Pop culture

The Definitive Ranking of the Dating Apps

One single girl investigates which platforms are worth the hype.
Reading time 9 minutes

From what we eat to who we date, it seems as though there is an app for every aspect of our lives. Today, a lot, if not most, of relationships and “flings” arise from a good dating app encounter. Just like it's now hard to think of photography without Instagram, many of us can't remember the last time our friends brought up their love lives without Tinder, Hinge, or Grindr, or how many dating conversations haven't included one friend explaining to another the concept behind Happn or Lex. The premise is the same, but our technology-filled age has just made the execution that much easier.

Whether you are looking for something more serious or just a casual hookup, it's easy to open the app store (or ask your friends) to find a wide and ever-increasing range of options that can satisfy your different needs. In seconds, you could be chatting with a cute stranger from the comfort of your own home, or perhaps just finding some entertainment as you swipe through profiles.

For better or for worse, technology has inarguably changed the rules of the dating game. For one thing, there are endless opportunities, and for another, it can feel all the more overwhelming. To try to help with that, I've looked into five of the most buzzed-about apps and ranked them based on my experience with each. While everyone has different preferences and the below list is far from exhaustive—for instance, there's an ever-increasing range of LGBTQ-specific dating apps to try—we hope this helps to give a better idea of what kinds of matches you can find on a few of the biggest options, making the endless stream of potential prospects a little easier to navigate.

5. The League

This members-only dating app claims to accept only 10-20% of applicants. But unlike Raya, which targets people in the creative industries, The League evaluates candidates based on their level of education: 99% of active members hold a college degree. According to its website, The League has led to "more New York Times wedding announcements than any other app on the market."

Given The League's exclusivity, it's super unclear what your experience might be depending on your preferences—according to the app's official site, it depends on who has signed up in your area and "if you set your preferences super narrow, you will have less daily Prospects, and less people will see your profile as well." That seems to imply that it would work best in cities, and without getting an inside look at their approval process, we wouldn't know how hard they're trying to include people of all sexual orientations. Plus, it's $99 per month. Perhaps that is the necessary price for a good dating app that finally helps you to settle down in New York City, but I just can't shake that it feels ridiculous, so this app gets the last place on this list.

4. Tinder

If the fire logo doesn’t give it away, Tinder is famous for being a fast-paced hookup app, and it has certainly earned its reputation. Users first encounter their potential partner through a picture and basic bio, and they can then decide to take it (swipe right) or leave it (swipe left). If both users swipe right, a “connection” is made and both users are redirected to a chat session.

Tinder has always allowed users to swipe through men, women, or both, but earlier this year they moved beyond the binary to allow for selecting up to three terms describing their sexual orientation, then decide whether they want to display that on their profile and if they want to prioritize other people with the same orientations. They still have further to go, such as allowing users to display pronouns, but the app is moving towards a more inclusive experience.

Since Tinder's primary focus is pictures, it has gotten a reputation for being a bit superficial. In my own experience, I’ve never gotten anything more out of it than a “Let's meet up!” text at 3 AM or an invitation for drinks way past my bedtime on a Sunday night. And the conversations usually begin with “Hey gorgeous” or a surface-level pickup line, which ends up feeling a bit like the internet's version of cat-calling. But if a relationship is not what you’re looking for—and we're not judging, as they can often be a time-consuming hassle—Tinder could be a good dating app for you.

3. Raya

Known as the Soho House of dating apps or Tinder for celebrities, Raya is an app for like-minded people who work in creative fields (or ridiculously attractive people). Not only does the app cost $8 a month, but in order to join, users must get a referral from an existing member before submitting an application for a committee to vote upon. If the social media buzz (BTW, you'd better have a nice Instagram presence) has anything to say, the exclusivity makes for a good dating app, or at least, we all hope.

Rumor has it that celebrities like Ben Affleck, Demi Lovato, and Cara Delevingne are members of the app. In fact, I literally stumbled upon Pete Davidson the day after he and Ariana Grande called off their engagement. Hence, screenshots are strictly forbidden, and too many of them can get you kicked off Raya.

Though exclusive in the application process, Raya is inclusive when it comes to varying orientations—they have a statement against bigotry and appear to welcome people of any background, so long as they fit the creative mold. Plus, the network is international, which means that you can match with people from all around the globe and meet with "trendy" locals while abroad. The perks: you're less likely to wind up committing to an underwhelming meetup at a lame bar, as common date activities include basketball games, fine dining, and VIP concerts. A major drawback: you’re in the same dating pool as literal supermodels. This makes connections a lot more scarce than on other apps, no matter how excited you may be as you scroll through the curated list of potential matches.

2. Bounce

Raise your hand if you have matched with someone but never actually met up with them IRL. In dating app culture, it's nearly impossible not to be guilty of messaging someone without meeting them in person. That’s because there are endless options, and with every match comes another one, so stakes are pretty low for going beyond a text conversation if either person isn't feeling the vibes. You can easily find yourself spending time on a dating app for months before you realize you’ve never ended up going on a real date.

If that sounds like you, Bounce is probably your best bet. This app cuts to the chase, connecting you with other people who want to go on a date that same night. Based on your location, Bounce will show you potential matches, and if both users say “yes” to each other, the app will give you a meeting spot to head to within the next hour. And to ensure that people actually go through with it, if you don’t show up or cancel last minute, your account is suspended.

The idea is to skip the messaging and Instagram-stalking stage to get to know people the good old-fashioned way, and because of that, the app is pretty clear about expectations for profiles as well. They emphasize inclusivity and respect, and recommend you represent yourself as you would in real life—after all, if you say yes to someone who likes you back, you are committing to a date that night. The pressure is on, but it just may be the most thrilling first meetup you've ever had.

1. Hinge

How many times have you heard someone met the love of their life through a mutual friend? Hinge got its much-buzzed-about start from this method, requiring users to log into Facebook in order to find their matches, which would come from a pool of connections up to three degrees away. Those days are over (plus, Facebook has its very own dating app now), but the intimate feeling of the app remains.

Hinge markets itself as “the dating app for relationship seekers” because unlike Tinder, which focuses intensely on pictures, it includes prompts like “two truths and a lie” or “best travel story” to answer and display on your profile. By putting personality before sexuality, it becomes a place to find people you really want to get to know. When it comes to gender and sexuality, the team at Hinge has been known to increase their available descriptors and help users decide where they want to show up, and while they are still working to improve this, they seem committed to helping all users connect with compatible personalities. The team believes in the app so much that their New York subway ads emphasize their desire for you to one day delete it.

I have noticed that the varying answers that I shared over time (the more exclamation marks, the better!!!!), all while keeping the same pictures, has impacted the number of matches that I got. This seems to prove that its users do care about more than just looks, so even though all dating apps have their flaws, Hinge may be the perfect one to try if you're not into hookup culture. I also found the best dates on this app without even getting a paid membership, so it seems like their method is working.



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