Updated: June 20, 2021
Who has the time to meet people the old fashioned way? Hanging about in bars just isn’t a good way to meet people when everyone else is using apps on their phone. So why not use your smartphone to find that special someone as well? In an age increasingly dominated by screens, both large and small, there’s no better way to boost your chances in your quest for fun or love than by putting yourself out on a digital dating board.
There’s always been a certain stigma toward dating through third-parties and dating apps in particular — and to be completely fair, dating apps do kind of suck — but that’s fading as apps like these are 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 — but even if it isn’t, these apps will help you get back on the horse in no time.
Some other websites may be older, but Tinder is undoubtedly the most famous dating app out there. As such, it’s an obvious choice to come first 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.
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. Once enabled, you set up a concise profile that consists of a 500-character bio and up to six images (we suggest always including a photo 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 other users to find you and allows you to set a few preferences regarding who you see. But once that’s over, this is where 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. 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.
Why add information to a completely new app, when you could just use an app you probably use every single day? Facebook Dating has rolled out in the U.S., 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 in 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 a little bit creepy, that data can be used to refine your dating choices. 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 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, well, no-one will ever know, making it a no-lose situation.
Facebook Dating isn’t available everywhere yet, but it is available in the U.S. and a variety of South American countries.
One of the names that probably jumped to mind when you thought of dating apps, eHarmony has the distinction of calling itself the most trusted dating app, based on a small survey of U.S. singles.
Registration is free and easy. You can either choose to sign up with Facebook, speeding up your sign up process, or fill in the form. Either way, you’ll be able to complete eHarmony’s compatibility questionnaire for free, and your answers will be sent to eHarmony’s algorithm. From there, you’ll be matched to various potential dates, and you’ll be able to send Smiles and Favorite those you like. eHarmony only sends a few matches at a time, so you can review matches at your leisure. eHarmony can also lend a hand to break the ice when you find someone to chat with, thanks to its selection of prewritten Quick Questions.
Like many of these apps, you’ll need a subscription to get the most from eHarmony, and it’s extremely pricey, with a single month plan setting you back $60 a month. That drops to $30 per month if you pay six months in advance, but it’s still a hard sell. For your cash, you get to view an unlimited number of photos, see who’s viewed your profile, send custom messages, and use the What If? feature to view matches outside of your preferences. So it’s expensive, but you get a lot for your money, and the cost is an extra incentive to get together with someone and ditch the app as quickly as possible.
If you’re gay, bi, trans, or queer, then there’s no better place to find love than Grindr. It’s the largest LGBTQ+ social media and dating site out there, and it’s a must-download if you’re looking for that special someone — or just a little fun. Sign-up is easy — you can either choose to enter your details in 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, 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 too, so you have a good idea of who you’re meeting up with. You can even location share for really easy meet-ups. 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 a serious turn-off.
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 only people who are online now, strips out ads, and other upgrades for $20 a month. 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. That will set you back $25 a month though, so it’s quite the investment.
Screenshot of a question from the OKCupid app
2. Dating App OkCupid adds questions regarding climate change to help daters match on their beliefs
OkCupid is another one of the biggest names in the dating biz, with years of history and experience to pull from. 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. 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 “A-list” status.
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. 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.
Ship — Dating made fun again
The first dating app that you can download (guilt-free) if you’re not single, Ship is a unique dating app that allows your friends to get in on the dating process by vetting potential matches. Getting going is easy, and 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 if they think you’ll prove a match. if you’re the more matchmaking type, then you can individually search on your friend’s behalf and send them any potential suitors.
Once a match has been found (and approved), then 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.
If music matters to you more than life itself, then it’s likely to break your heart if a potential life-partner can’t stand your music of choice. Tastebuds 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 you’ll be 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 immaculately up-to-date.
It’s on the smaller side where these sorts of apps are concerned, with only 500,000 people registered worldwide at the last count. So if you’re a bit further 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 enough to a number of Tastebuds members 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.
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, which 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, 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.
Despite the expiry of bagels, the slow pace and infrequency of actually connecting with potential matches make it all too easy to be super-passive in the app, which can render it useless. However, if you prefer a slower pace, then Coffee Meets Bagel has some charm.
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 common interests to make connections, showing you all the interests you have in common with a prospective match. 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.
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. 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 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. Since Hinge distanced itself from the former Facebook-linked friends-of-friends model, it’s been a lot harder to run out of potential matches. However, this means Hinge is a lot less unique than it used to be.
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 networking as it is dating.
If you want to join Raya, be prepared to do a little legwork, as this app is a lot more exclusive than your usual dating app. After downloading the app, you need to complete an application and get a referral from a current member. Your application will then be assessed on certain algorithmic values before being finally 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 for a month, or $30 for six months.
As you’d hope following the rigmarole of joining, the app itself is well designed and pretty straightforward. The first thing you’ll need to do is 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. This feature shows different hotspots where other members are hanging out, so its a great mode for promoting face-to-face networking. Thanks to the rigorous application method and strict code of conduct, you”ll find Raya members tend to be more respectful of others. They’re also more invested in the app overall, meaning they’re also 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, but it’s easy to be felt left out in the cold if you’re unable to get a referral. There’s also some apparent platform bias too, as 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. Sign up is simple. As is a growing trend, using Facebook to register is right out — 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 daily, which take your interests into consideration. There’s also a personalized dating “coach”, that sends recommendations of people who match your desires. To 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 (“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 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 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 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 say “hello,” 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 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.
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 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. However, if you’re a woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it, Bumble is worth a shot.
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
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. However, the sign-up process is pretty lengthy, and the layout is rather fiddly on mobile.
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.