The upsides of dating at this time of year? It’s cuffing season, so that Tube crush you’re hoping to come across on Happn is probably just as desperate as you are to couple up and hunker down for winter.
Plus, Covid 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: new app Thursday has made the fourth night of the week the capital’s mass date night, so you can forget scrolling and embrace party season on the other six nights of the week.
Thursday isn’t the only dating app new on the scene. Londoner Sanjay Panchal has launched the world’s first anti-ghosting app (finally!); everyone’s talking about POM, which pairs you based on music tastes; and new video dating app The Sauce has just announced it will plant a tree for every match - add that to your post-COP26 to-do list.
So which app to commit to? From the new safe dating platform to Hinge’s new voice prompts, here’s a guide to the top dating apps to use in 2021.
Profoundly: for personality over pictures
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.
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 500 million customers, operates in 190 countries and is available in 51 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.
The Sauce: to swipe sustainably
Sick of swiping? Here’s an incentive that’ll make Greta proud: this month, video dating app The Sauce announced it will plant a tree for every match - an important step towards its mission of becoming a carbon neutral company.
“This is an issue we care about greatly and we’ve spoken to thousands of our members who are also hugely concerned about the dire environmental trajectory we are on,” says co-founder Sachin Karia. “We found a truly great partner in onHand, a company that places community at its core, makes volunteering effortless and accessible and is helping businesses to engage in and fight the climate crisis.”
That’s not The Sauce’s only USP. The app says it’s on a mission to get rid of “dry dating” by offering video profiles, so you feel like you’ve already met someone before you actually do. Profiles feature short video clips so you can see each person’s energy - their voice, their laugh, how they dance - basically all the intangible qualities that build an attraction in real life.
POM: to meet fellow music-lovers
Match according to your music tastes: POM stands for Power of Music, and it’s a smart idea. The app uses an emotional algorithm to create a ‘profile’ of users from their imported music library, such as Apple or Spotify. Along with asking you six seemingly random questions, it’ll then collect your data and analyse it, including the type of music you listen to, when you listen to it, your emotional reaction when you listen to music and what it says about your character.
The app was founded by Vihan Patel, 22, who first made the connection between dating and music when he accidentally sent a playlist to the wrong girl at school. After bonding over the playlist, they then went on to date for a couple of years. Just think: you could be next.
Friended: to found love on friendship
Friended might be designed for making friends but many of its success stories have turned romantic. “I found my soulmate on this app,” says one happy user. “You guys changed my life. My girlfriend and I would like to thank you for your hard work for it joined us,” says another.
The app works by matching people through fun games, personality quizzes and icebreakers - psychologists say these help create honest one-to-one conversations. Scroll through other users’ thoughts, opinions and interests and once you see someone or something you relate to, you can direct message them and chat more about it.
Download on iOS
SafeDate: to send your friends your location
After a year in which nighttime safety has been talked about more than ever, SafeDate does what singles have been asking for for years: it makes sure your friends, housemates or family have your back, by sending them your location and alerting them when you get home (you can use it alongside any dating app, including Hinge, Bumble and OKCupid).
Just add your date plans into the app, choose your Safe Mates from your contacts and set a safe time to check-in after your date finishes. Your mates will only get notified if you don’t check-in, so you don’t have to worry about sending them constant notifications.
Download on iOS
Thursday: to switch off six days a week
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
String: to hear what your match sounds like
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.
Lox Club: for Jews with high standards
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.
Taimi: to meet queer people
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.
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.
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.
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 and voice prompts for those who want to continue virtual dating or love a voice note: 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?
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’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
Founded 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.
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.
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.
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.
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, and rumour has it Amy Schumer met her husband on here.
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
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.
Geek Meet: to talk nerdy
Star Wars obsessives, video game addicts and computer nerds, listen up. Geek Meet says it’s for those who feel too geeky for Tinder - a dating app that lets you embrace your nerdy passions, not hide them.
The site features geeky quizzes from ‘which Buffy The Vampire Slayer character should you date?’ to ‘which Hogwarts house should you date?’ and comes with date suggestions, from board game-themed dates to Marvel movie nights.
Download on Android, coming soon to iOS
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.
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.
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.
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.
Traditional Dating Club: to go back to basics
Traditional Dating Club doesn’t believe in algorithms or computer matching. Once you’ve scrolled through its profiles and found someone who takes your interest, you’re encouraged to send them a polite opening message (no nudes, please) and meet as soon as you can.
Founder Dennie Smith says her site is all about being “respectful”. She runs it the old-fashioned way, with a small team of five, vetting every profile, emailing members directly and sending monthly newsletters with dating tips. She’ll email you personally if she thinks you should edit your profile or change your photo.
“I’m not about the money,” she says. She hasn’t made a single penny from the site yet, she’s just passionate about singles having a positive dating experience.