When the idea of online dating was first introduced some 20 years ago it had the benefit of that new car smell and was all the rage. After a few years, however, people began to realize that online meant unknown: that is, there turned out to be an inordinate number of frogs hiding behind princely profiles. In response to some bad press and diminished interest dating sites cleaned up their act and the practice began to experience something of a renaissance. Aiding in that rebirth were two developments; the smartphone and the smartphone app. They liberated Internet dating from the home computer and also turned it into something anyone can afford to do. Below are the best dating apps out there today.
There’s nothing complicated about Tinder which is one reason that, when it comes to apps for dating, Tinder is considered by many to be setting the bar. With Tinder, you compose a bio of up to 500 characters, post as many as 6 pictures, toss your digital bait into the cyber stream and hope for the best. Okay, you’ll also have to do some searching but that’s easy to do and might even be considered fun rather than work. Which is how it can feel with some poorly designed apps for dating.
Determine how hard or easy you are for others to find by tweaking your “discovery” settings and do some discovery of your own by swiping through potentials. Swipe left to take a pass and right to state your interest. If one of your right-swipes has also swiped right on you, you’ll be given the opportunity to send them a personal message. There was a time when you needed a Facebook profile to use Tinder but not anymore, although you can still elect to use your Facebook profile as your Tinder profile if you wish. Like the best deodorants Tinder is simple and effective.
OkCupid builds on the same profile/photos foundation as most other best dating apps for android. But to their credit, they put their own spin on things. You enter a profile (which can be your Instagram profile if you wish) and then answer a bunch of questions and also indicate the type of answers you’d expect from your eventual match. This info can stay confidential or, if you wish, it can be made public along with notations indicating how important it is to you that your paramour responds in a preferred way. There are two match settings: standard and quick view, with a quick view limited to photos only. The OkCupid interface isn’t going to win any awards but this is a smartphone app after all.
The name here should be an indication that Grindr is one of the many mature dating apps as opposed to a digital space for meeting someone to go on a picnic with. Not that it’s impossible to find someone to share a pic-i-nic basket with using Grindr. Just that you’re more likely to find folks looking for something more physically engaging. And that’s fine. The Grindr user base is composed of several million gay and bi men looking to hook up with other like-minded individuals.
There are no 500 character bios here. Just a pic, username and a handful of questions for you to answer. After that, you select a ‘tribe’ that is meant to indicate the type of person you prefer and a few minutes later you’ve got contact. The basic version of Grindr has ads aplenty but for a minimal outlay you can hook up with Grindr Xtra and be free of the ads.
Speaking of Match.com. Match.com is the progenitor of all online dating services and, to almost no one’s surprise, they’ve also made the transition to smartphone apps without missing a digital beat. They’re big enough and well-known enough that they’ve never had to marry their app to Facebook as many other apps have done. All that’s required to get matching is to sign up, put the teeth whitening kit to use, put some hair gel, take some pics, upload them and provide some intel on yourself.
Match pioneered the notion of digital flirting with their “wink”. To find someone to wink at you need to get busy sifting through the millions of profiles, which actually isn’t as hard as it sounds since you can sort by various criteria to get the number down to a manageable size. Match.com will cost you money but the more you pay the more you get; including the ability to see who has recently looked at your profile.
eHarmony is not unlike match.com in that both were pioneers in the world of online dating, both began with popular websites during the PC era and both have made the leap to the world of smartphone apps. By 2009 eHarmony was doing $250 million in annual business and had cornered nearly 15 percent of the entire online dating industry. Like everyone else, they went into a slide following the financial crisis but have since regained their footing and came back with a bunch of new offerings, including same-sex hookups, which they did not offer originally.
eHarmony has some 750,000 paid subscribers, making it one of the most successful money-making dating companies out there and their app hinges on a “relationship questionnaire” that their computer uses to match people with others. While it’s not necessary to get a paid subscription to use the app, it helps open up more possibilities. And that will increase your odds of finding “the one”. Which is after all the point.
In the category of “dating apps like Tinder” Hinge takes the cake. Where Hinge diverges from the app that obviously inspired it is in the fact that Tinder has uncoupled their app from Facebook while Hinge is still heavily dependent on the social media giant to provide potential matches for you. They do this by scouring your friends’ list along with your friend’s friend list and their friends’ friends too. From a visual standpoint, Hinge may have you wondering if you opened Tinder by mistake when you find yourself swiping right or left to indicate approval or disapproval. They employ this same mechanism when it comes to answering questions. Do you like pizza? Right for “yes” left for “no”.
While the yes or no character of the Hinge questionnaire may seem a bit black and white for the decidedly grey world we live in it does simplify the whole process of creating a reasonably accurate profile. Another thing people like about Hinge is that others can only message you if the computer has deemed the two of you a match. As such you’re not going to be sifting through a bunch of unsolicited intros from the un-Hinged. Bottom line is that while the mechanics of Hinge will remind you of Tinder, Hinge is actually geared more toward fostering relationships rather than simply creating endless ships passing in the night.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Like most of the top dating apps today, including the just profiled Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel is knee deep in Facebook. To log in, you need to have a Facebook profile and the service mines Facebook to find potential matches for you. This, of course, allows them to save money which is one of the reasons why they can offer their service for free. Once you’ve set up your account CMB will provide you with a “bagel” a day in the form of a potential match. That sort of slow and steady drumbeat of potential big loves is appealing to a lot of people who aren’t fans of the meat market aspects of so many other dating and flirting apps.
Once you have received a digital bagel from CMB you then have 24 hours to act. You can “like” or “pass” and if you take no action it will be considered a pass. If you like a person and that person has also liked you breathless entreaties await in the private chat box. Like the daily bagel, the chat room also has an expiration date. In this case 8 days. And that is regardless of whether the two of you hit it off or not. It’s assumed, we suppose, that CMB figures that if you found “the one” you’ll figure out another way to initiate contact within those 8 days. While some might feel that doesn’t allow enough time to get to know someone before taking the next step we’re still partial to Coffee Meets Bagel over most of the straight hookup apps out there.
Bumble is another app that will have you wondering if you logged into Tinder by mistake. Where the two apps diverge significantly though is that when Bumble matches a guy and a gal it’s up to the lady to start the conversation, and she has only 24 hours to do so before the match is wiped off the screen. (This isn’t the case with same-sex matches where either party can initiate contact.) If you are really hoping that a particular match will get in touch you can extend that match for a second 24 hour period but that’s it. No message after 48 hours and it’s on to the next one.
Bumble recently un-docked their app from Facebook. So if you are concerned about Facebook’s lack of concern about your privacy you can now create a profile simply by providing Bumble with a phone number. Perhaps the best thing about Bumble is that they don’t force profiles of persistent potentials on you every time you log in.
Plenty of Fish
POF can boast just short of 100 million users which is both astonishing and frankly, a little sad. Are there really that many lonely people out there? But we digress because with so many users it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll find one or two you might hit it off with, and that’s the bottom line here. Because there are only so many ways you can present a bio and some pics most dating apps are going to resemble most others in some way, but POF puts their own twist on things with their “spark” feature that helps you create talking points out of snippets from someone else’s bio. Okay, it’s not much we admit. But at least they’ve tried to bring a new twist to things and since it’s totally free one can’t complain too much.
The last of our most popular dating apps is Happn. Happn is a combination free and pay app. It’s free to join and free to secretly like people. If you want to come above water and announce to someone that you like them, however – that is, openly indicate you have a “crush’ – you’ll need to spend money on something called a “charm”. Happn encourages you to use your Facebook profile and is also integrated with other social media apps.
The downside of Happn is that it tracks you using the GPS function on your phone and then alerts you if you are within 800 feet of a match, who is also being tracked. Sound like a stalker’s dream to you? You’re not alone. Fortunately, Happn gives you the option of blocking anyone who raises red flags. But still, the idea that people might be wandering the streets aware that someone else is watching or even following them is more than a bit creepy and makes this our least favorite of the best online dating apps.
Hookup apps allow you to search for that special someone from anywhere. You won’t have to break out your best pomades or manicure sets unless you are reasonably certain the other person is not out on work release and you decide to meet them. However, even the best free dating apps are imperfect exercises in chemistry. But what they tend to do well is make the process of online dating more convenient than it used to be and increase your odds of meeting someone who may light your fire.