When I was first asked to write a dating app review, I was hesitant. Everything on the Internet seems to live forever, including my 5K race times from 1997, so I wasn't sure I wanted my foray into the world of online dating to be so publicly documented and searchable in the future. But in the name of Bridget Jones and my try-anything-once mentality, I decided to give it a try.
With productivity in mind, I chose to zero in on the most mainstream dating apps out there: Hinge, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Happn (Ed. note: We left out Tinder because, well, who isn't on Tinder?). But instead of downloading and exploring each app individually (like a normal person might do), I decided to download them all in one fell swoop. Red wine in hand, I mentally prepared myself to confront mirror selfies, men snuggling with tigers, Tough Mudder pictures, and, of course, the ever-frustrating group pic (I don't know you, how am I supposed to pick you out of a crowd?).
But before I started swiping, I had to first create the most alluring profiles imaginable. I carefully chose photos that I felt most accurately captured my essence. I wanted to say to the world: I'm active and fit, career-oriented, I appreciate a nice pair of heels, and I'm a fan of sarcasm and quick wit. In other words, I'm the opposite of basic. Below, my detailed reviews of each experience.
This is a dating app formula I can get behind. Throughout the day you receive around 13 people to choose from, but your options are not entirely comprised of random strangers. Instead, by linking the app to Facebook, your suitors have to be within your network or a friend of a friend. Which means, if absolutely necessary, you could theoretically hunt down that mutual friend to provide a character witness for an upcoming date. Within your preference settings, you can define the age range you’re interested in and their distance away (so you aren’t linking with men who live two states over) in addition to personalizing your own profile. You have the option to include education, height, ethnicity, religion, and any interests you identify with from a provided list. The feature I appreciated the most, though, was the ability to upload as many as 16 images. This allowed me to get that token picture of me golfing in the mix (because, I mean, what man doesn't love a girl who golfs on occasion?).
Download Hinge for free on the iTunes Store.
Coffee Meets Bagel
If you’re looking for a less overwhelming introduction to dating apps, this is definitely the one to try. Everyday at noon you receive a "bagel," which is a curated match that you share mutual Facebook friends with. This took the pressure off big time. I was no longer sifting through endless streams of men. It came down to a simple "yes" or "no" to the match provided and I merrily carried on with my day. Once you have mutually "liked" each other, a chat room opens for digital sweet nothings to be exchanged. But, there's one catch: These chat rooms come with an expiration date. So if an out of app connection is to be made, it has to happen within the 8 days that the chat room is open. I learned this one the hard way. If by chance you don’t love the options presented, you can visit the "Give & Take" section of the app. There, you can view other eligible bachelors and either claim them for yourself using "beans" (the in-app currency accumulated through various social media sharing or inviting friends to the app) or forward a match along to a friend who might be interested. Your profile on Coffee Meets Bagel is also a little more extensive: They allow just 4 pictures of yourself, but you’re able to list everything from height, occupation, and education to your interests and what you’re looking for in a partner.
Download Coffee Meets Bagel for free on the iTunes Store.
The relative newcomer on the block, Bumble provides a very different approach to the dating app phenomena: The girl is required to reach out first (gasp!). This role reversal in comparison to other apps is an interesting one. Suddenly I found myself wracking my brain for creative conversation starters. In addition to the female holding the proverbial power, there is also a time limit imposed on the initial communication. Once you have both mutually swiped right (or "liked") each other, the girl has 24 hours to reach out and start the conversation. (My game plan was the swipe on a Sunday and start the convo inquiring about their weekend.) Although if a guy really has his heart set on a girl who is yet to contact him, he can select her once a day and add an extra 24 hours onto the clock in hopes that she will send a flirty message and begin the potential love affair. I really responded well to this model. It forced me to focus on only the men I was actually interested in speaking with rather than the connections made while right swiping with reckless abandon. Bumble's search settings were the same as Hinge, but it only allows 6 picture of yourself on your profile in addition to your job title and place of employment, education, and a tagline to share something jazzy about yourself in 300 characters or less.
Download Bumble for free on the iTunes Store.
On Happn, the matches are made strictly based on proximity. The homescreen has a scrolling interface that allows you to see anyone on the app that you’ve crossed paths with that day. It’s set up more like a dating website where many options are presented and you can zero in based on interest, rather than using swipe technology (where a swipe left means you’ll never see them again). Your profile can feature up to 6 pictures, along with your name, profession, education, and a map showing exactly where you crossed paths with a potential suitor. When first exploring Happn, I found myself scanning the black suit landscape on my way to work secretly hoping some of the more attractive men would later appear in my queue. If you do find someone of interest, you can either click a heart button on their profile and hope that they do the same, at which point you’ll be mutually matched or take the direct route and send a "charm" notification and begin a conversation from there. Note to first-timers: office areas are a gold mine.
Download Happn for free on the iTunes Store.
I'm not sure if these dating apps will be permanent fixtures on my phone, but I do think they open the door to a whole new group of undiscovered and potentially amazing romantic opportunities. In closing, I definitely meet my fair share of men in day-to-day life, but this experience made me realize that it can't hurt to throw a few dating app dates into the mix as well.