Once you pick that perfect selfie and write paragraphs to sell all your best attributes to your future mate, it's time to start browsing. This is where the big differences between these apps are apparent. For instance, Tinder, with its famous hot-or-not swiping interface, makes it quick and easy to find your next date. Bumble, on the other hand, puts all the power in the woman's hands; men can't even contact a woman unless she's expressed interest first. Others, like OkCupid, have robust profiles that let you dive deep into a user's personality (or at least the one he or she has decided to present to you), before you decide to go on the pursuit.
Setting up your profile involves a rather in-depth chemistry assessment of more than 70 questions. This means you'll have to think a little bit about your own personality, how others perceive you and what you want in a mate. Questions include whether you consider yourself productive and whether you're seen as stubborn. You answer on a scale, which is nice because it means your answers can be more nuanced than yes or no. There are several other questionnaires available to continue to flesh out your profile, but they're not required. Messaging and viewing user profiles is all free on Plenty of Fish. While our reviewers don't think the website is very well designed, the free mobile app is also an option that's super easy to use. The one downside to any service with free messaging is that you could feel overwhelmed if you find yourself with a flooded inbox. On average, the three fake accounts we set up for testing got 40 matches in 24 hours, the second highest of any service we tested. Of those, 22 percent were "top prospects," which is the site's way of saying those users are highly compatible with you.
The first thing you need to decide is how committed you are. As in, how much do you want to pay to make your heart go pitter-patter? Some apps, like Plenty of Fish, let you view profiles and send messages for free. Most of the others let you view your potential matches without charging, but make you pony up and subscribe if you want to actually reach out to them. While the monthly charges for the apps we review here range in price from $10 to more than $40, most offer a discount if you commit to a long-term subscription such as six months or a year. (You're not afraid of commitment, are you?) Then, there are all of the add-ons. Options—letting you pay to boost your ranking in search results, letting someone know that you are really, really interested in him or her or them, or undoing a dreaded left-swipe that was supposed to be a right-swipe—will cost you extra. While some apps may advertise themselves as free, all of them will try to get a buck from you in the end.
Last on the list is Match.com. Match was the first online dating service, and as such has one of the biggest pools of daters to choose from. They’ve also recently redesigned the service so the experience is much more smooth. Match offers a lot of profile customizability and long essay sections for sharing personal information. If you’re good at writing about yourself, then Match may be the site for you. online dating application