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Best dating apps 2021: top apps to find love, whatever your orientation

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Image credit: StockSnap on Pixabay (Image credit: StockSnap on Pixabay)
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Maybe now could be the perfect time to explore the best dating apps for Android and iOS? After all, while we're not living in a post-pandemic world just yet, this side of 2021 life is less on pause than it has been for a while, so after a hiatus from putting yourself out there, maybe it’s time to dust off those profiles. After all, if you're single and want to (don’t say mingle) – change that, or just want to meet new people, the most socially distanced way of doing so is probably using dating apps. 

Even for anyone unsure about meeting people in person just yet, there's no point waiting for Covid-19 to disappear before you start talking to people through messaging and video call, and besides, the dating app pool is richer than ever. Classic apps like Tinder now support FaceTime-style video calls for truly distanced dates. Some apps, including Hinge, now offer up vaccine status information on profiles, so you can match up with folks who share your views on health as well as love. 

There are new players in the game, like Thursday, an app that, as the name suggests, only activates on a Thursday – it's the new Friday, don't you know? Once the clock strikes midnight and Thursday draws to a close, the ball is over, messages and likes get zapped. Then next Thursday, the dating game can start again with a clean slate. 

There are also apps catering to a burgeoning demographic of daters, or groups that identify with a specific body type, culture, religion. Veggly, for example, is designed for the vegetarians and vegans of this world. Meanwhile, WooPlus’s tagline is ‘Meet Curvy Singles’ — body positivity? Yes please.

It’s important to add, we didn’t just look at the app stores to come up with this list. We also quizzed a wide range of dating app guinea pigs, from those who used them once and found a soulmate to those who use them regularly for everything from relationships to flings.

So whatever your preferences, and whatever you’re looking for, check out our selection of the best dating apps on offer right now in 2021. We'll keep updating this list as new apps are released. 

Best dating apps 2021: which is right for you?

Bumble

Image credit: Bumble

Bumble

In many ways, the Bumble experience is pretty much identical to the Tinder style of swiping, but rather than either party making the first move, it’s up to the girl to say something witty and impressive first within a day. 

For many women that we chatted to, this was a breath of fresh air in the often seedy and overwhelming world of online dating and cringe-worthy first messages. 

Hayley told us: “I LOVE it! The woman speaks first, and it means guys are way more likely to speak to you if you're not just one of many.” 

It also seems that the higher quality experience and focus on women being in control attracts a slightly better standard of men. 

Louise told us: “The men are better, looks and personality.” Paul agreed: “It’s Tinder, but better.” 

Hinge

Image credit: Hinge

Hinge

Calling itself “the relationship app”, Hinge is aimed at those who are tired of Tinder, or just have really sore thumbs from all the swiping. 

You’re prompted to ask a series of questions, but you can choose which you answer. The idea is you can build an authentic picture of yourself, with answers, photos, details about what you’re reading or listening to and even video. So you’re more likely to find someone with genuine shared interests, rather than just a nice face.

The biggest difference is there’s no ‘hot or not?’ style swiping. You can like someone’s activities and photos, which reminds us more of Facebook-style interactions, but packaged up within a dating app. 

Does this all sound a bit too good to be true? That’s maybe because it is. 

Sarah said: “Hinge definitely sounds good in theory. But I haven’t had a date through it yet. I’m trying to stay patient and positive, but I think the instant buzz of Tinder might have ruined me.”

OKCupid

Image credit: OKCupid

OKCupid

Competition for a date may be tough. But competition between the top dating apps is fierce. That means it can be hard for other apps to really stand out, which is why OKCupid has turned its focus to matching people up on a ‘deeper level.’ 

By filling out your profile and answering questions, the app’s algorithm will suggest potential matches who share your interests in the hope you’ll build deeper connections, which you can easily see from a ‘compatibility’ score displayed next to other users. You can also link up your Instagram profile if you think it gives potential matches a better picture of what you’re all about.

Nick said: “The OKCupid dates I went on were often the most interesting, with people I could genuinely chat to.” 

The app is free and, unless you use its ‘quickmatch’ Tinder-style option, it’s all about browsing through many profiles and breaking the ice with a message. But this focus on messages can lead to some clear downsides. 

Sarah said: “The fact you can easily message for free comes with the downside that you might get a fair few unwanted messages.”

OKCupid recently refreshed its user profiles with an update that allows users to define their pronouns. This information shows up alongside gender and orientation.

Tinder

Image credit: Tinder

Tinder

Here it is, Tinder. The app that’s apparently the cause of everything, from the rise of STDs and breeding promiscuity to global warming (okay, we’re messing with you with that one). But regardless of who you ask, it has become synonymous with casual dating and hookups rather than those looking for their soulmates. 

It’s perfect if you’re looking for something not so serious, but that’s not to say that it’s impossible to find a more long-term love. After all, we’ve all got a friend-of-a-friend who married someone they matched with on Tinder, right? Unless we’re all just referring to the same couple…

The core concept is simple enough. You see someone’s photo. If you like it, swipe right. If you don’t, swipe left. And then repeat a couple of hundred times. If you’ve swiped right on someone and they’ve swiped right on you as well, you’ll be notified and can begin messaging one another. 

Hayley Minn says: “I used to love it, it's so easy to use and fun, but it now feels like a game more than anything and I've never had a date lead to anything serious.” 

Despite the fact it seems to be losing its edge, we included it because it’s still popular, and the large user numbers mean the more chance of dates.

Louise said: “I’m sick of it, but most people are on it. And I’ve had a few good, well, mediocre, dates.”

Screenshots from some of the best dating apps

(Image credit: Thursday)

Thursday

  • Free (in-app purchases)
  • Android and iOS 
  • Straight, gay, bisexual, other
  • Currently active exclusively in London and New York  

Are you sick of hoarding matches? Swiping right leading to more RSI than TLC? Are you getting matches but not getting messages? Thursday wants to combat all these dating pitfalls. By limiting free app use to one day a week (guess which day), and clearing your messages and matches when the clock strikes midnight and Friday rolls on, Thursday makes matches feel less like consumables, and more like considered opportunities – or at least that's the logic. 

After trying it out, our resident gay dater, Basil is convinced that Thursday does remedy a few frustrations more popular apps like Hinge and Tinder can lead to. Specifically, it lights a fire in your belly to get the admin side of things sorted by midnight. Whether you want to swap numbers or arrange to grab a drink, if you don't do it by the day's end, you start over next week, with no guarantees of seeing the same daters. 

The app is also a godsend for compulsive dating app addicts. On the website, it states: "6 days of the week, this app tells you to f**k off...and it's not even sorry". And while it doesn't actually tell you that, it might as well. You can't access a single dating feature Friday through Wednesday.

As inclusive as the app is when it comes to genders and sexualities, it isn't inclusive from a geography point of view. Unless you live in London or New York, you won't be getting your Thursday on for the time being. What's more, the app is only accepting 100,000 members in those locations, so if you’re in the big smoke or big apple, sign up before you’re locked out every day of the week. 

Plenty of Fish

Image credit: Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish is another app that allows you to create a profile, answer questions or just upload your favorite selfies. It’s got a large user-base and when it comes to success rates, it really divides opinion. The huge choice of, erm, fish, tend to mean there are a few long-term love stories and lots of “okay I guess” dating anecdotes.

Louise said: “It’s a totally mixed bag. Be ready to hunt for people through the droves and droves. I’ve had a few fun dates through it, you just have to put the time in to weed through the rubbish.”

Paul said: “All I ever hear from men is that women never reply, and all I ever hear from women is that they get too many messages.”

That said, we know personally of one real world couple that are now married having met through Plenty of Fish, so love can be found here!

Match.com

Image credit: Match.com

Match.com

Match.com is another older dating website that’s evolved over the years to become one of the most popular apps. The profiles are detailed (if people fill them in), which means you can find out more about someone before you speak to them, and location-based searching means you’re shown people who live or work nearby. 

One of the most interesting developments to Match.com’s proposition is group dating events, which sound weird but could set it apart from the rest.

Paul said: “I love that match are evolving by introducing dating events. They have the potential to be the future of dating and it's nice to see one of the top online companies acknowledging that, without losing their original identity.”

Screenshots from some of the best dating apps

(Image credit: Veggly)

Veggly

  • Free (in-app purchases)
  • Android and iOS
  • Straight, gay, bisexual, other
  • Caters for vegans and vegetarians  

More than just an excuse to send aubergine emojis, Veggly is a perfect app for single vegans and vegetarians around the world. If you’re anything like our resident animal-loving singleton, navigating sharing your veggie status on other dating apps can be a catch 22. 

He’s had everything from quips about his vegan sausage to messages calling him sanctimonious for putting his big V status on his profile. Veggly cuts through the noise, with a smaller dating pool to swim in, but arguably, one that is more matched with your stance on animals, and probably other things like the environment. 

Far from being exclusive to 100 percent vegans and vegetarians, the inclusive app also welcomes folks in transition between meat eater to veggie. As for how it works, Veggly is split into five sections: Home, Chat, Super Likes, Profile and Settings. Home is a vertical list of potential matches set against your criteria, which you can set in the profile section. That’s also where you can unsurprisingly, fill out your profile, setting parameters like gender (with options for male, female, and other (with space to fill in how you identify). 

The chat section is a traditional repository for your conversations, while Super Likes shows you people who think you’re pretty darn swell. Aside from the whole vegan/vegetarian angle, it’s definitely one of the more straightforward, low-algorithm apps, making for what feels like a pretty organic interaction experience. As for what you get when you pay for premium, you can see who liked you, ditch the adverts, get some extra super likes and view potential partners in other locations. 

When we first installed Veggly in 2018, we didn’t feature it on this list because there just weren’t that many people using it; but now, it’s ripe and juicy, so if you’ve had a similar experience in the past, it definitely warrants another go in 2021. 

Coffee Meets Bagel

Image credit: Coffee Meets Bagel (Image credit: Coffee Meets Bagel)

Coffee Meets Bagel

Another app, another promise to provide more meaningful connections. Meet Coffee Meets Bagel. Ladies, you’ll be served up a Bagel (that’s what the app calls men) each day at noon, which are only the Bagels (or... erm... men?) that have already liked you. The idea is it’ll cut out time wasting and lead to a greater chance of a connection. 

The app also has a recently launched premium feature, which serves up more information about your matches, like how likely they are to reply to you. 

It’s another idea that sounds good, but does it really work? We’re yet to find anyone who has found what they’re looking for through the app. 

Louise told us: “It’s a great idea and I like the fact I don’t have to sit alone in an evening and swipe for hours, but I haven’t had a date through it yet.” 

Paul said: “I like it but I'm not yet convinced. It hasn't captured my imagination quite yet but I do hope they prove me wrong as it has some really good elements to it.”

Screenshots from some of the best dating apps

(Image credit: WooPlus)

 WooPlus

  • Free (in-app purchases)
  • Android and iOS
  • Straight, gay, bisexual (though unreliable at suggesting gay or bisexual matches exclusively) 

We spoke with three happily fat people specifically about dating apps that are a bit more body positive than some of the usual suspects. In conversations with the two women, one word that came up a lot was ‘fetishized’. 

Some apps aren’t so much for curvy people, as for curvy women specifically, and for the not curvy men that are attracted to them. Of course, those apps are doing their thing and that’s all good, however, they can make women feel like their fat’s being fetishized. The consensus was that WooPlus is the most inclusive app for both fatter men and women, while also having a healthy mix of admirers too.

Weight aside, the app isn’t afraid to get down with those difficult questions. Heck, it asks about your income before pretty much anything else! There are other criteria you can fill out that are a bit more typical: religion, ethnicity, whether or not you have or want kids. 

One issue we found when we tried the app from a man seeking man perspective was that we were very frequently presented with men, who presented as heterosexual. Who’s to say what they actually like in the sheets, but if you’re not straight, definitely keep your wits about you, or you might be messaging someone who bats for the other team, or at the very least says they do in their profile. 

On the plus side, the app is free, and you can match and message with people without paying a cent. That said, for unlimited swipes and VIP access, you have to pay, and as with most dating apps, it isn’t cheap, costing £13.49 a month in the UK, and around $18.99 in the US. 

Scruff

Image credit: Scruff

Scruff

After a hairy hookup? Scruff takes the basic dating app experience, and tailors it to gay guys looking for burly, furry men, also known as bears, polar bears, cubs and otters.

Scruff quotes over 12 million worldwide users, and has recently expanded into AirBnB style travel accommodation, with a gay-friendly slant, also letting you know if fellow travellers from out of town are looking for some company. Paid tiers unlock additional features for committed users, but the free experience is worthy of inclusion here.

Basil enjoyed the "instant messaging, whether you've been highlighted for a positive match or not. It means there's not instant rejection, but be ready for unsolicited messages too." He encouraged using the private gallery feature to have more meaningful interactions with would-be dates.

Happn

Image credit: Happn

Happn

Do you ever daydream that you’ll experience a romantic movie moment when you lock eyes with someone and then you’re together for all of eternity? But then you glance at someone in the street in real life and instantly look away again because you’re shy and awkward and not a fictional character? Well, Happn wants to try and resolve that and turn every walk down the street into a dreamy chance to find love. 

You fill in your details like you would with any other app, but then your phone’s location smarts kick in and you’re shown people who are nearby. Whether that means they live near you, work near you, have the same Sunday morning routine, or anything else. 

Nick said: “I met a lot of great people through this app. You’re bound to have similar lives if they keep showing up near you. Plus, it takes the pressure off because you’re already in each other’s proximity - you can easily go for a drink.”

But there are drawbacks to the “find people nearby” USP. 

Nick continued: “The problem is, if you go on a bad date, you’ll see the same person again and again.”

Hayley said: “I used to love this. But then it keeps bringing up the same people over and over if you're doing the same commute everyday as other people.”

Taste Buds

Image credit: Taste Buds

Taste Buds

  • Free
  • iOS
  • Straight

Taste Buds wants to connect you up with people who share your music interests, which is why it calls itself “Tinder for music lovers”, as if everyone on Tinder doesn’t love music? 

If someone’s music tastes are a dealbreaker, this app will weed out anyone who isn’t destined to sit and listen to your favourite artists with you. 

Paul said: “It’s a really nice idea. But I’m not sure if it has any longevity. I hope I’m proven wrong, as it's quite innovative.”

Her

Image credit: Her

Her

Formerly called Dattch, Her claims it's the "most popular lesbian app" and that's hardly a surprise considering its fresh approach to connecting people. It's mostly about dating with its "Meet" tab, with a bit of platonic social networking thrown in for good measure via its Facebook-like "Feed" area.

To set up a profile you answer some simple questions and then sync it up with your Facebook account. A lot of the people on the app say that's REALLY appealing because it stops men from seeking out lesbian and queer people in an attempt to chat them up and somehow change their orientation... Yeah, it makes no sense to us either, but its an all-too-common problem on some of the more straight-focused dating apps. But Her puts a stop to it before you've even signed up. Phew.

It doesn't just cater for lesbians – the app is for lesbian, bi, pansexual, trans and queer people, too. It just makes a big deal of its "most popular lesbian app" creds in its marketing materials.

Sweatt

Image credit: Sweatt

Sweatt

Have you ever been texting someone lovely or on a great date with someone to then find out the next time you meet that you’ve got absolutely zilch in common? Sure some people can build relationships from differing interests, but it’s often easier if you have at least one hobby to share.

That’s why Sweatt seems like a kinda silly, kinda great idea. It’s essentially like Tinder, but for those who love fitness and working out. The aim is you’ll find someone who loves exercise just as much as you do so you can become one of those cringe-worthy couples who lifts weights together or does complicated acrobatic yoga poses and then posts them to Instagram.

Like Tinder, Sweatt isn’t interested in getting you to fill out lengthy questionnaires, instead profiles are simple. This is great for those who are pushed for time, but it does mean it’s likely your matches will be based solely on how you both look - a fact some will love and others will hate. 

Also like Tinder, you can search through potential matches by swiping and if you both like each other you’re matched and can begin the cat and mouse game. Except in this case the mouse loves running and the cat is so toned it looks like it’s been molded from clay.