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Both Tinder and OkCupid fare worse in user reviews than their lesser-known counterparts, according to a user-quality ranking of 97 different dating apps released in 2016 by the firm Average. OkCupid came at fifth place and Tinder at 33rd, found the study, which based its ranking by average app store rating.
But this hardly indicates the end of the two ubiquitous online dating platforms. It’s not uncommon for mega-popular apps to lower their average rating as they acquire more users. And there are plenty of duds among the lesser-known dating apps in the study. Just six apps with less than 10,000 user reviews earned a score of at least 50 in the study, which put them in the higher end of “fair” and “good” in the study’s assessment.
So if size isn’t an automatic guarantee of quality, which dating apps are actually worth trying? We took a closer look.
Features: Swipe right if you like somebody, swipe left to skip. You have the ability to message anyone on Jaumo. The app includes slightly more descriptive “profiles” than Tinder that allows users to list height, education, whether they’re a smoker, and what they want out of Jaumo. You can access Jaumo through Facebook or with a regular email address.
Review: Jaumo combines some of Tinder and OkCupid’s best features, but with none of the safety controls. The ability to message anyone on the app, even without requited romantic interest, is a major red flag. There’s even an option to open up the field even wider, and let people outside your desired age range, gender, and even geographic location message you. Within minutes of joining the app I was flooded with messages from Jaumo users, some lived as far away as 1,000 miles away. Not only could Jaumo users see how far away I was in actual feet, they could geo-locate me on a map below my profile picture. You have the ability to block users on Jaumo, which I imagine must happen often. The app’s approach to sharing your location data with virtually any of its users, not to mention potential suitors, made me extremely uncomfortable. I deleted it immediately.
What it is: A video-based dating app that also lets you meet new people in group chat rooms. Identical to Just Say Hi, the No. 1 app in the study. Features: The app lets you browse through videos and photos submitted by people nearby and around the world. Mingle users press “like” to indicate they like a user. If there’s a match, you can directly chat. You can also chat with multiple Mingle users in “local” and “global” group chat rooms.
Review: Mingle feels like the 2016 equivalent of pre-Internet video dating as embodied in the 1992 Cameron Crowe film Singles. Browsing through dozens of goofy three-second greeting videos submitted by guys both close and far away on Mingle felt strangely fun and more personal. While swiping through hundreds of profile photos can feel like zipping through a menu at the Cheesecake Factory, something about hearing a person’s voice and the sound of their environment makes the experience feel less anonymous, less disposable. Mingle approves videos and photos before you can post them to your profile, so the creep factor is minimal. The public chat rooms are surprisingly civil, probably because not much seems to be going on in them. Proximity also doesn’t seem to be a focus at Mingle. The nearest “local” potential match that Mingle listed was nearly 300 miles away.
Recommended: Maybe. The app seems like harmless Chatroulette-style fun rather than a serious dating app.
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What it is: A “mobile gaming and entertainment network” that is also billing itself as a dating app.
Features: Play games and chat with potential matches. Send pictures. You can also “blast sound attacks” right out of your friend’s phones if that sounds like more fun. The app lets you browse nearby singles as well as new users.
Review: If you asked your seventh-grader brother to dream up a dating app, it would look exactly like Qeep. The app lets you play live skill games with practically anyone in the world, upload photo albums, and chat directly. You can also send virtual “gifts” (i.e. cute teddy bears, roses) for Valentine’s Day. Alternatively, you can send “Sound Attacks” on Qeep, which causes a fellow Qeeper’s phone to start blasting them with sounds sans warning.
Recommended: If you’re a male in middle school, Qeep is probably the best app ever. And if you’re not, you’ll probably have a lot of mindless fun anyway.
What it is: The app version of popular dating website Coffee Meets Bagel.
Features: Coffee Meets Bagel delivers you one match every day based on proximity, attraction, and common interests. You have 24 hours to like or pass your “bagel.” You can also swipe singles on your own.
Review: Coffee Meets Bagel seems to emphasize quality over quantity, as well as emphasize meeting in person. The company claims to have generated 1 million real dates since its creation. While the app certainly gets the ball rolling by sending you a match every day, in all likelihood it will be a dud. While the pace of matches the app delivers in a post-Tinder world might seem too slow, signing up is pretty quick. Users can authenticate by Facebook and get started on browsing potential matches right away. From the second I logged on, it was obvious the app emphasized serious relationships over quick hook-ups. Your profile asks you to fill out empty boxes titled “I am….” and “I like…” and “I appreciate when my date…” which could result in generic or hastily worded answers. Especially on a smartphone. Many people seemed to take the time to fill out thoughtful responses, nonetheless. If you and your “bagel” for the day are a mutual match, the app provides a chatroom where you can get to know each other. If you’re at a loss for words, Coffee Meets Bagel even provides ice-breaker questions.
Recommended: If Tinder is too fast for you, Coffee Meets Bagel might be perfect. If not, Coffee Meets Bagel might seem like the mobile equivalent of your busy-body aunt who is always trying to set you up with some nice boy from church/synagogue/mosque. If you need that sort of hand-holding, bagel away.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.