The upsides of dating in 2021? That park crush you’re hoping to come across on Happn probably has more time for swiping. Plus, the new year brings a rush of new dawn daters: one in five UK Bumble users say they’ve joined after ending a committed relationship as a result of the pandemic.
Sure, Covid might be bringing depressingly few opportunities to meet people IRL, but dating apps are having their biggest boom yet.
But which one to commit to? Your friends say it’s all about Hinge, but Badoo has the most worldwide users (it’s a numbers game) and Bumble claims to be kinder - just what everyone needs during the bleakest January yet.
Plus there’s a whole range of shiny new apps to try: Londoner Sanjay Panchal has just launched the world’s first anti-ghosting app (finally!); everyone’s talking about the new membership-only dating club for Jews; and The Intro literally schedules your socially-distanced dates for you and picks a spot (park) - perfect if lockdown has made you lazy with organising.
From the new blind dating platform to the app that lets users refund their worst pandemic dates, here’s a guide to the top dating apps to use in 2021.
Profoundly: for personality over pictures
Profoundly helps you open a conversation with interesting questions and entertaining icebreakers. Only when you’ve chatted enough will it unlock your match’s photos - the 2021 edition of Blind Date.
It’ll match you with people nearby who have similar interests and lets you send anonymous confessions to Facebook friends so you can finally tell that guy from school you always fancied him.
The app has more than 12 million users and more than 40 million messages are exchanged every day.
Badoo: to meet anyone
Your pals might tell you everyone’s on Hinge but Badoo is the biggest dating app in the world. The app was launched by Russian tech entrepreneur Andrey Andreev in 2009, three years before Tinder, and it now has more than 380 million customers, operates in 190 countries and is available in 47 different languages.
The app recently launched Private Detector, a safety feature which uses AI to detect the sending of unsolicited dick pics, giving users the choice to either open and view this content, or avoid it altogether. It’s proven to by 98 per cent accurate.
Bumble: to meet the nice guy
Bumble’s USP is that it challenges female users to make the first move, basically eliminating the bro-culture of other dating platforms. In traditional apps, when women match with guys, the unspoken rule is that they hesitate to initiate a conversation for fear of seeming weird or desperate. On Bumble, women have no choice in the matter.
Its founder Whitney Wolfe told us that her feminist matchmaking tool is designed to reset the “heteronormative rules in our current landscape”, giving women the power to message their matches without stigma.
The bloke you’re likely to meet on here? Someone who’s on board with the idea of evening out the romantic playing field. Typically, those guys are keepers.
Over-50s dating app Lumen is now part of Bumble too.
String: to hear what your match sounds like
The dating app for voice-note lovers. String launched this year as a way to make dating during self-isolation more personal. Rather than sending strings of robotic one-liners, the app lets you put a voice to your matches’ pictures by sending each other voice-notes. No texting is allowed: you can either react with an emoji or send one back.
For extra audio points, Spotify is now integrated into the app so you can add your favourite song to your profile.
Lox Club: for Jews with high standards
This membership-only app started as a joke, according to its 29-year-old LA product designer founder Austin Kevitch, but it officially launched worldwide at the end of last year after receiving thousands of applications.
Forbes says its membership committee is “scrupulous” and Vogue calls the app a “Jewish Raya”, though it’s not solely for Jews. Founders say it’s like a deli: “it’s culturally Jewish, but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it. We’re open to all levels of observance and all religions.”
To be accepted, Lox Club says it’s looking for “non-douchey, ambitious, funny, down-to-earth people who are looking for that type of person as well. Someone you’d bump into at a house party and end up talking with in a corner for hours." The current number of applicants awaiting approval is more than 20,000 and fees start at $36 for three months.
Download on iOS
Coffee Meets Bagel: to meet The One
It’s been described as “the anti-Tinder” - and with good reason too. Coffee Meets Bagel’s radical focus is on the quality of matches it offers, rather than an endless sea of faces you find yourself vacantly swiping through elsewhere. Every day, you’ll be offered just one single ‘holy grail’ match based on information you’ve already inputted on your tastes, preferences and hobbies.
Don’t like what you see? Hold your horses, wait until tomorrow. No one said true love was easy to find.
Taimi: to meet queer people
Taimi isn’t just a dating app, it’s the world’s largest LGBTQ+ social platform, with almost nine million users and social features from chat-based networking to video streaming.
It’s all about making users feel safe: the app uses several layers of verification, 24/7 profile moderation, live support and PIN/fingerprint/Face ID so your data and interactions are in safe hands.
Happn: to meet your park crush
Got your eye on your local barista? Get on Happn. The French app plays on natural serendipity by flagging mutual interests in real time. Maybe you’ll finally be that couple that can tell all your friends you met on the Tube.
It works as simply as this: every time you cross paths with someone in real life, their profile shows up on your timeline - handy given a recent study found that 48 per cent of people are now inclined to date locally. The app captures other users within a 250m radius of your own smartphone, giving you a cross-section of Londoners around you - and potentially your coffee house or (pre-pandemic) rush hour crush.
Hinge: to find your type
Hinge’s slogan “designed to be deleted” is clearly clever marketing, but users say it works. Founder Justin McLeod says it’s all about vulnerability - by putting yourself out there “honestly” in a series of Q&A prompts, you’re bound to make better connections than just swiping on who you fancy.
Despite the pandemic, Hinge’s downloads are up 82 per cent this year so it’s the perfect platform for finding your own lockdown love story.
Elate: for people who hate ghosting
The anti-ghosting app for people who prefer dating one person at a time. Elate was launched by Londoner Sanjay Panchal this year in response to research that found ghosting to be the number one complaint amongst dating app users: 95% of those surveyed this year say they’ve been ghosted and 75% admit to doing it to others.
Elate’s solution? It only lets you chat with three matches at once and will let you know if one moves on to chat to someone new (so you're not left wondering and waiting).
In line with this more respectful approach, it also shows potential matches’ bios over photos so you’re not distracted by a pretty face until you know they’re worth it.
Download on iOS
OKCupid: to match on what matters
ounded in the US in 2004, OkCupid revolutionised the online dating landscape by featuring multiple-choice questions in order to match members. It was also the first dating app to engineer a non-binary dating experience, with 22 gender options and 13 sexual orientations.
Read it’s latest dating trends report here.
The Intro: to swerve small-talk
Launched in London a year ago, The Intro is all about meeting IRL instead of weeks of pre-date chit-chat. When two users match, they can't chat, instead they schedule a date. Just tell the app when you’re next free and it’ll work out a mutual slot and suggest meeting spots (currently in parks) between the two of you - like your own dating concierge.
Video dates are now available if you can’t meet in person and there’s a ‘speed date’ option for two-minute virtual dates with other online members.
Profiles are the classic Hinge or Bumble six-picture format with bios and Q&As. The added bonus? Friends, family (and even exes) can contribute to your profile.
Tinder: for the casual hook-up
Arguably the most well-known dating app, Tinder was once the place for social introverts to meet their significant other. Now it’s a tool for swiftly finding an insignificant one-night stand - whether you're straight, gay, bi, transgender or gender-fluid.
In 2015, Vanity Fair declared Tinder as the ultimate place that twentysomethings go to “hit it and quit it”, claiming that the app was solely responsible for a “dating apocalypse”. While die-hard romantics might agree, others say the app has revolutionised the process of hunting down no-strings fun at relatively little expense. The tool basically works by swiping yes or no based on each user’s picture.
Not sure where to start? These are the 30 most right-swiped Brits on Tinder right now.
Raya: to meet a celebrity
Ever wanted to date a celebrity? This ‘illuminati Tinder’ app Raya is the place to go if you’re after a bedfellow with money and fame. Cara Delevingne, Ruby Rose and Elijah Wood are all reported to be members of Raya, the world’s most exclusive dating app
Getting on there, however, is harder than finding a great date. You’ll have to be very beautiful, very successful and have 5,000-plus Instagram followers to get in. It’s basically the Soho House of dating. Good luck.
Download on iOS
The League: for the elites
If you can’t get on Raya, then you can also try The League, dubbed Tinder for elites. It’s a selective dating app for young, successful individuals, which first launched in San Francisco before making its way to London at the end of last year.
Many of the members work in careers such as finance, technology, consulting and fashion.
Download on iOS
Inner Circle: for a date with money
This controversial dating website and app, bills itself as a network for "like-minded" individuals; a "high-end", "exclusive community" with an "impressive following of successful and attractive people.” Basically city bankers who want to find good looking dates without having to scour Mayfair's Whisky Mist and Barts in Chelsea.
The app has a shiny new look this year, with profiles that show off values and interests and filters that let you find matches and events. It’s available in 42 cities across the world and more than 10,000 happy couples have been in touch since its launch.
Inner Circle’s newest and best feature yet? Letting you refund your worst pandemic dates from 2020. The app launched Refund My Sh*t Date - The Pandemic Edition - last month and it’s the ultimate cure for anyone who’s feeling exhausted after their nine hundredth ghosting.
Head to refundmyshitdate.com and check out ‘stories’ for the funniest dating tales from the last year. Those who’ve been through the biggest turmoils can win self-care prizes from Headspace subscriptions to massages - all stories are anonymous, so let it rip.
Download on iOS and Google Play Store
Muzmatch: to meet Muslims
Muzmatch wins the award for the best dating ads on the Tube, including 'Halal, is it meet you're looking for', and 'You had me at Halal'. Genius.
As you can probably guess, the basis for Muzmatch is to find fellow Muslims to date.
The user interface looks similar to Tinder and verifies you using your phone number and a selfie, not a Facebook account. There's also the option to choose to keep your photos blurred until you match with someone, though the app says profiles with visible photos recieve 300 per cent more matches.
Download on iOS and Android
Salt: to meet Christians
Like Muzmatch, Salt's USP depends on religion: helping Christians to find and date one another online.
The app launched at the end of last year by an all-Christian team who were disillusioned about trying to meet other Christians in the wild. In particular, the team behind Salt hope to make Christian dating "a little less awkward and a lot more fun."
The design of the app is gorgeous, all muted greys and subtle pinks, so you can download and get swiping.
Her: for women to meet women
Originally launched as ‘Grindr for girls’, Robyn Exton’s LGBTQ dating app Her has grown to be the biggest community for lesbian, bisexual and queer women worldwide. The app mixes dating and social networking, with a timeline to read the news, find out what’s happening in your city and make connections.
Meet your soulmate or just meet a new group of friends. The choice is yours.
Grindr: for men to meet men
Before there was Tinder, there was Grindr. Having first launched in 2009, the app is credited with being the precursor to the current swathe of digital dating apps.
Things to note: it’s an all-male dating app for both gay and bisexual men, it uses your mobile device’s location-based services to show you the guys closest to you who are also on surfing the app and it’s most popular in London, meaning your living in the best city to try it out.