Best dating apps for 2021 [6 Awesome Options Beyond Tinder]
Online dating has exploded over the past decade, with expected revenues in the USA estimated to reach $1.75 billion by the end of 2020.
It was just a matter of time before casual online dating through chat apps such as Yahoo and AOL as well as personals in Craigslist that have existed since the late-90s emerged as best free dating apps for smart devices.
With an expected CAGR of 9.3% in the next five years (2021-2025), the industry has space for a new entrant to grow. It is not difficult to build a new dating app as long as you have the right tools.
In this post we are going to list out the best dating apps and the features that set them apart while helping you get inspired to create an app of your own.
Table of Content
It is a market dominated by only a few big players. If you can create a successful dating app, even a tiny slice of the pie would be in millions – unheard of in the app industry.
Tinder, the most prominent brand among top dating apps, earned over $1 billion in 2019, making it one of the most successful apps ever created.
We have reviewed the best dating apps for relationships apart from the 800-pound gorilla – Tinder.
The Best Dating Apps Besides Tinder
OkCupid has been around as a website since 2004 and as one of the best dating apps for relationships from 2010. The app has 10 million members from the USA and 50 million members worldwide. It appeals to those in the age group 25-34 and is one of the best Tinder alternatives.
- One of the best free dating apps, OkCupid lets you create a complete profile for free and gives you a limited number of free swipes as well. You can get unlimited swipes by upgrading to a paid account.
- Images can be imported from Facebook and Instagram or uploaded directly.
- Open to cis, gay, bi and trans communities.
- The app asks a detailed description of new signups on a variety of topics ranging from faith to smoking habits and preferred diet. Members may refuse to answer.
- Paid boosts available for better visibility.
- Members can message any other user, but it can be read-only if the intended person liked/matched.
- Profile verification through email and phone.
It may be a good idea to first create a dating website like OKC and later migrate the business to an app.
Among free dating apps for Android and iOS, Hinge stands as far apart from Tinder and OKC’s flirting and hookup image as possible. It markets itself as a long-term relationship app.
Launched in 2012 and wholly reworked in 2015, it is one of the few online dating apps to have done away with the (in)famous right/left swipe to like/dislike another member.
- Hinge has a roulette display instead of a card stack.
- Any like can be accompanied by a comment. This makes it one of the best apps to meet people since users can send a compliment.
- You can see anyone who liked you – a paid feature in most other apps.
- The number of free likes is limited to 10 per day.
- Hinge claims to have a 50:50 split between male and female members, whereas other apps have membership heavily skewed towards men.
Hinge is into the business of finding serious dates as opposed to the ONS culture of Tinder and similar apps. This deliberate differentiation goes a long way if you are planning to create a dating app that will stand apart from the rest.
Launched in 2014, Bumble is the brainchild of former Tinder employee, Whitey Wolfe. She wanted to create an app that is safe for women. With 11 million active members in the US, it is known as Tinder for women due to the uncanny similarities between the two.
- It is easy to create a profile. No lengthy bio is needed.
- Facebook login allowed. Members can import Facebook profiles also for a quick population of fields.
- Women get to message first. This is to prevent them from being overwhelmed by messages.
- Menu options designed keeping in mind, the not so tech-savvy app users.
- Matches expire after 24 hours to prevent a bottleneck in the system.
- Unlimited likes and rematch with expired matches are paid features.
If you want to create one of the best online dating apps take a leaf out of Whitney’s playbook. She made one for women, thus fulfilling a market need no one was addressing.
Grindr is one of the most popular alternative dating apps. Targeted at non-cis dating, the app currently has 27 million active global users. Although all apps now allow non-cis dating and have extended gender options, but it is Grindr that has the first-mover advantage.
- No email verification is necessary. Only a working mobile number is needed.
- Only one image can be displayed.
- Most fields can be left blank to anonymize the user.
- Distance from another member can be viewed.
- Possible to add details about preferred sexual act/position/preference.
- HIV status can be updated, making a match with another HIV+ member expedient.
- Flame icons used to express interest without starting a conversation.
You can draw inspiration from Grindr and use GPS for giving your dating app members location feature. This allows matching those app users who live closer, a real advantage in the dating lifestyle.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Launched in 2012 by three sisters, Coffee Meets Bagel has a unique approach to online dating. By its very nature, app-based dating is casual and even superficial. CMB focuses on long term relationships or at least those where more than a right swipe of the finger is needed to find a potential date.
Though CMB is coy about their membership numbers, there are at least 20 million users worldwide.
- Matches happen through friends or friends of friends on Facebook.
- Men get to express interest in female profiles that appear for 24 hours.
- Women receive a curated list of six men based on their preferences and can accept or reject them.
- Profile creation is easy, but height, weight, and education have to be mentioned.
- Integrated with a chat room that allows users to interact.
Like Bumble, CMB too puts women first but differently. Online dating often devolves into fake profiles and men making lewd comments. CMB has changed the way online dating apps operate.
It’s not a surprise that Facebook would want a slice of the online dating market. Since it already has access to over a billion active profiles, creating a dating app is the next logical step. Facebook has been used for a long while to find potential dates, and the FBD app just makes it official.
However, the newly released app is currently available primarily in the US, Colombia, Mexico, Thailand, and Canada. It is evident that Facebook is fine-tuning its approach and does not want another blunder like Libra, its failed crypto project.
- Offered as a part of the Facebook menu and integrated inside the main app like Messenger.
- Populated from profile details and profile pics. There would be no way to fake age unless that happened while creating the original profile.
- Secret Crush feature that allows you to express romantic interest in a friend on Facebook or a follower on Instagram.
- Second Look feature lets you reconsider those you probably disliked in a hurry.
- Link Instagram and provide access to hundreds of your pictures.
- The only dating app at the moment that is entirely free, without any pay wall.
Will it go the Libra way or dethrone Tinder? Only time will tell. But with Oculus for Business and Facebook Dating both from the same Zuckerberg mothership, are we looking at candlelit dinners at a Facebook Restaurant in cyberspace soon?
Future of Online Dating and Your Dating App
The online dating industry will grow primarily due to two principal reasons
They cast a wide net. Within minutes, a paid member is exposed to the profiles of 300 (or 3,000 if you are in one of the larger US cities,) members of the preferred gender.
With extremely skewed work-life balance, most cannot afford time for good, old fashioned socializing. Dating apps have stepped in to fill the vacuum.
A well-designed app can rake in millions. The advantage of launching a dating app is that there is no recurring cost other than maintaining servers. All the content is user generated. That is why new apps like Lumen (for dating over 50) are making their mark.
Top dating apps like Tinder began with a simple idea and bloomed into a startup unicorn.
There is no reason why your app can’t hit a niche market like Grindr and become famous with over a million downloads in the first year. If, however, you need a little help with your mobile app marketing strategy, you can register for our free course on Mobile App Marketing Strategy & App Monetization for Free at Appy Pie Academy.
Do you have a unique idea for an app? Let us know in the comments section and we will tell you how to create an app for your idea!
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