Love has always been a bit of a game. And now, with everyone carrying smartphones, finding love has actually become a game. That’s because most dating apps remove most of the work from online dating by drawing personal information and photos directly from Facebook, leaving the user to just look at pretty pictures and check yes or no. And if things aren’t going your way? Just shut the app down and try another one. In fact, many people use dating apps just to play the game, according to a Pew Research Center study, which found that one in three people who have used online dating have never actually gone on a date using the service. Does that mean you should swipe left on the whole thing? If watching sports has taught us anything it’s that we can take games pretty damn seriously. Do your research here and then get off the bench.
Most Influential App: Tinder set the model for most other dating apps: swipe right if you like the person; swipe left if you don’t. If both people like each other, it’s a match and a chat opens up between the two people. All users need to start is a Facebook account. It’s so successful — boasting “over 6 billion matches and counting” — because it casts a wide net. Select your preferred sex, age range and distance from you and get swiping.
Best for Cautious Daters: Hinge uses the same swiping action as Tinder, but it casts a much smaller net, targeting only friends of friends on a user’s Facebook account. The idea is to meet people who’re already in your social circle — or close to it. Also, users only have the option of swiping from a group of approximately 20 potential matches per day.
Best Overall Experience: Launched in December 2014, Bumble was designed by one of the co-founders of Tinder and uses the same swiping principles. But here’s the catch: once a match is made, only the woman can initiate the conversation. If she doesn’t say something within 24 hours, the match disappears forever. Men do have the option to extend one match per day for another 24 hours — but it’s no guarantee she’ll decide to message them.
Best for Going on Actual Dates: Instead of swiping for matches, HowAboutWe allows users to post a date idea that they’d like to go on. Prospective date candidates then see that idea, ask to go on it, and if the original idea poster accepts, the two go on that date. It’s like fishing, except with people. And because people can both post ideas and comment on other people’s ideas, users can play both the fisherman and the catch.
Best Location-Based App: Here’s an app that’s admittedly a little creepy. Happn tracks the people who “cross paths” with — meaning people who are in close proximity to one another. Those profiles then show up in a sea of photos on other users’ screens, which they can like or dislike. If two people like each other, it’s a crush and a conversation starts. So it’s basically an advanced version of Tinder that matches you with people who live, work or shop in the same places you do.
Best for Double and Triple Dates: This non-swiping app connects friends-of-friends with each other. The app sets up a date (drinks) between two people — using the information like age, education, job, interests and lifestyle — who then invite two friends to accompany them on the date. Users don’t get to see photos of the people they’re meeting, but since everybody in the Grouper puts $20 down on the reservation beforehand, nobody is getting stood up. By the way, Grouper picks up the tab on the first round of drinks.
Most Old School: The extremely popular dating website created an app that functions much like the site. Its aim is to create data-driven matches and encourage dates. It’s not a fast-paced swiping app; each user fills out a questionnaire before they’re able to date. The app then generates matches and from the information provided, and it’s up to users to look at their matches and start conversations.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Most Restrained: Like Hinge, this app also connects people with mutual friends on Facebook. Everyday at noon, a potential match is sent to a user, who then can either “like” it or “pass” it. Users have 24 hours to choose and if it’s a match, a conversation is initiated by the app. It’s not as much a game as other apps, since users can only choose from one candidate per day.
Most Tribal: JSwipe is pretty much the same deal as Tinder. It’s a swiping app that also asks users about their Jewish affiliation: from orthodox to willing to convert (so it can be used by both Jews and non-Jewish people alike). Once both users swipe right, the app gives the match 18 days of inactivity before it disappears.