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Dating apps for dummies: What the newly single need to know

If you haven't dated in a while and find yourself thrust into the single life, especially in New York City, we're not going to sugar coat it-- you're in for a rude awakening, whatever your age and circumstances.

Yes, you might get lucky and meet your soulmate while walking your dog in the park, having a drink with pals or dodging bed bugs on the N train. But since the dawn of dating apps, your chances at finding love out in the real world have decreased tremendously.

That girl you might have bonded with over a mutual love of quinoa at your local vegan restaurant? She stayed in and ordered dinner via Seamless while checking out guys on Tinder. That cute guy you saw walking down the street? He had a Grouper date set up before he ever left his apartment.

Ok, ok, it sounds bad. But before you panic and adopt another cat, hear us out.

While we also wish people were still meeting organically, there's a reason so many are turning to dating apps. They're quick, easy to use and, since you (hopefully) have an idea of what you're getting yourself into before you agree to anything, they're virtually pain-free. Maybe this newfangled dating culture is for you, and maybe it's not, but you'll never know for sure until you try. Here's what you need to know before you put yourself out there.

Tinder

Best for: The dater who's looking for fun
Photo Credit: Tinder

Best for: The dater who's looking for fun

The lowdown: Tinder users' intentions vary from scoring hook-ups to wanting to casually meet new people to searching for real relationships, but let's be honest here. Tinder is primarily about first impressions-- you see someone's photo and swipe right if you're interested, or left if you're not.

If you both find each other attractive, yes, you'll be able to communicate and find out if you have similar interests. But if you'd rather have a chance to win someone over with your award-winning personality or life accomplishments, well, this may not be the app for you. It is, however, a great way to break into virtual dating. It also happens to be taking the young singles scene by storm, so if you're an available 20-something and you're not on it, you're missing out on, at the very least, the chance to swap hilarious stories with at least half your friend group.

How it works: Tinder uses the info on your Facebook profile to match you with people in your area. You define the distance from home, age and gender you're looking for, and you'll be presented with potential matches. As previously mentioned, swipe right to "like" someone you're interested in, and left to pass. If someone you liked likes you back, you'll have the opportunity to start messaging.

Download: Free at gotinder.com

Coffee Meets Bagel

Best for: The busy young professional The lowdown:
Photo Credit: Coffee Meets Bagel

Best for: The busy young professional

The lowdown: Coffee Meets Bagel users may or may not be serious about finding love, but they're making at least some sort of effort to fit it into their presumably busy schedules. Geared towards those who work too much and need something to look forward to on their lunch breaks, Coffee Meets Bagel sends one match a day at noon. We know, we know: only one match a day?! In the world of dating apps, that's commitment.

How it works: Every match sent to you on Coffee Meets Bagel is a friend of a friend (on Facebook, at least.) This does limit your pool of prospects, but props to them for taking the potential creepiness out of online dating, and helping to ensure that you have at least one thing in common with your match from the get-go. You get 24 hours to "like" or "pass" your daily match. No one will know you liked them unless they like you, too. If there is a mutual like, you will be able to message one another.

Seems harmless, right? And you know you could use something to look forward to mid-day as work piles up and that caffeine rush wears off, anyway.

Download: Free at coffeemeetsbagel.com

Grouper

Best for: The shy dater with single friends
Photo Credit: Grouper Social Club

Best for: The shy dater with single friends

The lowdown: Grouper is ideal for those looking for a fun night out with a guaranteed good ratio of guys to girls, guys to guys or girls to girls, depending on personal preferences. There are no awkward silences, (unless you hate your own friends), because you get to bring two buddies along and try out a new local hot spot. Who isn't braver with a pair of wing(wo)men?

How it works: Grouper picks the place and a group of three matches based on your profile info, and all you have to do is grab two friends and show up. The first round of drinks is free. You do have to fill out an application and get approved before you'll get set up on a Grouper, and there is a waiting list. You will not see photos before your date.

Download: Free to download, $20 per person per date at joingrouper.com

HowAboutWe

Best for: The adventurous dater The lowdown: If
Photo Credit: HowAboutWe

Best for: The adventurous dater

The lowdown: If you're a go-getter with a wide range of hobbies who would rather be out browsing an art gallery, seeing a show, cheering at a baseball game or trying a new restaurant than sitting on the couch, this is probably the dating app for you. HowAboutWe lets you suggest your dream date, and opens it up to others with similar interests who are game for your type of fun. So, although the meeting part takes place online, you're guaranteed real life action.

How it works: You sign up and create a profile, and fill in your date idea. You can wait for others to respond to your date, browse other people's date ideas or see what's trending. Users are able to message each other and make plans accordingly.

Download: Basic subscription is free, upgrade packages available at howaboutwe.com

LoveBeginsAt

Best for: The dater over 40 The lowdown:
Photo Credit: LoveBeginsAt

Best for: The dater over 40

The lowdown: LoveBeginsAt knows that it's a challenge for singles ages 40-plus to meet other like-minded singles. They also know that online dating may not come as easily as it does to the technology-minded younger set. That's why they offer a mix of online and in person experiences, including fun local events restricted to those 40 and older.

How it works: Creating a profile and browsing other singles in your area is free, but in order to send private messages, enjoy unlimited search and join in on social events, like a rooftop cocktail party with food, live music and more for just $10, you'll have to upgrade.

Download: Free to download, newcomer's special is $12 per month, at lovebeginsat.com

DoggyBnB

Best for: Dog lovers The lowdown: If
Photo Credit: DoggyBnB

Best for: Dog lovers

The lowdown: If "Must Love Dogs" was your favorite movie and you spend most of your free time involved in one-way conversations with your BFF on four legs, DoggyBnB might just change your life (or, at least get you to enjoy human contact again.) Not a true dating app, DoggyBnB is primarily meant to find dog sitters in your area. It also lets pet owners connect for playdates and share trusted contact lists, however, making it the perfect way to find puppy love for yourself and Fido at the same time. Perhaps this is why the new app is being referred to as "Tinder for dogs."

How it works: Make a pet profile and send out "woofs" when you need a walker or sitter to a network built of friends, friends of friends and third degree connections. Or, sign up as a "buddy," and "fetch" others' requests. While you do so, try out the "Sniffer" function, and browse for local owners and dogs that you would both like to meet (like Tinder, you'll swipe right for those you're into.) Keep in mind, not everyone on here is looking for a date. But hey, you never know!

Download: Free to download, fee to post a listing is $1 or 15% of what you choose to pay for your listed service, at doggybnb.com

Grindr

Best for: Males looking for males The lowdown:
Photo Credit: Grindr

Best for: Males looking for males

The lowdown:

There are exceptions, as always, but anyone who signs up for Grindr should know that it is dominated by those looking for quick hook-ups in their area. Newer versions provide more profile space for telling other Grindr users about yourself, but the truth is, most just want to know where you are (and the app will pinpoint that) and if you're down to, well, get down.

How it works: Grindr uses your smart phone's GPS technology to show other users exactly where you are, and vice-versa. Upon logging on, you'll find a collage of men near you (filtered to suit the criteria you specify). Click on photos that interest you to find out more about them, and if you're still into them, send out a message.

Download: Free at grindr.com

Dattch

Best for: Females looking for females The lowdown:
Photo Credit: Dattch

Best for: Females looking for females

The lowdown: Dattch claims to be the first dating app to acknowledge that women should be approached differently than men. This "app for lesbians, by lesbians" was a hit in the UK and only launched in New York in June. Dattch gets ladies talking with rounds of their "Would You Rather" game, and also provides access to their exclusive blog with lesbian pop culture and news content.

How it works: As long as you're a woman, you're able to create a free account with Dattch, and can add an unlimited amount of photos and information. You're welcome to message as many potential matches as you want to each day.

Download: Free at dattch.com

OkCupid

Best for: The dater who knows what he
Photo Credit: OkCupid

Best for: The dater who knows what he or she wants

The lowdown: A veteran when it comes to online dating, OkCupid uses a very specific mathematical algorithm to match your preferences, attributes and interests to others. It promises top notch accuracy, as long as you're honest. With most young singles looking for casual dating on newer apps such as Tinder and Coffee Meets Bagel, you're most likely looking at a good amount of people who are seeking a serious relationship.

How it works: In order to get the best results, you have to not only answer questions, but also answer how you would like others to answer them and weigh how important each topic is to you. Based on this and the specifications you choose, you will see potential matches. You can sort them, shuffle them or hide them if you want to.

Download: Free at okcupid.com

Plenty of Fish

Best for: The dater who's keeping his or
Photo Credit: Plenty of Fish

Best for: The dater who's keeping his or her options open

The lowdown: As its name implies, Plenty of Fish has the most users of any dating site. If variety is what you crave, it's right up your alley. If you're the type who gets easily overwhelmed, however, you may want to take advantage of their advice feature, which helps you figure out what you've done wrong in past relationships, and how to move forward, before you expose yourself to millions of users.

How it works: After taking a "chemistry test" to help Plenty of Fish get to know you, they match you with personalities that they think will lead to "long lasting, stable relationships" based on your emotional needs. Or, you can search for singles on your own, using search criteria ranging from age, gender, occupation and hometown to self-confidence, "easygoingness" and openness.

Download: Free at pof.com

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