All the cute red hearts, chocolates, flowers and poetry can get irritating this time of year if you are searching for someone special. It doesn’t have to be that way. Technology continues to make it easier to find a romantic match, and many of the best tools are mobile apps.
Tinder is good to start with because it has over 50 million users worldwide. You have to hope that somewhere in that throng will be someone you can connect with. If you have never tried Tinder, which is a free iOS and Android app, then it’s worth a shot. Its mechanics are simple. You sign up for a free account, enter a few details about yourself and add some good photos. The photos are crucial because Tinder is very image-driven.
You define the type of person you are looking for and how far from you the app can search, as well as gender and age preferences. Tinder then presents a list of people who match your criteria, each with photos. You can tap on a photo to see more images and a little more information about the person.
Swiping left on a photo means you are not interested; swiping right means you are. If both parties swipe right, you are connected and can text within the app. From there, the romance is up to you.
Using Tinder sounds easy, and it is, although the selection process can feel strangely impersonal. Once you are chatting with other users, though, this sensation does fade. Happn is similar in appearance to Tinder: Its interface is also driven by user images, and the service relies on two people indicating an interest in each other before they can chat.
But there is a big difference between the apps. Happn tracks your location and alerts you if you have crossed paths with another user during the day, showing you roughly where it happened. The idea is that it may be easier to meet up with people matching your preferences if they are nearby.
Happn also lets you connect your Spotify and Instagram accounts to your user profile so you can share a little more about yourself beyond basic information like your employer or hometown. This, along with Happn’s location powers, definitely makes the app feel more personal than the mechanical swiping of Tinder.
Happn is free for iOS, Android and Windows. You can purchase in-app “coins”, starting at a few dollars, that allow you to send a “charm” to another user, as a way to show your interest. But Happn’s strength—connecting people who are already nearby—is also its downside: If you go on a date with someone and it doesn’t work out, you may continue to cross paths. There are options for blocking other users, to limit potential awkwardness.
Bumble is a dating app with a friendlier feel and an unusual feature: In opposite-sex matches, it allows only female users to make the first move. Like its peers, Bumble is based on reviewing images and basic personal descriptions of potential matches, and it uses swipes.
But when two users connect, the first chat message must be sent within 24 hours or the connection expires permanently. This gives Bumble a different, more relaxed feel compared with its rivals. The app doesn’t have a huge user base yet, but that could quickly change. It’s free for iOS and Android.
For a completely different type of dating app, with more emphasis on conversation than selfies, check out Glimpse, which is free for iOS.
Though it involves setting up a user profile with basic personal information, preferences and so on, just like other dating apps, Glimpse centres on its users’ Instagram profiles. When you log in, you are presented with a list of Instagram photos from nearby users who match your criteria. The idea is that these photos are conversation starters: If another user’s pictures and profile catch your eye, you can start a chat about the images.
If the other person doesn’t answer by 10pm local time, the chat disappears. The ephemeral nature of the app is attractive, because unanswered chats don’t hang around to upset you, and the minimalist interface makes Glimpse easy to use.
Lastly, don’t forget OKCupid, one of the leading Tinder rivals that’s still useful thanks to a large user base. OKCupid enables chatting among matched users, and its extensive questionnaire prompts you to share details about your personality and interests. This makes OKCupid a dynamic dating app, but all the details and chatting can get overwhelming. It’s free for iOS and Android.
How you use dating apps is really up to you: Find a potential mate, find a Valentine or merely make new friends. But be aware that not everyone will be looking for the same things, and do be mindful of your safety and personal data.