13 best dating apps
Searching for The One? It's time to swipe right and tap 'like' to find them
Around one in four relationships start online now, and among the millennial generation, the number is likely to be even higher.
But as our smartphones become increasingly powerful, fewer of us are dating from behind our desktops, rather turning to the digital devices in our pockets.
The stigma that was once attached to online dating has well and truly disappeared – in fact, you’re more likely to raise eyebrows if you’re single and not on any dating apps.
Recent years have seen an explosion of dating apps, and there seem to be incredibly niche ones launching every day. If you wear glasses or are into people who do, try Spex, for example. Have a particular passion for men with beards? Bristlr could be the one for you.
For some people, swiping through fellow singles and potential romantic partners is merely a bit of fun and a way to entertain themselves during TV ad breaks. But whether you’re after a meaningful relationship or just some casual dates, there’s an almost overwhelming number of dating apps and sites from which to choose nowadays.
We set ourselves the challenge of trying as many as possible, leading to many dates and even more phone notifications.
All the apps allow you to search for men, women or both, with all of them available on iOS devices, most on Android and some for Windows Phone, too.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Possibly the best-known dating app of them all, Tinder is most people’s first port-of-call when entering the world of dating apps. It’s super quick to join – you simply upload some photos and an optional bio, set your age and distance preferences, and away you go, swiping left or right on potential suitors. As one of the most popular apps aroud the world, your pool is likely to be huge and people do actually have conversations on Tinder – in our experience, it’s the app that leads to the most actual dates too.
However there are also plenty of people using Tinder just for hook-ups. You can pay money for premium features including Tinder Passport (the ability to swipe through matches elsewhere in the world, say, before a trip) and Rewind, for those times when you swipe left too hastily and immediately regret it. There's also Tinder Feed, which is a part of the app where you can see when your matches add new pictures to their profiles, often leading to rekindling of old conversations. Tinder is not only perhaps the best-known dating app in the world, but also one of the most inclusive, allowing users to identify as one of nearly 40 genders.
Bumble is much like Tinder but with one key difference: only women can start the conversations after a match is made. The idea behind it is to save women from receiving leering advances or cringey chat-up lines from men, and it also takes the pressure off guys to start conversations. The app says its core values are "empowerment, equality and confidence."
There’s a twist though: after you match, you only have 24 hours to start the conversation, otherwise he’ll disappear forever. Similarly, your match only has 24 hours to reply – if he does though, the time limit disappears for future messages. The trouble with this is that sometimes you just don’t have time to go on Bumble for over 24 hours, thus potentially missing out on your soulmate. You can also switch to Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF if you're more interested in finding professional contacts and friends respectively.
Happn shows you singles with whom you’ve crossed paths. You create your profile through Facebook and can also link your Instagram and Spotify accounts if you like, set your preferences, then scroll down through your options. The people you’ve crossed paths with most recently will be at the top, meaning if you go on during your lunch-break you’ll inevitably happen upon your colleagues. The app currently has 50 million users around the world and operates in 50 major cities spread across 40 countries.
The app also tells you how many times you’ve crossed paths with each person, meaning you quickly learn who your neighbours are (I have in the past recognised a man in my street and been unable to place him before realising I’d seen him on Happn and we’d crossed paths 167 times). Unfortunately there’s no way of searching by time or location so if you don’t go on the app straight away you may never be able to find that cute girl from Pret – in a big city you cross paths with so many people every day, so Happn can be a bit overwhelming.
Match: Free app but membership costs £29.99 for one month
Match feels like a step-up from the more casual dating apps in that the sign-up process takes a while and membership isn’t free – £29.99 for one month seems expensive, but the price per month decreases significantly if you sign up for longer (if you sign up for six months, it equates to £12.99 a month).
Perhaps because they’re paying, people on the app definitely treat it more seriously. We noticed both a different type of person and questions on Match compared to the likes of Tinder and Bumble. This is an app for people really looking for relationships. The app is easy to use but we personally found the number of messages, winks, views and favourites we received overwhelming. Match also organises events for meeting people offline.
The idea behind Once is to move away from today’s dating app culture and back towards traditional match-making – after a computer does the initial whittling down, real human match-makers pick a personalised match for each user every day. It’s meant to save time and free singles from hours of swiping (although to be fair that is half the fun for many of us), hence the name Once.
Despite this, every day at noon, our phone pings with a message saying “Wow! You got four matches today!” Every day. Extra dedicated users can spend money and even exchange messages with a match-maker too. Despite supposedly learning our tastes, we didn’t find our matches particularly great and because you get so few a day, it can be a rather long journey to finding someone you actually want to talk to, let alone go out with.
Hinge has a slick design and is meant to be for people who are over games and being treated like a “playing card”. You’re asked to put in lots of details (including your height, which is rare) in order to create your “story” – for example, what you’re watching, what you spend most of your money on or how you’d describe yourself in three emoji.
You can then “like” different aspects of someone’s story, be that a picture or one of their answers – you only get a handful of likes a day though. It made a nice change to have lots of information about people including little quirky details, and you can actually specify details such as the height range of the people you're shown - which may be a plus for the pickier amongst us. The app claims to learn your tastes too, but as is often the case, many matches don't lead to conversations.
Like most apps, signing in with Facebook makes it very easy and quick to set up a profile. Huggle can be used to find dates or friends, and the main thinking behind the app is that having common ground is essential in order to establish meaningful connection. The unique thing about Huggle is that you pick (initially five of) your favourite places – be they shops, restaurants or parks – and then find people who go there too. You can either swipe through people who you have places in common with or tap on one of your locations to reveal who goes there. It’s all about location, but you can’t add more places to your list until you’ve visited them.
However, if your potential suitors have previously checked-in on Facebook to the same places as you, that will appear on their profiles. When signing up, you have to verify your profile in one of various ways, for example by sending a selfie mimicking a certain pose, which hopefully limits scammers too. When someone is checked into the same place as you, you can view their profile. The profile’s bio includes name, age, work, education, photos, a short description, as well as the places you have in common.
Founded in 2006 and with over 380 million users, six million matches a day and 300,000 daily sign-ups, Badoo is one of the biggest dating sites in the world. It's available in 190 countries and in 47 languages. As well as discovering people nearby you can also find people in any location (just select a city and you can meet people anywhere).
Badoo has more recently launched a new feature called Badoo Live, which allows users to livestream in a bid to "encourage real life interactions and more genuine connections."
The League: Free
Launched three years ago, The League is an exclusive dating app that vets all users who apply to join, and you have to apply with your LinkedIn page. It's designed to appeal to "successful and ambitious" singletons, but it has faced criticism for being elitist.
But because every user is vetted, you know you won't come across any fake profiles. What's more, you can set specific preferences and will then only be proposed users who tick all your boxes. However, you're only given three profiles to like or leave each day, so the pool is slim. Matches on The League expire after 21 days too, so if you don't get chatting, your potential suitor will disappear.
Founded by Made In Chelsea's Ollie Locke and Jack Rogers, Chappy is a gay dating app which offers users the choice between relationships or a casual hook-up, thus clarifying what your match is after from the get-go. Interestingly, Chappy has revealed that only 18 per cent of the app's users are currently facilitating the ‘Mr. Right Now’ setting, whilst a whopping 82 per cent are looking for ‘Mr Right'.
The app considers itself an alternative to the many that seem to promote the posting of headless, mirror-selfie, torso shots, the sending of unsolicited intimate pictures and hook-up culture.
Plenty of Fish: Free
Owned by Match, Plenty of Fish is one of the biggest online dating sites in the world, with over 150 million registered users. It's available in 11 languages and more than 20 countries, and claims it has more conversations than any other dating app - 2.5 million every day.
Like Match, Plenty of Fish feels more serious than some apps, with users undergoing a chemistry test upon signing up, which is meant to increase their chances of matching with personalities who will "meet your emotional needs."
Lesly is a new dating app for lesbian, queer and bisexual women. Using the classic swipe-to-match format, women are able to chat, date and hook-up with other LGBTQ singles in their area or around the world. The app considers itself to be a trusted and secure place for women to connect, get to know and even fall in love with each other.
OkCupid uses an algorithm in a bid to provide users with suitable matches: "we do a lot of crazy math stuff to help people connect faster," they say. While the basic version off the app is free, you can pay for extra features.
The site feels more serious than other dating apps, and users have the option to search profiles by keyword - for example, if you're obsessed with a particular author, you can search for other singles who mention her or him in their profile.
The Verdict: Dating apps
It’s the biggest player on the dating app scene for a reason, and purely for likelihood of actually going out on dates, Tinder has to be the winner. It’s easy to use, people actually have conversations and considering so many of us are on it, the chances of finding someone you like are actually pretty high. However another favourite is Bumble, because we love its focus on equality and empowerment.
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