The changing pace and cultural norms of society has made the dating scene much trickier to navigate. You want to find a good person to spend quality time with, but you don’t always have time to specify exactly what you want when you’re often on the go – you’ll know it when you see it! Perhaps unsurprisingly, mobile dating apps have surged in popularity, and three of the most well-known are Bumble, Tinder, and Plenty of Fish.
So now comes the million-dollar question: which one is right for you? Each app has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to free and paid features, how it matches you, and what kind of relationship you’re looking for. We’ll put all those things and more under the microscope as we help you determine which app is your best shot at finding love.
What this article will cover
- Tinder overview: speed dating for a digital world
- Bumble overview: where women message first
- Plenty of Fish overview: an old-school pond of potential dates
- Quick comparison table: how Bumble, Tinder, & POF stack up
- Winner: best free experience
- Winner: best premium pricing and features
- Winner: best dating app for women
- Winner: best dating app for men
- Winner: best dating app for LGBTQ+
- The bottom line: what is the best dating app overall?
Before we go any further, let’s meet our contestants!
Tinder overview: speed dating for a digital world
Tinder debuted in 2012 and has quickly become one of the most popular dating apps for young people. Its simple but revolutionary matching system came from the idea that it was easier and faster for strangers to introduce themselves – and eventually meet – if both knew that each was interested in the other.
- Quick to set up and easy to use
- No unsolicited messages – both parties have to like each other
- No time limit or other restrictions on sending messages
- Expanded gender options for LGBTQ+ users
- Relatively narrow age demographic
- Not generally used for seeking long-term relationships
- Can’t revisit missed or expired matches without premium features
- No additional services
Bumble overview: where women message first
Bumble was actually created by one of the founders of Tinder, Whitney Wolfe, after an ugly breakup with the company persuaded her to create a more female-friendly dating app. As a result, Bumble is quite similar to Tinder, with one big exception: girls always get to send the first message (except for same-gender matches, where either partner can message first).
- Quick setup and easy-to-use interface
- No unsolicited messages – both parties have to like each other
- “Women message first” aesthetic takes pressure off both genders to make moves
- Can be used to find friends and business partners in addition to dating
- Tight time window for sending first message
- Difficult to revisit missed or expired matches without premium features
- Premium features are expensive
- Smaller user base
Plenty of Fish overview: an old-school pond of potential dates
Plenty of Fish has been around longer than both Tinder and Bumble, started in Canada in 2003. It’s now owned by dating site Match.com, but it still has many users of its own. In contrast to Tinder and Bumble’s “swipe” mechanics, Plenty of Fish is a more traditional dating app, favoring questionnaires and specific life features for matching potential partners.
Plenty of Fish pros:
- Inexpensive premium features
- Various relationship tests
- Available on multiple platforms
- Large user base
Plenty of Fish cons:
- Requires a lot of information to sign up
- Many restrictions on sending messages
- Poor matching system
- No integrations with other services
Quick comparison table: how Bumble, Tinder, & POF stack up
Here are a bunch of fast facts about the three services to give some context for the head-to-head contests to follow.
|Feature||Bumble||Tinder||Plenty of Fish|
|Free plan limits|
|Minimum info needed for profile|
|Matching style||Double opt-in “swipe”||Double opt-in “swipe”||Messaging based on various profile features|
|Requirement to send a message||Woman must send message within 24 hours of match||Must be matched||Various restrictions|
|Ideal relationship type||Any type||Casual/short-term||Any type|
|Approximate user base||40 million||50 million||150 million|
|User gender ratios||40% male / 60% female||60% male / 40% female||50% male / 50% female|
Now we’ll look at the key features of each app and judge how well they may suit your needs.
Winner: best free experience
The thing about “free” dating apps is that you’re enticed to upgrade to get full functionality. But how much mileage do you get out of the free version before you feel like wanting to upgrade?
Bumble’s main restriction is that you can only extend the amount of time you have to respond to a match before it expires once per day. You also can’t re-connect with your expired matches right away. But your matches can come back to you eventually, so it’s not as big of a deal as it sounds.
Tinder has rather stricter limits on its free use. You can only “like” a limited number of profiles per day, you can’t undo a “like” or “dislike” (you can occasionally undo a “dislike” in Bumble with the “Backtrack” feature), and you are limited to matching in your current location – you can’t change it to search for matches somewhere else.
Plenty of Fish has some restrictions, too. You only get 8 profile photos maximum, you can’t search for users by name (which, to be fair, you can’t do on Tinder or Bumble regardless), and you won’t always see someone’s full profile.
Bumble’s free option is rather forgiving with its features when compared to the other two, especially Tinder.
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Winner: best premium pricing and features
If you’re going to pay for dating, getting value for your money is as important – if not more – than getting a cheap price.
Bumble’s “Boost” feature gives you more chances to extend the amount of time you have to message a match before they expire, as well as immediately re-connect with expired matches. You can also spend Bumble “Coins” for greater exposure to potential matches. Honestly, though, these features are expensive and don’t add much to the free app.
Tinder’s “Plus” feature is reasonably priced and lets you do things such as “like” unlimited profiles per day, undo your latest “dislike,” get more exposure for your profile, and even change your stated location so you can search for matches anywhere in the world. The “Gold” feature just adds the ability to know who has “liked” you before you “like” or “dislike” them, which doesn’t seem worth the price increase.
Plenty of Fish’s prices for its premium services are pretty cheap, and you get a lot of goodies. You get twice as many pictures for your profile, extended profile viewing, the ability to send “gifts” to special users, and the ability to search for a user by name, in addition to a host of other profile-enhancing perks.
Winner: PLENTY OF FISH
When it comes to both price and number of upgrades, Plenty of Fish comes out slightly ahead of Tinder, while Bumble lags behind.
Winner: best dating app for women
Let’s face it, ladies: dating can be tough, especially if your inbox gets bombarded with emails from guys you aren’t the least bit interested in. So which app has your back?
Bumble’s big female-friendly feature is that a girl has to send the first message in a match (except in same-gender matches). This takes the pressure off guys to make the first move, and off girls to respond to someone they don’t end up all that interested in. There’s also a 24-hour limit on sending the first message, so you don’t get hung up waiting for a response forever.
Bumble also has the option for you to declare what type of relationship you’re looking for, as does Plenty of Fish. Plenty of Fish also has advanced search filters and relationship tests, so you can know and say exactly what you want before you go looking.
Tinder has a few privacy options, such as the ability to hide your gender, age, location proximity, or even your whole profile. However, some of these are unavailable unless you have Tinder Plus.
Bumble was made for women, by women, so it’s little surprise that it’s the winner here.
Winner: best dating app for men
Okay, so what do guys want from a dating app? Maybe something that allows them to be a little more assertive and go for what they want?
Bumble forces women to send the first message in a match, and gives them a limited amount of time to do so. Some guys may want to take the initiative in dating, and so may not like this feature.
Tinder is more balanced in this regard, allowing either user in a match to message first. It also doesn’t recycle your potential matches if you pass or delete them like Tinder does; while this would usually be a negative, it might be a positive for guys who know what they want and don’t want to waste time going back through profiles that they’re not interested in.
Plenty of Fish also allows either party in a match to message first. However, it has a lot of restrictions on who can message and when, and forces you to fill out a lengthy questionnaire before you get matched.
Tinder’s straight and to-the-point approach is probably more attractive to the guys in the room.
Winner: best dating app for LGBTQ+
According to anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, as of 2017, over half of young people worldwide don’t conform to traditional gender and sexuality norms, so it’s becoming more of a necessity for dating apps to cater to people who don’t identify as “straight,” or with the “male-female” binary.
Bumble comes loaded with the option to search for homosexual partners. Or, you could select Everyone to search for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships at the same time. Bumble also lifts its restriction that women have to message first for same-gender matches; either user can communicate first.
Tinder has allowed homosexual matching from the start as well, although you can only search for one gender of the male/female binary at a time. But in late 2016, Tinder began adding a powerful new feature where users can explicitly state their identifying gender, as well as choose whether or not to reveal this information on their profile. This is a feature that, strangely, Bumble hasn’t adopted yet.
Plenty of Fish allows for homosexual relationships, but it’s not very accommodating of them. Like Bumble, it only allows for identifying as male or female, and most of its advertising is directed towards heterosexual couples.
While Bumble has some good features for those who aren’t strictly into one gender, Tinder’s function for stating a specific gender and choosing whether to show it or not is a game-changer for inclusiveness in dating apps. It’s an approach that has been adopted by some other platforms, but not by Bumble and Plenty of Fish.
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The bottom line: is Bumble, Tinder, or Plenty of Fish better overall?
Now that these dating apps have duked it out for your attention, it’s time to make a decision. Here’s a quick recap of what each of them has to offer you.
Why choose Bumble?
Consider choosing Bumble if you’re a woman, or you’re new to dating and don’t know exactly what you want. Its interface is easy to use and rather forgiving of missteps, and its “women message first” and 24-hour match limit help cut down on matches that probably weren’t going to go too far in the first place. Plus, you can find friends or work mates with it if you don’t want to use it for dating.
Why choose Tinder?
Tinder’s great if you have some experience with dating and just want to jump right in without all the fuss. It’s incredibly easy to set up and use, and doesn’t put too many arbitrary restrictions on messaging like the other two do. It’s also fairly friendly to users of all genders, including LGBT+ folks. Its premium features are useful and reasonably-priced, too.
Why choose Plenty of Fish?
Pick Plenty of Fish if you want a more traditional online dating experience, especially if you’re looking for a long-term relationship. It has tons of tools to help you determine what you want in a match, and then search for those things exactly. It also has a big pool of users and affordable premium features.
And the winner is: BUMBLE
Bumble is arguably the best app of these three on the whole. It builds on what Tinder does well with more forgiving matching features, as well as a messaging system designed to cut down on one-sided message overloads and “ghosting” (cutting off communication). It also accommodates non-heterosexual matching and even allows searching for non-romantic relationships.
Ironically, Bumble’s key selling point is sometimes seen as its greatest weakness. The condition that the woman must message first, along with the narrow time frame for sending an initial message, can make some male users feel like they’re being strung along or outright ignored if they don’t get responses to matches. This can make one of the other options, like Tinder, a better choice for them.
It’s often tough to know exactly what you’re going to get in an online date. Everyone’s trying to put their best foot forward, but intentionally or not, they may not be being entirely honest. Stay vigilant with our suggestions.