Fairy tales used to start with "Once upon a time," but now more love stories start with a swipe. Use these dating apps to begin writing your modern fairy tale.
Charlotte MaracinaAssociate Writer
Charlotte Maracina is an associate writer for CNET based in Long Island, New York. When not writing about top products on the market, she's traveling, binging Love Island or following Harry Styles on tour.
ExpertiseCharlotte has two years of experience tracking different travel, fashion and lifestyle trends among 18-24 year olds. She studied Communications and Sociology at Belmont University.
Rebecca Fleenor was an editorial project manager. She enjoys all things wacky, techie and entertaining, and she's usually off binge-watching films and television shows (and writing them in her spare time).
Dating apps have a bad reputation despite their ever-growing popularity. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my mother say that back in the day you'd just go out to the neighborhood bar to meet people. Well, times have changed -- and in some ways for the better. You can find the best dating apps no matter what you're looking for, allowing singles to narrow down the field and find exactly the right person.
The downside is that with all these apps it's hard to know which you should focus your time on and which to avoid. Luckily for you, I have a lot of first-hand experience with current dating apps. This is a list of some of the best dating apps out there, including the experiences they offer, their unique features and the pool of people you can expect to find on each platform. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for these top dating sites or apps, start chatting and maximize your chances of meeting your match. We'll update this list periodically.
(A note on the byline: This story was initially written by Rebecca Fleenor and has been substantially updated, including the introduction, by Charlotte Maracina. The blurbs below are initialed to reflect which of the authors' respective opinions are referenced.)
eHarmony was one of the pioneers among online dating site options, and -- while I haven't personally used this one -- we all remember the pitch for online daters, thanks to years of TV commercials: The service matches couples based on "29 dimensions" of compatibility and interests (as determined by a thorough relationship questionnaire and personality test). While you can review the profiles of your prospective matches for free, you'll need to pay to unlock the full features of the service. There's a three-month plan and a six-month plan, and they come with a guarantee: If, after three months of paid membership and communicating with at least five members, you're not satisfied, eHarmony will refund your money. Despite a rocky road that eventually involved a high-profile lawsuit, the site finally added same-sex dating in 2013. I have mixed feelings about using the site myself, but it's at least technically more inclusive now. -- RF
Bumble is for the women who aren't afraid to make the first move... and don't mind losing matches if they don't receive a reply within one day. If the guy doesn't message back within 24 hours, the match then expires. Not a great scenario if you're like me and check your dating apps once every other week.
If you're a woman who wants to take charge, you're looking for a quick response and aren't afraid to lose matches if someone doesn't get back to you right away, I'd recommend checking Bumble out. Based on my personal experience Bumble tends to attract bold women and shy men, which isn't a bad thing. Because women must message first, Bumble tends to weed out the more insecure guys from the dating pool. Plus, Bumble also offers Bumble BFF which allows you to meet friends when moving or visiting new cities. -- CM
Allows women more control
Offers Bumble BFF, making it easier to meet friends
Allows users to specify their interests and dating goals
Matches expire in one day
Only the woman can make the first move, making it harder for those more shy
Those looking for love, lust and everything in between have a good chance of finding that on Hinge. Hinge is the app "designed to be deleted" and ranks as one of my favorites. While Tinder may be more for hookups, Hinge is for those looking for something a little more than a one night stand.
Since it first launched, Hinge has added dozens of features that allow you to display your interests and specify who you're looking for. My only issue with the app is that it's recently began limiting the amounts of likes you're allowed to give, requiring you to upgrade to the paid version of the app for unlimited likes. I've gone on several Hinge dates and while the only thing it's ever really led to has been an "it's complicated" status relationship, I've never had a bad experience using the app and definitely recommend it to those looking for something more than a casual relationship. -- CM
Prompts allow your profile to show your personality
Good for those not totally sure what they want
You can see who liked your profile
Limit on the amount of likes you have per day
You have to pay extra for your top potential matches
OkCupid, how you confuse me. I have friends who've met their ideal match and even spouses through OkCupid. My last serious relationship came from the OkCupid dating service. In fact, I've been on OkCupid on and off, for roughly the last 11 years. Profiles are a lot more in-depth than most online dating sites and if you answer a seemingly endless series of questions (much like a personality test), they will spit out a reasonable Match/Enemy percentage ratio on profiles to help you gauge compatibility based on interests.
Changes in the last few years have made OkCupid a bit more like Tinder (they're owned by the same company), focusing more on swiping and eliminating the ability to message a user without matching with them first. Online daters can still send a message -- it just won't show up in the recipient's inbox unless you match. Because who doesn't enjoy 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 and fake profiles people received, which might be a worthwhile trade-off. Unfortunately, in my experience, OkCupid has become a bit of a dating ghost town. -- RF
Happn matches you with people who are located nearby. 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.
After signing up, Happn showed me 68 people it said I'd crossed paths with in the preceding three hours, though I hadn't left my apartment all day. This might be helpful if you're looking to date your immediate neighbors (or Uber drivers), but I don't see the attraction when competitors like Tinder already show the distance between you and other users. Frankly, if I saw an attractive guy in a coffee shop, I'd just approach him rather than check to see if he's on Happn. The app seems designed for people who don't want to use online dating sites but also don't want to approach people in real life. Pick a lane. -- RF
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. It's a worthy notion -- but the app has some bugs and glitches that made it frustrating to use. Most of my queer female friends have told me they found the app "just OK" and not perfect and that 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. Isn't that all we're really looking for in a dating app? -- RF
If you work in virtually any creative industry -- whether you're an executive assistant for a music label or a full time social media influencer -- and are looking to date someone in a similar field, Raya is the app for you. You'll have to fill out an application then go through a verification process that can take anywhere from two days to two years. Hot tip: Listing references of friends who are currently on the app will help your application move further. -- CM
Good for both dating and networking
Users are carefully vetted to make sure no one is using fake photos
Coffee Meets Bagel hopes to offer people better-quality matches by sending curated daily 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 found the app confusing to use, with too many features and a lot of gimmicks. I shouldn't have to look up online tutorials to figure out how to use a dating app. Plus why call matches Bagels?
I was also disappointed in the notifications, which I found too pushy. CMB was constantly "gently" reminding me to message people I'd matched with. I eventually disabled the app after receiving the following notification: "Show [match name] who's boss and break the ice today!" Should a potential future relationship be rooted in a hierarchical power dynamic? At the end of the day, I have friends who've had the perfect match on CMB, but it isn't one of my favorite online dating apps. -- RF
Since Tinder was launched in 2012, the app has been the best option for people looking for casual hookups, flirty casual conversation or even long-term relationships. Tinder was the first dating app I, along with most of my friends, began using and it definitely helps ease you into the online dating world.
The notoriety and simplicity of Tinder is why most people are drawn to it as their first dating app. It's easy: Swipe left if you're not interested and right if you are. The profiles include a handful of pictures you can tap through, a bio and the option to link your Instagram and Spotify. It may seem like a very judging-a-book-by-the-cover approach, but isn't that what all dating is like at first? Now Tinder also includes the option to verify your profile, helping to prove your legitimacy to others on the app.
My best advice for Tinder is that it's truly about quantity over quality at first. As with all dating apps, the more people you match with the greater chances you have of having one or two successful matches. Luckily now Tinder has added a feature that lets you specify what type of relationship you're looking for to help when looking at potential matches. -- CM
Easy to use
Matches don't expire
You can add your interests and add your Spotify on your profile
You need to pay to unlock your top potential matches
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. -- RF
Match.com has a free version, but the general consensus is that you'll need a paid subscription to have any luck. That's a hangover from the early days of online dating sites, when a paid basic 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 or the perfect partner if you pay 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. -- RF
There's only one true way to test a dating app and that's to try them out ourselves. Everyone's experience with dating apps will be different, but our reviews are based on our own personal experiences along with reviews from friends and family. After carefully crafting a profile we then took the time to swipe through our options and familiarize ourselves with the platforms. Once we've had the opportunity to talk to potential partners, we're able to form our opinions of the overall vibe of the app and who we think it might appeal to.
Factors to consider
If you're freshly single or have been single your whole life, it's important to have an idea of what you want when picking out the best dating app to invest your time in. You can download all of them and constantly be switching between platforms, but I've found it best to invest your time, and money if you want, into one or two apps. Also consider whether or not you want to spend money on app.
Dating app FAQs
What is the best overall dating app?
Listing one dating app as the best overall one is hard because it truly depends on your personal preference. Many people have friends who went on Tinder looking for a one-night stand but ended up finding long-term relationships. Hinge tends to be the best in-between app for those looking for both a casual fling and something more serious. But if you're ready to put a ring on it, eHarmony or Match may be more up your alley.
What should I include in my dating profile?
Making a dating profile may seem daunting at first but at the end of the day you should just include whatever feels most true to yourself! If you like to travel, include a picture or two of your travels. A photo of you doing what you're passionate about will be a great conversation starter.
In previous dating profiles I've used a mixture of photos of just me and photos where I'm out and about with friends. As far as answering prompts goes, it's always better to answer genuinely. Answering prompts is a great way to get your sense of humor and personality across, so make sure to take advantage of that.
Are dating apps worth it?
This once again is all up to personal preference. Dating apps are a great way to put yourself out there and see other singles in your area. Even if you don't find love, you may still have a fun few dates or flirty conversations. Dating apps are all about putting yourself out there and not being afraid to weed through a bunch of people to find the one. If you're willing to put in the work then you may find the person you've been looking for.