A Guide to Free Dating Apps: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A Guide to Free Dating Apps: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

With our increasingly busy lives and the rapid development of technology, we’re all using mobile apps more, here at tombola bingo our app has been highly popular with players.

However a growing number of us are now relying on mobile dating apps to find a romantic partner. Plus, let’s face it, no one bats an eye any longer if you say you met your partner online, unlike fifteen years ago! So with dating apps springing up left, right and centre, how do you know which one is right for you?

We’ve drafted in the help of dating and relationship expert Ana Wilde to highlight the pros and cons of the market’s most talked about apps, helping you to decide which one best suits your dating style and added some personal opinions from the tombola bingo team that have tried some of these too.

POF (Plenty of Fish)

Plenty of Fish (or ‘POF’, as it’s better known to its users), works much the same as a lonely hearts advert and seems pretty standard: you have a profile that explains what you’re all about, and then you have a fish around for your ideal date. By typing in the qualities you’re looking for in a search, the site will reveal the profiles of anyone who fits the bill. You’re then free to message them as you wish. The flip side of this, of course, is that you too will receive messages. Lots of them. So you may find yourself sifting through messages from people you aren’t interested in, but you may also find true love!

We found out that one of our tombola bingo team members had used the app so she told us about her experience:

“It was my first ever date on a dating site (which was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life)! I arranged to meet up with him at a busy wine bar in town and made sure I had a selection of my most ninja-like friends scattered around the bar (safety first of course!) We had arranged to have a couple of drinks and some food. I’d met up with the girls before I met him so we could discuss my get-out strategy (if needed!

He turned out to be very nice and we had an amazing evening together. He didn’t turn out to be my Prince Charming but glad I had a good first date experience of the app.

All things considered, POF isn’t my cup of tea as I am not in control of who could message me.”

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: For sheer numbers of people on there, it can’t be beaten.

Cons: You need to create a profile, which can take a while. You’ll also have to sort through lots of potential dates to find worthwhile ones.


Whether you’re single or not, you’ve probably heard of Tinder. In fact, there aren’t many people out there who haven’t at least had a ‘swipe’ on their friend’s app to see what the fuss is about. ‘Playing’ is easy – you simply start swiping through a sea of nameless faces, making quick-fire decisions on whether to swipe right (chancing a match) or left (dismissing them forever). If both of you swipe right, you ‘match’ and can choose to begin a conversation – simple! There’s even an option to share a ‘moment’ with your matches, (otherwise known as posting a photo).

Another member of the tombola bingo team, shared her experience with the app:

“Once I was signed up I was ready to hit the ground running. After swiping left (dislike) for what felt like an eternity (I’m picky, I know!), I swiped right on someone who can only be described as a real-life Adonis sent from heaven. When I got a pop up saying ‘congratulations you have a match,’ I almost dropped my phone! It was exciting, so cue more swiping right. The more I swiped right, the more matches I was getting.

I slowly came to the realisation that men clearly aren’t the conversational connoisseurs on this site, and it would be up to me to get a conversation going. Through taking the plunge and being the first to message I’ve had some great chats with people. I’ve also had some really awkward ones; for instance the ‘cat guy’ who, after telling him I didn’t particularly care for cats, went on a massive cat-based rant, which resulted in me apologising for not liking cats and hastily un-matching! I’ve also had some messages from people that I would rather not remember – all I’ll say is they would make your grandma blush!”

All in all, Tinder is good fun – It’s got a lot of users, and you aren’t prone to receiving creepy messages from undesirables. When it comes to meaningful relationships however, we aren’t so sure. It seems that there is one big problem with Tinder: a lack of authenticity.

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: They only see your details and can message you if you both like each other.

Cons: The app is linked to Facebook, and you may prefer to keep your Facebook life and dating life separate.


Enter Hinge, the app that promises to be the ‘Facebook’ to Tinder’s ‘Myspace’. Put plainly, the app doesn’t simply pick users out of a hat, or simply based on distance; Hinge finds potential matches based on your friends, or friends of friends, and then tells you the basics about them: their full name, where they went to university and what their job is, for example. It’s more like meeting someone at a friend’s house party, rather than at a random bar in town. Another big difference is that you only get a certain amount of profiles to view each day, encouraging people to give it a bit more thought.

“With Tinder, there’s entertainment and a game to play with, where you might meet someone there but the user base is scattered all over the place, and it has more of a hook-up orientation than a relationship orientation,” says Justin McLeod, Hinge’s CEO. “The opposite is true of Hinge. People think of us as a tool to meet people…it’s much more relationship and dates oriented.”

So what does all this mean for users? Well, first of all, you know that these are real people with a history, jobs and a name – you aren’t being catfished. There’s also more chance that you’re going to have something in common, on account of your mutual friends. You will receive fewer weird messages. Why? Because people are scared that you’ll run and tell the mutual friends exactly how creepy they are!

We hadn’t found anyone in the tombola team that had used this one, have you? What do you think?

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: Great if you have a lot of Facebook friends and it cuts out the creepy stranger factor of Tinder.

Cons: You’re more limited in the connections you can make.


Okay, imagine Tinder. Now imagine you want to use Tinder, but you have to be really rich to do so. Hold that image: it’s Luxy. Promising to help users ‘Connect with the Successful & Attractive’, Luxy is a site that works on the understanding that you’re a successful (rich) person that’s seeking a similarly successful (rich) person.

Instead of listing your interests, which might paint a picture of what you’re actually like, Luxy requires you to list your favourite brands. Think ‘Rolex-loving BMW driver seeks Chanel-wearing model’, and you won’t be too far off. That’s not all though. In the same way you can share a moment on Tinder, you can share a ‘luxury moment’ that shows off how opulent your lifestyle is.

“It works just like Tinder,” explains Luxy’s CEO. “With one big exception: Our app allows users to weed out the poor and unattractive.”

One thing it won’t weed out, then, are the shallow, the self-absorbed and the gold-diggers.  If you’re in the 1% rich demographic and you’re looking for a fancy-pants date that has little to no meaning, however, you might want to give it a whirl.

Er, we didn’t have any experience of this one either!

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: The people you meet are likely to have money – the average income is £155K.

Cons: You may not make the grade and there is only a small pool to choose from.


On the online dating spectrum, OkCupid is probably closest to Plenty of Fish – you type in what you’re after and hit the search button. Described as ‘The Google of online dating’ by The Boston Globe, OkCupid requires you to answer a set of questions that helps better your chances of finding someone who’s on the same wavelength as you. So if family values are high on your agenda, but you’re not too fussed about how tidy they are, your search will be refined to reflect just that.

Nevertheless, like POF, it means there is no guarantee that the people you message will be interested in you – and more importantly, vice versa!

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: You can see which of your best matches are nearby.

Cons:  It’s a mobile version of their website. You need to answer their questions and create a profile to use it.

Blendr / Grindr

Grindr is the location-based app that became popular for helping gay men connect, while Blender positions itself as the same location-based app, but for straight people. While some people feel that the app is better-suited to those after a casual fling, the estimated four million users in 192 countries (in the case of Grindr) tells us that the app is certainly a popular one.

Joel Simkhai, Grindr’s CEO and founder, maintains that the app isn’t just for hook-ups:

“Outside the gay community, people would probably say it’s just a hook-up app. And absolutely, sex is going on. But it’s more than that, because there’s always the possibility you will hit the jackpot and find someone who will move you. It has this potential for making a huge impact in your life.”

Ana’s thoughts on the app

Pros: You’ll find lots of hot singles in your location.

Cons: They are usually looking for other people for casual hook-ups!

Do you have any stories to tell when it comes to dating apps? Maybe you’ve had a hairy experience with one of the above, or perhaps you have another tried and tested method of finding love? Whatever it is, let us know!

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