Going out and meeting new people was hard enough as it was before Covid, but now — after the pandemic taught so many people how to find and pursue romantic partners without ever having to leave the house — it seems a person must resort to dating apps if they want to find success in the dating pool. This can be just as (if not more) intimidating than approaching a stranger at the bar, especially if you have no idea which of today’s top dating apps is the best of the best.
Match.com, eHarmony, Bumble, Tinder … with a new platform to flock to practically on the daily, how can one possibly expect to know what the best dating apps are? Not to mention all the subcategories and other factors to consider: features, safety, membership fees, the best ones for men, women, young adults, serious relationships, casual relationships, for over 40 … the list goes on and on. Thankfully, you don’t have to know all the ins and outs to find success on a dating app. This helpful guide will help you parse the best dating apps and eventually clue you in on the best overall dating app for you and your particular needs. Let’s begin by explaining how we got here, then we’ll go from there.
A History of Dating Apps
Tracing dating apps back to their origins would place you firmly in 1959 when Happy Families Planning Services launched with the help of an IBM 650. Happy Families Planning Services’ employees — just a pair of Stanford students — handed 49 men and 49 women a questionnaire and then used the computer to match them together based on compatibility. Regardless of the success of this initial proof of concept, it was now clear that computers could help bring potential romantic partners together. The rest, as they say, was history.
While many computer-based compatibility tests, chat rooms, and mail-in services would come and go in the following decades, dating apps as we know them today didn’t come into existence until the launch of the now-defunct Kiss.com in 1994. From there, it was like an avalanche of options. Match.com came a year later in 1995, eHarmony five years later in 2000, and — with the increased popularity of smartphones in the mid-to-late 2000s — these sites gave way to a whole slew of dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, Hinge, and more came onto the scene from 2007 onward. From this point forward, it was no longer about sites and all about the apps.
Today, nearly 45 million American dating app users bring in over 600 million dollars in revenue for the industry. What’s more, 77% of online dating app users have been out on a date with someone they met online. There’s no doubt about the sheer amount of cultural relevancy these sites and apps hold today. With that being said, which of these are the top dating apps? And, of these, which is the best overall dating app? Let’s take a look below.
The Top Dating Apps
Below are the best dating apps in the United States based solely on downloads in 2021:
- Coffee Meets Bagel
Alternatively, here are the top dating apps in the U.S. based on paid users in 2020:
- Plenty of Fish
Lastly, here are the most-downloaded dating apps around the world in 2021:
- Plenty of Fish
Which of the Top Dating Apps Are Best?
While the above statistics on the best dating apps are undoubtedly helpful, they offer little about features and specifications. What about platform safety? Or membership fees? What about the best platform for men, women, young adults, or over 40? Serious relationships, casual relationships? These lingering questions mean we need to take a look at which of the top dating apps are best for these particular niches.
Best Features: Bumble
When it comes to unique and attractive features, Bumble takes the cake. With plenty of interesting conversation starters, fun questions to answer, and disappearing matches after 24 hours left untouched, Bumble has features that elevate the typical dating app experience and take it to new heights.
Best Safety: Tinder
While all dating apps carry similar risks of harassment, stalking, online abuse, catfishing, and the like, it seems Tinder is the best app for dating safely. This is due to the sheer number of built-in safety features on the app. What’s more, Match Group — which covers Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid, Hinge, and Plenty Of Fish, among others — has announced plans to give users the ability to purchase background checks on their matches.
Best for Men: eHarmony
For whatever reason, men seem to have the best luck finding partners on eHarmony. Whether it be the site’s unlimited matches and communication, its advanced search, or any other number of its exclusive features, men claim to prefer eHarmony over the rest of the competition.
Best for Women: Bumble
Once again, Bumble comes out on top in this category. What makes Bumble so great for women is that the app relies on women to make the first move, subverting a very popular (and often very annoying) dating app trope that sees men making the first move every time. Not only does this help to make women feel safer on dating apps, but it also adds a nice little spice to the formula to make things more interesting for both parties.
Best for Young Adults: Tinder
Far and away, Tinder is the best dating app for young adults. As a matter of fact, a staggering 75% of young adults have used or are currently using Tinder for finding a match. The next-closest app for young adults is less than half that: Bumble at just 31%.
Best for Over 40: Hinge
When looking for the best app for users over 40, the best bet is none other than Hinge. Designed to help users get away from the dating app scene and into the real world, Hinge developers created the app with those old souls in mind. This is what makes it so nice for those 40 and above. Sure, you have to use the app at first, but you don’t have to “hinge” the whole dating experience on it.
Best for Serious Relationships: eHarmony
Unsurprisingly, eHarmony is the best dating app for serious relationships. Its reputation precedes it in this regard: eHarmony is the place those looking for a long-term committed relationship flock to, just like all those ads on TV say.
Best for Casual Relationships: Tinder
Alternatively, Tinder’s reputation also precedes it: It’s the very best dating app for casual relationships by far. You probably already knew this, though, because Tinder’s reputation in this realm is practically synonymous with the app itself. If you’re not looking for anything serious, you know Tinder’s the way to go.
Best Overall Dating App: Hinge
While it’s hard to make a sweeping judgment based solely on these very specific and very unique factors, many agree that the best overall dating app is Hinge. By cutting through a lot of the red tape of other dating apps and allowing users to fine-tune who can match with them and what they can talk about with those matches, it seems many people have a lot of success with the one app that lets them get straight to the fun part without sacrificing that meaningful connection in the process.