves a gimmick to differentiate themselves from the competition, but few have gone as far as Quiz Date Live. Essentially a cross between The Bachelorette and HQ Trivia, Quiz Date Live moonlights as a dating show within an app, as suitors compete to win a date with one particular lucky lady, the featured dater.
The format is simple. Each featured dater takes part in a question-and-answer livestream on the first night, where they introduce themselves and take questions from the viewing contestants. The next night sees the games begin, and the contestants are asked a series of multiple choice questions about the night before. Players who get all the questions right go on to the next round, where they’re asked a number of questions by the featured dater — who then narrows the field down to three contestants, based on their answers. Those final three choices then get the chance to impress their prospective date via live video by doing whatever it is they do best — whether that’s by busting some killer dance moves, telling jokes, or some other talent. The pair will then go on a date paid for by Quiz Date Live, which can range from hit Broadway shows, Michelin-star dining experiences, helicopter rides over Manhattan, or other luxurious dates.
It’s not perfect. The quiz show format won’t appeal to everyone, and the slow burn and winner-takes-all aspect mean it’s going to be a lot harder to get a date than in other apps. Also, featured dater spots are currently only open to straight women, so there’s not much here for lesbians or gay men yet, though there are plans to expand to male bachelors and LGBTQ+ episodes. You also need to email the company to apply to be a featured dater, which means it’s not exactly a pick-up-and-go app if you’re wanting to be the featured dater. However, if you’re bored of regular dating apps, or if you’re simply attracted to the fun elements and the prospect of finding love is a bonus, then give Quiz Date Live a go.
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? 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 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 taking a walk in the park, seeing a movie, or having a drink. Happn 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.
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.
Plenty Of Fish (POF) 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 as Plenty Of Fish likes to point 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’s something of a “lite” version of other dating apps, and includes 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 — POF’s “Spark” system allows users to quote any part of their amour’s profile, making icebreakers that much easier.
Much like other dating apps, POF 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 in the market, but maybe 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.
Looking for that Ivy League grad who works in finance? Well, The League may be the perfect dating app for you. It bills itself as a dating service for the ambitious and well-educated crowd.
Like Raya, joining The League can take a bit of effort. You need to set up a profile and allow the app to access your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. The League uses these networks to verify your information and to make sure colleagues do not see your account. After you complete your application, The League will verify your eligibility, and you will either be accepted on the spot (rare), rejected (common), or waitlisted. If waitlisted, it can take several hours to several months to become a full-fledged member.
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.
The League is definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re the type of person who places a lot of weight on a potential partner’s career and educational background, you may want to give The League a chance. If you’re not, you may want to skip The League and give one of our other favorite dating apps a shot.