Dating App Review – Grindr (Northstar)

Carrying on with our series of reviews of Dating Websites and Apps, Northstar, the blog’s gay, male writer, reviews the rather infamous Grindr app

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

While my personal favourite dating website is OKCupid, nonetheless, I’ve also given Grindr a try.  I used it just over a year ago after my housemate kept on insisting that it wasn’t just for hook-ups (‘casual encounters’ really aren’t my style), here are my thoughts from the time…

Number of Options – 8/10

If you’re young and you’re gay, chances are high that you’ve been on Grindr at some point.  As much out of curiousity, as in the hope of finding a boyfriend (or whatever else you’re looking for), the app seems to have been on most gay men’s smartphones at least once.  Particularly given that it can be difficult to meet other gay people outside of online dating, the fact that the app is the most well known gay dating app gives it a very large pool of users, with this scale helping to continually attract new users.

From personal experience, I found it quite heartening the first time I used the app when it showed me just how many gay people there were even in my neighbourhood, let alone in the wider city.  The app updates the profiles so that it shows you based on geographical proximity and who is online at that time, so while it’s not uncommon to see familiar faces appearing if you log in regularly from the same location, in general the app shows you a frequently changing tableau of profiles.


Serious Contenders – 8/10

This somewhat depends on the definition of ‘serious’.  While the app is widely known as a hook-up app, that isn’t the complete story.

It can certainly be that if that’s what you want it to be, but it can also be used to meet people for dating, or just for making new friends (for people who’ve recently moved to a new city it can really help to meet other gay people just to help form a social circle).  The information on user profiles is very basic – a picture, age, how far away the person is, and also intentions, so it specifies very clearly on each user’s profile whether they’re looking for a hook-up or something more.

Really though you can typically tell this information from the profile picture, which tends to fall into one of three types: 1) picture of a guy topless = wants to hook-up, 2) picture of a guy fully clothed, particularly if it only shows his face = interested in dating or friends, 3) topless picture where you only see the torso and not the guy’s face = closet case that wants to hook-up.

If you’re serious about hooking-up, then it’s pretty obvious from the pictures which guys to chat to.  However I also know people that have met friends and partners through the app, and as intentions are so clearly sign-posted I’d say the seriousness of the contenders (whatever your intention) is high.

Free Services – 9/10

I only tried the free version myself, however I think that the paid version just removes ads from the app, and allows you to see a larger number of profiles.  That said the ads are quite unobtrusive, and even with the free version the number of profiles that the app shows still seems huge, so the core experience really is already represented in the free version of the app.

Ease of Set-Up – 10/10

Very easy, all you do is upload a photo, put in the vital statistics you want to include (the options are age, height and ethnicity) and what you’re looking for (plus a sentence of flavour text if you like), then you’re all set!


Site Layout – 9/10

The site shows relatively limited information, so the layout is similarly simple.  It just shows rows of profile pictures of people who are online, ordered by geographical proximity.  Tap on someone’s profile and it will give you their vital statistics, with a large button to launch a chat with them – basically just a text message conversation, but through the app.  You can also mark profiles as favourites so that they appear at the top of the app whether they’re online or not, and if you receive a message the sender also appears at the top of the app.  So while the profiles that you see will vary a lot depending on who’s online at that moment in time, you still have the ability to message anyone you’re particularly interested in or are having an ongoing conversation with, instead of having their profiles disappear back into the ether when they’re offline.

App – 6/10

Grindr only exists in app form, and while the app design is very good, on the technical side it could do with some work.  The core of the app is the messaging system and it’s known to be quite spotty, with messages frequently not being delivered (which can definitely break the flow of conversation).

Information About Your Date – 3/10

As mentioned above you learn very little about your date.  Users can share height, age, ethnicity and intentions, but that’s about it.  However, the designers of the app have stated that their aim is to encourage people to meet as soon as possible and get to know each other in person, rather than information being presented through an exhaustive online profile, so the lack of information is by design.

User Verification – 3/10

You really could be speaking to anyone, as you only see a photo.  The app does show geographical proximity though, so at least you know you’re talking to someone in the same city and not a random fraudster from another country.

Value for Money (Paid Services) – N/A

I didn’t try the paid version, so I can’t speak to this personally.  As I mentioned above though, from using the free app it seems to be a very comprehensive offering, so I’m not sure that the paid services would provide a great deal of extra value beyond this.

Overall Summary

Grindr’s reputation as ‘that app that gay guys use to hook-up’ is quite unfair

The app really is more than that and is also a legitimate dating resource.  While it can be used just for hook-ups, the same applies to most online dating sites if that’s what you’re looking for, and while there are large numbers of men using Grindr for that purpose it also has a large user base looking for dates, friends, and relationships.  The user numbers are there, and as long as you’re clear with what you’re looking for then it can be an invaluable resource for meeting new people.


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