Review: the best gay dating apps and where to find them

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It all began less than 15 years ago, but nowadays, free gay dating apps are popping out like mushrooms. Swiping and browsing, partially free-of-charge and fully premium, fast-casual, and marriage-oriented — you are free to choose whatever. Almost all of them are desperately trying to strike a balance between the cockpics exchange platform and tons of additional options. Very few succeed.

Jack’d

Perhaps the most inclusive gay meet app

  • Free - Yes
  • Pro - from $1,25/month

Interface structure

Jack’d combines the two major types of gay phone apps. You can choose between browsing a grid of profile pics and swiping them to the left or right one by one (actually, here it can be done by clicking ‘yes’ or ‘no’). At the below bar, you see the chat and ‘who viewed me’ buttons. The 'Profile edit' section is minimalistic and smart. The overall design imitates that of Grindr.

User-friendliness

No negative experience detected. One of the best gay hookup apps in terms of navigation simplicity and browsing efficiency.

The way profiles are sorted

Based on location, but various filters are available - even in a free version. In a grid, you can sort the profiles around your area by the time of the last login instead of proximity.

The pool size

Sadly, it remains minimal — less than 2 million users. Only makes sense using it if you live in a populated area.

The Good

- One of the most amazing features ever in new gay dating apps is their Analytics. When writing to someone, you can check what type of guys he is into and whom he tends to respond less often. 

- Friendly to people of color. If you are into them, this app is undoubtedly for you!

- One of the cheapest subscriptions ever! But even without it, there isn’t too much advertising.

The Bad 

- Not suitable outside a few big cities — the community need a serious growth

- Less comfortable for those searing LTR than Tinder. The profiles contain very little data apart from pics

Pure.dating web app

Best hookup ever

  • Free - No
  • Paid - from $6,3/month (free trial period of 7 days)

Interface structure

The app interface is intuitive, but you can get even a smoother experience without installing it! The structure is concise and transparent, with zero unnecessary and distracting features.

User-friendliness

Just upload a photo, fill in the minimum search criteria and personal info — and the matching algorithm does the rest for you. The web version is equally comfy for dating and has some additional blogging functionality as well.

The way profiles are sorted

The app has a sophisticated matching algorithm, which shows you potential partners within a certain distance. Unlike other top gay apps, it sorts out most of the guys not ready for an instant meeting. Besides, you can always boost your profile’s visibility with ‘King of the hill feature.’

The pool size

Life isn’t a bowl of cherries — no doubt that Pure.dating web app is far behind Grindr. But in any big city, the coverage is high, and what’s even more important — all the profiles you have here are real and active.

The Good

- You only have 1 hour to exchange additional pics and discuss all the details, which results in the highest probability of real sex date in the shortest possible time.

- At the same time, end-to-end encryption and having all the chats self-erased one hour after they are started gives you the highest possible priority. What happens in Vegas won’t stay even in Vegas!

- The smartest matching algorithm among other top gay dating apps. It combines the variables traditional for ‘old-school hookup’ apps like Grindr and conventional dating stuff like Chappy.

- The audience is highly relevant, daily active, and continually growing.

The Bad 

- The pool size is yet not enormous, but proliferating rapidly.

- No messaging without a paid subscription.

Scruff

Grindr for those who prefer it chubby

  • Free - Yes
  • Pro - from $4,99

Interface structure

The biggest unsimilarity with Grindr is using black color instead of orange. The rest of the outline so much resembles that someone can confuse the two. But an experienced user knows at least three points where Scruff is slightly more sophisticated. Firstly, instead of just ‘taps,’ it has two options to express your interest in someone without writing a message. Simple ‘woof’ button at the top of each profile page + ‘I’m interested’ at the bottom. If you both press it, the app will let you know the interest is mutual. Secondly, the first section opening every time you log in is the assortment of randomly chosen guys from all over the world, not your neighborhood. The last but not least — ‘events’ section, which shows you dozens of sex and fetish parties around your city as well as the guys who are attending it. Just priceless if you are planning Folsom or something as kinky as that - the same feature is available into a purely BDSM Recon app.

User-friendliness

If you ever tried Grindr, Scruff can barely bring any unpleasant surprises. Both messaging and profile building are derivative from the concept of Grindr. With a few not-so-crucial but still fun extras.

The way profiles are sorted

Again, just like in Grindr - using location + some filters for Pros. Matchmaking is supposed to occur based on the pics mainly. The profile provides almost as little information about the guy as you can find in Grindr.

The pool size

The number of profiles is substantially lower than in Grindr but still higher than in most new gay dating apps. The concern for many guys can be WHO is using this app, not HOW MANY guys. If you are into twinks, with this app, you are probably barking up the wrong tree.

The Good

- Perhaps, the best gay dating app for you if you are into NSA fun with a hint of perverse.

- Possibly the most stylish interface among most popular gay dating apps.

- An army of fans and subscribers is almost guaranteed as soon as your profile hits the ‘Global’ section

- Pro upgrade is relatively cheap

The Bad

- Very little chance for finding a sex mate below 30

- Focusing primarily on NSA fun with a short personality description beyond sexual preferences

- Hidden pics for Pro users exclusively

- Minimal functionality without a paid subscription

Hornet

An extended twin of Grindr / An attempt to build ‘Gay Facebook.’

  • Free - Yes
  • Premium - $9,99/month

Interface structure

One of the most popular gay dating apps (and its web version) are both organized almost the same way as their prototype, Grindr. The main section looks like a collage of photos, each representing a user’s profile. When clicked on, it shows a photo gallery + basic info about the guy (age, race, role, HIV status - none of which is mandatory to be displayed!). ‘Invisible Mode’ available in the paid version. The other sections are Chats and ‘Homepage’ which pretends to be a queer version of Facebook in Hornet. There you can see stories, updates, and new pics posted by other users of this gay meet app. 

User-friendliness

Among other top gay dating apps, Hornet looks pretty easy to navigate, yet its social network component may feel bizarre for new users.

The way profiles are sorted

Based on location. In a free version, 92 nearest profiles are available with only two filters: age and race. What is more, you can search by hashtags any user can put in his profile.

The pool size

4+ mln active users daily, according to Hornet’s team data. Not all the apps publish their metrics, but that’s not the most significant choice you can have.

The good

- Easy to navigate with very few excess functions: nothing can distract you from hunting.

- Multiple pics available long before Grindr, with a ‘hidden gallery’ feature available even in the free version.

- Each profile has a unique nickname to search by - unless its owner has switched off ‘share my profile’ function. Helpful if you want to show your new boy to your friends while allowing you to stay as private as you wish.

- ’Explore’ button enabling you to discover who’s around ANY location in the world - even without a paid subscription.

The bad

- Unsuccessful attempt to combine a gay phone app with a social network. Who can be interested in stories posted by strangers?

- No idea why you do have the ‘unblock everyone’ button but cannot close your hidden pics to everyone at once.

- Sent/delivered notifications are only for premium users - unlike its main competitor Grindr.

- Far not the most popular app outside some specific areas. Not suitable for those miles away from downtown LA or Manhattan.

Grindr

Bread and butter of any gay phone apps’ user

  • Free - Yes
  • Xtra - from $6,99/month

Interface structure

Must be familiar to anyone who tried gay meet apps at least once. ‘Nearby’ section with square icons, ‘Messages’ and ‘Favourites’ for saved profiles. For a long time since its advent, Grindr used to stick to single-pic accounts. Now it allows multiple (yet no porn!) Paid subscription users get more profiles displayed, ads block and some essential search filters.

User-friendliness

There are very few free gay dating apps as old as Grindr. No matter how many updates it has survived, everyone inevitably gets used to the new outlook.

The way profiles are sorted

Location only (which you can choose to hide). Grindr is all about sex, so few tiring questionnaires and sorting criteria are involved. Instead, welcome to the world of tons of fake, faceless and obtrusive profiles in your inbox!

The pool size

The number of profiles registered is still far beyond any challenger. All ages, all ethnic origins, tops and vers-bttms, free and escort, BDSM and vanilla, trans and non-binary — everyone has his chance. Not all the countries have the same proportions, though. For example, Planet Romeo has surpassed Grindr in Germany, while Hornet outdid it in Russia.

The Good

- Biggest pool size.

- Yes, the greatest pool size EVER. You can never overestimate this advantage. Especially the robust variety of dick pics you can receive daily

The Bad 

- Not informative enough for those into something more serious.

- The ads in the free version are one of the most aggressive among all top gay dating apps.

EliteSingles

Long-term and serious only — mostly for Lesbians.

  • Free - NO
  • Premium - from $19,95 per month

Interface structure

The website and app main sections are Messages, Matches, Visitors and Have you met. Filters like height, age-range and ‘with photo only’ are available, altogether adding some elusive similarity to Airbnb interface. Each profile can include numerous photos with one large preview. As soon as you register, you are automatically subscribed to an e-mail newsletter with all new matches.

User-friendliness

EliteSingles positions itself as a ‘dating service for educated, ambitious, and busy.’ Like Tinder, it’s not a gay phone app but is just as smooth as that in terms of user’s experience. Instant photos exchange, updating the profile, access to the inbox using mobile - everything is OK.

The way profiles are sorted

The app’s algorithm is based on the Five-Factor Model theory of personality traits. The official description at elitesingles.com promises an average of ‘3-7 highly compatible, meaningful matches a day’. No idea what to do if you disagree with the choice made for you by the machine, though.

The pool size

Well, let’s say it outright: if you use a gay meet app to look for a partner and not a one-night stand, quality is way more important than quantity. Especially if you require your would-be partner to have a diploma.

The Good

- Best suits the needs of those looking for LTR (as long as you trust the Five-Factor Model theory!)

- Despite dealing with such an amount of data, the user profiles look as simple to explore as in most top gay dating apps.

The Bad 

- The intro questionnaire is overwhelmingly sophisticated. Do you want to sign up during a short coffee break? No way!

- The number of users leaves much to be desired even taking into account the fact it is NOT a gay hookup app.

- No free version. You are supposed to invest in my future relationship almost as much as in a small-scale startup.

Tinder

The most universal dating app ever

  • Free - Yes
  • Plus - from $2,99 /month
  • Gold - from $4,99 /month

Interface structure

Using tinder is truly as easy as pie. You switch between the 3 sections: profile edit, swiping the guys around and messages/updates on the guy with whom you have a match. Though it’s not a new gay dating app, in its time Tinder was one of the first to introduce the swiping modus. Apart from just swapping, you can like and super-like the profiles (unlimited only for Plus and Gold). Each profile can contain multiple pics and a very brief description.

User-friendliness

The most complicated task is to point out the difference between the two paid subscription options. The amount of info you can disclose (or not) is neither too small or too big. Optional embedding of social network accounts is available. Managing photos is nice and smooth.

The way profiles are sorted

Based purely on location (and some filters). Your location may sometimes get updated with delays when you travel around Europe, which leads to some funny (or not-so-funny) situations and chats.

The pool size

Here comes the trouble. Tinder does remain Number One app for straight people. But when we talk about the most popular gay dating apps, it’s still Grindr which comes first. So that’s the choice for the vast majority of boys looking for best gay hookup apps. And Tinder is getting more and more like ‘EliteSingles Light’: surprisingly inefficient in searching for sex. Too many guys are not into NSA encounters.

The Good

- A relatively high number of active users, every day at every city or even smaller town in the US.

- Fewer fields to fill in compared to EliteSingles, with much, much wider range of guys looking for a relationship.

- After a recent move to get more inclusive, Tinder offers even more gender identities to choose from than OkCupid! (40+)

- Flexible paid subscriptions made of two levels. Each of them can be tried for as short as 30 days. Moreover, the prices are more than affordable.

The Bad 

- Mostly about guys who got tired of Grindr. It can be problematic to arrange a date ‘right here, right now.’

- In crowded places (like NYC) the amount of swiping to find a proper mate feels like a ‘finger day’ workout in a gym.

- The fact it’s not restricted to the LGBTQ community may be considered a downside by some of us.

Chappy

Top gay app for guys who take it seriously

  • Free - Yes

Interface structure

The swiping works exactly the same as in Tinder, while profile info is extended through social networks embedding. Tailored to be one of the best gay dating apps, not hookup apps.

User-friendliness

Using the app must be comfortable for anyone who’ve tried Tinder regularly. Everything is very similar, even the design.

The way profiles are sorted

Apart from omnipresent swiping, Chappy divides all the guys into subcategories: Casual, Commitment, Friends, All dates. Very convenient, though, some guys will be puzzled with the necessity to choose what mood they are in today.

The pool size

May seem truly poor. Especially for those into traveling a lot to smaller cities or outside the US.

The Good

- Completely free

- It suits its niche of LTR dating perfectly. Neither empty not too detailed profiles.

- At the same time does give you a chance for NSA as well

The Bad 

- You have to connect your profile to Facebook, which sounds pretty weird for a gay meet app in 2019

- The choice of guys is not as abundant as in Grindr, Tinder, or Scruff.

OkCupid

Desperately trying to keep the balance between NSA & LTR

  • Free - Yes
  • A-list - from $6,95/month
  • A-list premium - from $19,90/month

Interface structure

The way OkCupid is organized looks like a hybrid of Tinder and planetromeo.com. You do swipe left and right, but, unlike Tinder, OkCupid is trying to load the profiles with as much data as possible - from horoscope signs to languages and eating habits. The key element - a percentage of the match this or that particular profile has with that of yours. You can explore matching profiles with ‘nearby’ and ‘search’ options at a ‘Match’ section. Apart from it, you have such sections as Messages, Visitors, Likes, etc. — all arranged in a rather minimalistic design.

User-friendliness

Sometimes there are bugs which, for example, prevent you from being able to sign up from both mobile and PC. Should this happen to you, you are quite likely to spend hours waiting for this to resolve. No support service available! No other gay meet app has such a useless Support section - with just a chaotic pile of FAQ articles. No contact, no feedback. So, unfortunately, OkCupid can only be considered user-friendly until you have some issues.

The way profiles are sorted

This is the main point when it comes to differences with Tinder. OkCupid collects far more information about you. Just answering the welcome questionnaire took me more than five minutes. The questions vary from typical (e.g., attitude towards smoking) to highly intimate (like the number of dates you typically wait before having sex or would you rather share a kiss in a tent or in Paris). Not only the profiles are shown to you based on this data, but you can type specific interests as search criteria. The app can display, let’s say, all the guys into street-racing or tattoo-lovers only.

The pool size

Slightly above 10 mln registered users, according to the latest data available. This makes OkCupid far from being America’s most densely populated free gay dating app.

The Good

- Search by interest option is, no doubt, innovative. Almost no other app gives you as much flexibility in elaborating precisely the guys YOU are interested in.

- One of the most advanced gay meet apps in terms of equality and diversity: the choice between 12 genders and 20 sexual orientations is offered.

- The design is minimalistic and comfortable for long browsing.

The Bad

- In case you experience any bugs - you can only count on your luck and intellect. The support team is absent.

- The user base is not just smaller than Grindr - it’s fairly insufficient for dating outside US top 10-20 cities.

- No guarantees of privacy with all those tons of data collected from you.

- A HUGE disbalance in favor of political questions. Or, let’s say, in favor of political questions important for left-wing Americans. Your attitude towards abortions and climate change? In a GAY meet app? Are they kidding? Of course it can be some kind of more reasonable for lesbians, but still.


Tinder, Grindr, and Recon still dominate the American gay phone app market, but if you like to explore and always willing to have more, it’s definitely worth trying something new. Hornet is the closest analog to Grindr. EliteSingles may be useful for building LTR. Chappy and OkCupid are still in search of their concept. Jack’D is the most inclusive of all.

And Pure.dating web app is just the most ideologically and technologically advanced. Both the design and the functionality prevent anything and anyone to distract you from PURE fun!

author

Katherine Awkley

Journalist

#KatherineAwkley

Katherine Awkley is a journalist and a dating anthropologist, researching both theoretical and practical aspects of romantic relationships, psychology, and sex. Awkley is an NYU graduate with an M.A. degree in journalism. Her primary goal is popularizing the dating culture, educating people to get rid of their fears, prejudices, and complexes.

Most of the time, Awkley spends on consulting and researching the hidden aspects of human sexuality. Her masterminds are Betony Vernon, Guillaume Apollinaire, Dita von Teese, Robert Green, Belle de Jour, Andrew Blake, and many more. Currently, Katherine Awkley is a leading columnist at Pure.dating.