Hoping to dip your feet back into the dating world after a prolonged period of practicing social distancing? If matching with a potential new partner in the "before times" was complicated—adding a global pandemic to the mix has made it even trickier to find that spark or connection. During this new normal, flirting with potential paramours over an online dating app might be the best way to get to know someone.
But the truth is, online dating can feel overwhelming. It’s not just having to make judgements based off a couple of photos and one-line bios, or the awkwardness of sending direct messages (or DMs) to strangers only to be ghosted. The sheer number of apps and users can make simply swiping seem like a daunting task.
In fact, the online dating audience is expected to grow to 37.5 million users by 2023, according to data from Statista. And by 2040, eHarmony predicts that 70 percent of couples will have started their relationships online. It's possible to make that dating world feel manageable, though—you just have to find the right app. For example, there are niche platforms specifically for those who love farming, bacon, or even beard-stroking (yes, seriously).
So if you’re looking to make a broader connection with, say, someone over 50, newly dating after divorce, hoping for a virtual video date, or are searching for a relationship, these online dating apps (some, even free) cover all the bases.
Match is the most popular online dating app in 17 states according to PCMag’s survey of 2,000 people. As one of the OG dating services (it’s moved from website-only to a website and app), Match has a specific appeal to those between 45 and 65 looking for a serious relationship; additional research by SurveyMonkey found that 58 percent of adults 45-54 years old use Match, more than double the percent who use Tinder. You can download it for free, although that will restrict you to browsing; if you want to actually message potential partners, subscriptions start at $21.99 a month.
Dating apps aren’t just for millenials; 20 percent of internet users between the ages of 55 to 64 have used a dating app or service, according to a poll from technology and research company Morning Consult. OurTime turns the idea of hookup culture on its head; instead, it encourages users to search for pen pals, friends, dates, long-term relationships and marriage partners. The free-to-download app lets you send emails, flirt, and match with potential partners, and a premium subscription ($38 per month) allows for additional features like the ability to see who has liked your profile.
Bumble set itself apart from all the other dating services crowding the app store by requiring women to make the first move once a match is made. You also only get 24 hours to send a message, unless you invest in a Boost membership, which starts at $10.99 for a week. Women love the app because it cuts down on the number of unsolicited messages, and men love it—in fact, 58 percent of the respondents who preferred Bumble in PCMag’s survey were guys—because it takes some of the pressure off initiating. Plus, once you find somebody you're interested in, you have the option of going on a video date in-app.
Tinder may have brought on "hookup culture," but it’s still one of the top dating apps in the U.S. It has about 8 million users, the most of any other dating app surveyed by Statista. That means you have a pretty solid chance of eventually matching with someone who piques your interest—even if it takes a lot of left-swiping to get there. The app is free, but you can access premium features like Tinder Plus starting around $9.99 a month.
5. Plenty of Fish
Another one of the original dating websites-turned-apps with an eye towards finding a relationship, POF had 90 million users in its heydey. It’s still popular (Statista ranked it as number two), and the app claims you’re 2.7 times more likely to enter a conversation in your first 24 hours than on other apps. In polling its female users, the app found that 44 percent were single mothers—and that they find a partner 10 percent faster than the average user. Download and swipe for free, and upgrade to add more photos or show up first to potential partners starting at $19.99.
After filling in the app’s questionnaire and prompts (think standard icebreakers like: “my biggest pet peeve is…” and “my go-to karaoke song is…”), Hinge will start matching you with users who share common interests. The algorithm also serves you with your “Most Compatible” matches—who you’re eight times more likely to go out with, they say. And not only does the app show you how many people have liked you, it also tells you what they liked about you, making it easy to start a conversation.
OKCupid’s algorithm uses a series of questions to determine what “percentage” you’ll match with any of its five million users. That compatibility-driven focus is especially appealing to women, who made up 58 percent of the respondents who preferred this app in PCMag’s poll. It’s also super inclusive, offering 12 gender identities and 20 sexual orientations so you can define yourself however you want and match with exactly who you’re looking for.
Originally a Facebook app, Zoosk is now one of the largest dating sites out there, with over 30 million downloads since its launch in 2007. Today, it has over a million active users, according to Statista—and 500,000 of those are paying members, which means more than half of the users are seriously committed to find a match. Instead of forcing you to fill out a lengthy questionnaire, the app’s algorithm notes who you’re interacting with to better serve up potential matches.
At this point, eHarmony is a household name. It’s Match’s biggest competitor, and it’s two largest age groups are 30- to 44-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds. The sign-up process—which includes a very detailed, 150-question questionnaire—is a journey, but the brand once claimed to be responsible for creating 4% of marriages in the U.S. Plus, premium subscription members have the option to go on a video date before meeting in person.
10. Coffee Meets Bagel
Everyday at noon, Coffee Meets Bagel will curate and send you quality matches—or "bagels" as they call them—selected by its algorithm. With no swiping involved and a limited daily selection, this app is designed not to overwhelm. Plus, the in-depth profiles and "ice-breaker" questions encourage meaningful conversation, making this app perfect for those looking to start serious relationships.
With more than 14 million users, Hily stands for "Hey, I like you!" The app uses AI to continuously improve matchmaking, and has features like Hily stories to help you better capture who you are. The app is free, with an optional subscription for an ad-free and incognito-mode experience.
If you're looking for fellow Black singles who share your interests, BLK is a dating app that specializes in finding that connection in their community of users. With over 4 million downloads, the free app lets you match and chat with potential partners. Or, upgrade to a premium membership ($10 per month) for an ad-free experience, a boosted profile, unlimited number of likes, and the ability to "rewind" by giving somebody a second chance.
Got a crush on that cute neighbor but don't know his or her name? Regularly make eye contact with someone while walking your dog but haven't initiated conversation? Happn is a dating app that can help make those seemingly lost connections a reality. By using the location on your phone, you can match with people also on the app who are nearby. With over 100 million users worldwide, chances are you might just find your neighborhood crush.
Created by queer women, this LGBTQ+ dating app (and social platform) is for women and nonbinary people who want to find love in a safe space. For their 6 million users, HER provides in-app communities and hosted events to help encourage those sparks to fly.
15. Inner Circle
If you're serious about finding your other half and want to avoid the swiping into the void, Inner Circle requires all users to accept "The Date Better Pledge" that details a commitment to be "respectful, reliable, and inclusive." The app provides detailed profiles, unique filters, and conversation prompts—so you can avoid the dreaded one-liner "hey" messages.
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