The best dating apps to use in 2021

Katie Strick
·16-min read
The new apps to try in pursuit of the perfect match (Shutterstock / Dean Drobot)
The new apps to try in pursuit of the perfect match (Shutterstock / Dean Drobot)

The upsides of dating in 2021? That park crush you’re hoping to come across on Happn is probably just as desperate as you to get out on some actual dates now that we can (if you can get a pub table). Thanks to the rule of six, dating site OkCupid even predicts a boom in triple dating this summer - 56 per cent of its users say they would be keen.

Plus, spring 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. And if you want to meet them, make sure you block out your Thursday nights for the foreseeable: a new app called Thursday is promising to make the fourth night of the week the capital’s mass date night when it launches in two weeks’ time.

Thursday isn’t the only dating app new on the scene. 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 a new app called Playdate has just launched for single parents.

So which app to commit to? From the new blind dating platform to Hinge’s new video prompts, here’s a guide to the top dating apps to use in 2021.

Profoundly: for personality over pictures

Profoundly
Profoundly

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.

Download on iOS and Android

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.

Download on iOS and Android

Thursday: to swerve the small-talk

Thursday
Thursday

Thursday wants to eliminate all the elements of dating that have made it start to feel like a chore: the evenings spent swiping, the conversations fizzling, the admin of planning your week around possible evenings your match might like to go for a drink. After 13 months spent staring at screens, “lockdown has made dating stale”, say co-founders George Rawlings and Matt McNeil Love, listing the reasons for launching their new dating app. Thursday’s solution? Bringing the thrill back - hopefully - by only making the app available for one day a week (yep, you got it).

Rawlings and Love claim they’re ripping up the dating rules to make modern matchmaking more exciting. The idea is that you match, flirt and chat during the day on a Thursday before locking in a date (or three) that evening - but can an app that’s inactive 85.7 per cent of the time really expect to take on big players like Hinge and Bumble? Absolutely, according to the extent to which Thursday is seducing the capital’s millennials. The app launches in two weeks and more than 110,000 singles are already pre-registered across London and New York, with planned roll-outs across the UK and other European cities over the month of May.

After a year that’s seen most singles looking upon coupled-up friends with envy, Rawlings and Love believe it’s time to turn the tables and make summer 2021 “the most exciting time to be single”. Thanks to them, the fourth night of the week just became London’s mass date night. “When every single person in your city is dating on Thursday and is actually free to date that day, why would you not?” they ask. The genius of setting a date night is that it also frees up the other six days of the week to focus on all the other activities everyone’s missed over the last year.

The app also wants to minimise admin and make dating “proactive” again. All matches and conversation disappear at midnight, so you have to act quickly and be a bit spontaneous if you want to secure a date (to boost safety, members are verified using a passport or driving license and will be booted off the app if they are reported once. Though geography plays a part in suggestions, precise locations are not shared).

From May 6 (pre-registrations are open), getthursday.com

Luxy: to find your model partner

Luxy calls itself a bespoke dating app for connecting “sophisticated and wealthy singles with likeminded matches”. Many of its members are models, athletes, influencers, celebrities and high-flying execs.

Since launching in 2014, the app has had more than 3.5 million downloads worldwide, with only 20-30 per cent of applicants achieving membership due to its strict criteria. According to Luxy, it’s all about targeting the top 1% of singles. Whether you qualify in that is unfortunately up to them.

Download on iOS and Android

Playdate: to meet other single parents

If you’re one of the 2.9 million single parents currently living in the UK, Playdate wants to be your matchmaker. The app is the first in the country aimed at single parents and wants to help them overcome the challenges of dating when you have children by matching members with others in their area and suggesting child-friendly restaurants, cafes and bars to meet at if the first few dates go well.

The app has also thoughtfully partnered with babysitting app Bubble to provide users with instant childcare solutions - there’s even a special discount for Playdate members.

Download on iOS and Android

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.

Bumble
Bumble

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

String: to hear what your match sounds like

String
String

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

Lox Club: for Jews with high standards

Lox Club
Lox Club

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

Taimi: to meet queer people

Taimi
Taimi

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.

Download on iOS and Android

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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.

Hinge
Hinge

Plus it uses AI to learn the kind of people you like - read more about it in his interview with the Evening Standard here (McLeod’s own love story is also worth a read).

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.

The app has also just launched video prompts for those who want to continue virtual dating: once you’re both on the video call, open “video prompts” and you’ll both be shown a card ranging from warm-up questions to “dive in deep” topics which help you skip straight to the important stuff. Are you brave enough?

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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
elate

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.

Download on iOS and Android

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.

The Intro
The Intro

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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: to refund your sh*t date

Inner Circle
Inner Circle

This exclusive dating website and app, bills itself as a network for "an app that matches you on values and interests, making it easier to meet people you really connect with" .Users say it’s 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.

Muzmatch
Muzmatch

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.

Download on iOS and Android

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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.

Download on iOS and Google Play Store

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