With so many sites and apps out there focused on dating, it can be tough at times when deciding how to approach the concept. The pure proliferation of these digital dating options might even have you wishing for the return of analog ones, like IRL speed dating or personals in the local newspaper. But lest you get discouraged before even taking a shot at all, you might want to consider what are perhaps two of the top apps in the online dating game at the moment: Tinder and Bumble.
Though Tinder was launched in September 2012, a little over two years before Bumble’s December 2014 launch, its younger app sibling has covered a fair amount of cultural ground in recent years. While Tinder’s raw user numbers dwarf Bumble’s — in no small part because of its success outside the United States, making it a truly global app — Bumble is still the second highest-grossing dating app in the world, boasting over 12.3 million monthly active users, according to SensorTower.
One noteworthy aspect linking the two apps is the fact that Bumble’s founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, is an ex-Tinder employee who left the company determined to start her own app after her negative experiences at Tinder. But perhaps the most salient reason to compare the two is the fact that Bumble has been billed as an alternative to Tinder since it first launched — specifically, it’s often referred to as “feminist Tinder.”
That’s because the basic mechanics of the two apps are essentially identical — you swipe through a seemingly endless stack of other users’ profile photos (right to indicate your interest in them and left to indicate your non-interest), then when two users have both swiped right on each other, they’re notified and given the opportunity to chat with one another. Now, here’s where we see one simple but impactful difference: On Bumble, straight men can’t message women until the woman has initiated the conversation.
The app was addictive, and its success led to established competitors like OkCupid designing Tinder-like versions of their own site, as well as the creation of brand new apps with similar layouts. The most prominent of those has been Bumble, which replicates the profile pic-swiping mechanism and the geolocation-based aspect as well.
Both and Tinder also now allow users to undo an accidental left-swipes, though both apps embed this feature within their paid memberships. And in the last two years, both apps added the ability to conduct in-app video calls, without having to share personal information like a phone number or last name.
Unlike the lengthy sign-up processes of online dating sites in the early 2000s, well-run apps in today’s day and age have A/B tested the sign-up process into oblivion, and have largely concluded that the faster, the better. As a result, signing up for either app is pretty straightforward, and doesn’t involve filling out any forms or conveying much personal data or preferences. In order to discourage fake accounts, both Bumble and Tinder ask you to sign up using some means of identity-verification — your phone number, in Tinder’s case, or your phone number, Facebook account or Apple ID in Bumble’s.
On Bumble, youll share your first name and then add a minimum of two (and maximum of six) photos, either from Instagram, Facebook, or your camera/camera roll. Youll also have to share your date of birth with Bumble (only adults 18+ can use Bumble), though theyll only show your age to potential matches. Next, youll select your gender (woman, man or non-binary), or click “more gender options” to access an extensive list of gender identities – including trans identities, gender-fluid identities, gender-questioning, etc – sourced in conjunction with GLAAD, HRC and other LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups (major props to Bumble!).
Once youve shared this personal info with Bumble, youll be prompted to choose one of three ways to use the app: Bumble Bizz for professional networking, Bumble BFF for finding friends, and Bumble Dating for making romantic connections. If you choose the dating option, youll be asked which gender youre interested in connecting with, as well as to say what youre looking for on the app: “something casual,” “not sure yet,” “a relationship” or “prefer not to say.” Finally, youll be asked to supply a recovery email address, in the event that you somehow lose access to your account, as well as agree to Bumbles Registration Pledge, essentially stipulating that youll be on your best behavior while using the app or else theyll reserve the right to kick you off. This is part of Bumbles commitment to removing the toxicity that tends to seep into online dating, and were all for it.
Id also like to add an aside about Bumbles Photo Verification software. When I was supplied with a free premium account for the purposes of this review, I initiated my account by uploading photos of my dog (because Im not currently looking for romance). Maybe five minutes passed before the software alerted me that my photos werent valid and Id have to upload photos of my face. Bumble even takes things a step further: you can get a blue “safety shield” icon added to your account if you complete their photo verification process, to help minimize catfishing.
One of the longstanding criticisms of Tinder was safety, as their fast signup process made it easy for bots, catfishers and other unsavory people to use the app, but in 2020 they addressed these concerns through their own Photo Verification software, enabling users to trust that the person theyre matching with is who they say they are. Users who verify, by taking a series of real-time selfies in specific poses, will be granted a blue check in their profiles.
Both apps allow for more details to be filled in later on, but you can basically jump into using the apps to their full capacity within a minute or two at most. That having been said, because of its slew of extra options, and its straight forward approach, we give the edge to Bumble.
Since their respective launches, both apps have been free to download and use, meaning you can match and exchange messages with real people without ever paying a dime. However, as with many ostensibly free apps — dating or otherwise — Tinder and Bumble monetize their platforms by charging for certain bonus features and restricting what free users can do in some cases.
Tinder, in particular, has clamped down on the free usage of its app in recent years by limiting the number of swipes users can make in a single day, allowing for 100 right swipes per day. That might sound like a lot to the uninitiated, but depending on how picky you are and how quickly you go through profiles, you could easily burn through them in just 15 minutes or so.
Tinder now offers three subscription tiers, in ascending order of price and features: Tinder Plus, Tinder Gold, and Tinder Platinum, with the prices varying by your region. The basic Tinder Plus account hides ads, gives you unlimited likes and Rewinds (undoing an accidental swipe), and the ability to use their Passport feature to swipe internationally. Tinder Gold gives you all of these features, plus free Super Likes (allowing the person to know youve liked them), a curated list of potential matches (“Top Picks”), a list of people who have liked you, and a free profile boost each month, making you more visible to singles in your area. Tinder Platinum adds all the aforementioned features, plus the ability to send messages to people before matching with them, plus Priority Likes, which causes your Likes and Super Likes to show up faster than non-subscribers.
Bumble offers just two subscription tiers: Bumble Boost and Bumble Premium. Bumble Boost starts at $7.99 per month in the United States, and can be purchased in periods of one week, one month, three months or six months. Boost offers unlimited likes and “Backtracks” (the ability to undo an accidental left-swipe), plus it gives users the ability to extend the shelf-life of matches past the 24-hour cutoff point (Extend), one Spotlight (a profile visibility boost) per week, and 5 SuperSwipes (lets someone know you liked their profile) per week.
Bumble Premium adds all of the above features, plus the ability to swipe without people seeing your profile (Incognito), the ability to swipe in other cities and countries (Travel mode), the ability to see who has liked your profile (Beeline), and unlimited “advanced filters,” allowing you to filer matches based on religion, politics, attitude towards pets, fitness, and even astrology signs.
Tinder’s approach when discussing its user base has been to publicize the number of swipes and matches occurring, rather than the raw number of daily, monthly or total users. Its site currently boasts that its users generate 2 billion “views” per day, 1.5 million dates per week, and over 65 billion total matches across over 190 countries and 40 languages since it was founded. With numbers like that, it might be easier to just list the number of singles who aren’t on Tinder.
However, that crowd of users doesn’t necessarily work in your favor. Since the concept of Tinder is built around you deciding what you like rather than an algorithm, the majority of people you swipe through will be people you’re probably not that interested in. If you live in a major metropolitan area and are really picky, you might just have to devote serious amounts of time to swiping through them all.
Bumble, meanwhile, benefits from having a slightly less popular app that’s geared to a specific population. Based on reading reviews, the stereotypical Bumble user is college educated, attractive and polite, so while you’ve got fewer options to choose from, you’re also probably spending less time left-swiping people you’re not interested in.
Tinder and Bumble both make use of an interface that’s primarily composed of two modes: the -focused swiping mode and the text-like chat mode where you interact with your matches (though both apps have since added video calling as well). Since swiping mode is so intuitive (left for dislike, right for like on both apps) and the chat mode so closely resembles standard text-messaging functionality for iOS and Android phones, the interface is easy to adapt to.
However, there are a few differences in terms of how the swiping works between the two apps: On Tinder, you swipe through your potential matches photos, whereas on Bumble you scroll down. And, most importantly, Tinder allows for instant conversation once a match is made, while Bumble conversations (in heterosexual relationships) can only begin when the woman makes the first move. Tinder matches are also permanent (unless one of the members deletes the match), whereas Bumble matches expire after 24 hours, so theres a sense of urgency on Bumble.
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6. Best for Hooking Up: Tinder or Bumble?
When looking for hookups, Tinder’s big user base and ease-of-use approach works in your favor. Not only is it jam-packed with an incredible number of people who appear to be looking for the dopamine rush from a “match” notification, the app’s focus on surface-level interactions is distinctly hookup-friendly.
You swipe on people based on how they look, not who they are, and matches can start chatting immediately in every case. That mentality syncs up nicely with what people might be looking for in a no-strings-attached hookup, which is a base physical attraction with no delays.
In this arena, Bumble’s unique conversational mechanism — which insists the woman send the first message, deleting matches that don’t speak within 24 hours — is something that often means matches go nowhere without any actual conversation. On the flip side, of course, many Tinder matches go nowhere despite conversation, so you might not be losing much.
As well, Bumble’s reputation for being a bit classier, stocked with people with high-minded and forward-thinking ideals, might actually work against its success as a hookup option. Sure, modern progressivism tends to be very sex-positive, but the people you find on the app might be choosier, more interested in relationships or even people you don’t want to have a simple hookup with.
At the end of the day, Tinder’s vaguely seedy reputation is actually an asset when it comes to hookups. Since there’s a lower expectation of quality matches, people don’t go there expecting the same level of courtship. That means you’re more likely to run into a fellow hookup-seeker on Tinder than on Bumble, even if it also means you’re also more likely to swipe through a lot of people you’re not interested in (and who aren’t interested in you).
7. Best for Relationships: Tinder or Bumble?
When it comes to finding relationships, however, you’re confronted with the same issue that people have been dealing with since the advent of online dating — is it better to meet a large quantity of potential partners, or a smaller, more curated number?
If you take the former approach, you’re likely to slog through a lot of people with whom you’re totally incompatible. That could mean hours and hours and hours of swiping (over months or even years), or spending time and money going on some seriously bad dates.
If you take the latter approach because you’re holding out for a soulmate, it’s hard to argue that either app is necessarily better. Now, if you’re looking for someone you could realistically date and introduce to your friends and family, Bumble is probably the better bet.
For starters, its gender numbers are much closer to being equal than Tinder’s — at least, according to the available data — with Bumble boasting 46 percent women. Tinder keeps their gender breakdown under wraps, but studies have put it at closer to one-third women — meaning if you’re looking for a relationship with a woman, you’re dealing with less competition.
If you bring that sext-first, ask-questions-later mentality that you see from some guys on Tinder, you’re unlikely to have a high success rate on Bumble. But if you approach it with patience and a sense of respect for the people you right swipe on, you and Bumble could be a match made in heaven.