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Best dating apps of 2018

Happy "cuffing season," that special time of year when the cold weather and holiday cheer crushes the souls of singletons, and sometimes even the strongest and most independent of single folks find themselves yearning for a relationship.

If after a few glasses of spiked eggnog you decide you want to indulge that swiping instinct, here are the best (and OK-est) dating apps to try out. My recommendations are based primarily on my own dating-app experiences as a woman. Make of that what you will.

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Bumble

Bumble is basically Tinder for women... and on a timer. Bumble requires women to message first and if the guy doesn't message back within 24 hours, he loses the potential match. Because that's the one thing my love life was really missing... arbitrary time limits.

The timer is designed to encourage contact, and some people really do appreciate that feature. But if you're someone who procrastinates, Bumble may not be for you. Also because women must message first, Bumble tends to weed out the slightly more insecure males. However the rate of overly confident males tends to be higher than I've seen on other apps. Bumble also has a BFF feature, but that's really not the focus of a dating app gallery, so I'll save it for another time. 

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Tinder

Whether you're looking for a hookup or an LTR (long-term relationship), Tinder has you covered. It's basically the first stop for those entering the dating world. If you want to play the odds when it comes to online dating, you probably need to be swiping where everyone's swiping.

On the upside the profiles are brief, which allows you to make decisions quickly. The downside is that short profiles make it harder to figure out what people are looking for. Knowing very little about a person can also make initial messaging more challenging. You'll need to wade through a sea of profiles, which makes it easy to pass over people you might have given a chance under different circumstances. 

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Hinge

Hinge focuses on common connections that you and a potential partner share on Facebook. Which is great if you trust the judgment of your friends and family. Of course, some of us are trying to meet new people, far removed from our everyday lives. (Hinge may have gotten the hint, since you no longer need Facebook to sign up.) The app also asks questions to help you match with better connections, which can be a plus for serious relationship seekers. 

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OkCupid

OkCupid, how you confuse me. I have friends who've met spouses through OkCupid. My last serious relationship came from OkCupid. In fact, I've been on OkCupid, on and off, for roughly the last 11 years. Profiles are much more in-depth than most dating sites, and if you answer a seemingly endless series of questions, they will spit out a reasonable Match/Enemy percentage ratio on profiles to help you gauge compatibility.

Changes in the last year have made OkCupid a bit more like Tinder, focusing more on swiping and eliminating the ability to message a user without matching with them first. You can still send a message, it just won't show up in the recipient's inbox unless you match. Because who doesn't love sending a thoughtful message to someone who might never see it? However, OkCupid has pointed out that these changes did help lower the number of offensive messages users received, which might not be the worst thing.

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Coffee Meets Bagel

Coffee Meets Bagel hopes to offer users better quality matches by sending curated matches, or "Bagels," each day at noon. They suggest ice breakers for first messages and the profiles are more in-depth than Tinder. For people who like a little extra hand-holding, CMB isn't the worst option. However, I felt the app was confusing to use; too many features and too many gimmicks. I shouldn't have to lookup online tutorials to figure out how to use a dating app. And why call matches Bagels?

I was also disappointed in the notifications, which were a tad too pushy and out of touch for my taste. CMB was constantly "gently" reminding me to message users I'd matched with and I found myself disabling the app after I received a notification from it that said, "Show [Match Name] who's boss and break the ice today!" Is it just me or is it weird to imply that a potential future relationship should have a hierarchical power dynamic? At the end of the day, I have friends who've had good matches on CMB, but it isn't my favorite app. 

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The League

The League is an "elite dating app" that requires you to apply to get access. Your job title and the college you attended are factors The League considers when you apply, which is why you have to provide your Linkedin account. Big cities tend to have long waiting lists, so you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs as your application goes through the process. (Of course, you can pay to hurry up the review.) The exclusivity can be a draw for some and a turnoff for others. Let me demystify the app for you: I've seen most of the profiles I come across on The League on other dating apps. So at the end of the day, you'll probably see the same faces on Tinder, if you aren't deemed elite enough for The League.

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Happn

Happn matches you with people who are nearby physically. It's a cool concept and helpful for people who want to meet someone in a more organic manner. That said, I've never met a single person who actually uses the app.

Within the first three hours of signing up, Happn welcomed me with 68 users it said I had crossed paths with, even though I hadn't left my apartment all day. It might be helpful if you're looking to date your immediate neighbors (or Uber drivers), but I struggle to see why this is much of a draw when competitors like Tinder already show the distance between you and other users. Frankly, if I saw a cute guy in a coffee shop, I'd rather just approach him than check if he's on Happn. The app seems designed for people who don't want to use online dating but who also don't want to approach people in real life. Pick a lane.

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Her

Most dating apps are fairly LGBTQ inclusive. Still, it's nice to have an app to call your own. Her is tailored to lesbian, bisexual and queer women. The app serves a valuable purpose, but generally has some bugs and glitches that made it frustrating for me to use. Most of my queer female friends have told me they found the app to be just OK, but they usually end up back on Tinder or Bumble. Still I checked it regularly for some time and had a few pleasant conversations with actual human beings. And isn't that all we're really looking for in a dating app?

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Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish launched in 2003 and it shows. The problem I come across over and over again is that POF is filled with bots and scams, even though it may have the most users of any dating app. POF's issues don't mean you won't be able to find love on it, but the odds might be stacked against you. Unless you're into dating bots. 

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Match

Match has a free version, but the general consensus is that you need a paid subscription to have any luck on it. That's a hangover from the early days of online dating, when paying for membership to a site meant you were serious about settling down. But my friends and I have long since come to the conclusion that you might be a little too eager to find a significant other if you're paying to get dates, particularly given the abundance of free dating apps. There are definitely paid features on some dating apps that are worth the price, but I've yet to be able to justify shelling out cash for love. 

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Clover

Clover tried to be the on-demand version of online dating: you can basically order a date like you would a pizza. It also has match percentages based on compatibility, though it isn't entirely clear how those numbers are calculated.

I was on Clover for quite some time but had forgotten it even existed until I started to throw this list together. I felt like it was a less successful hybrid of OkCupid and Tinder, and I also felt like the user base was pretty small, even though I live in an urban area with plenty of people who use a wide variety of dating apps. Clover says it has nearly 6 million users, 85 percent of whom are between the ages of 18 and 30.

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More stories about finding love

Want to see even more stories about dating in our modern times of apps? Check out our collection of love-related stories called It's Complicated by clicking here.

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