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by Chad Hunter

Finding friends can be a lot like buying a car- once you find one that seems nice enough, you usually test-drive it before you make a purchase. Sometimes it turns out to be the best decision you’ve ever made, and other times you’ll wish you’d just stayed in bed instead.

The same could be said for gay cruising apps. There’s a ton of them out there, and it can be overwhelming to try and find one that works best for you. Luckily, I’ve already done the foot work for you: here are my reviews of seven of the most popular gay cruising apps available on the mobile market.

Disclaimer: Much of these reviews are based off personal experiences with each app. Your experience may vary.

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Grindr

We could probably call this app “Old Faithful” because it’s basically the one that all the others are modeled after and gets the most use. Most of us already know how it works: make a profile, see who’s nearby, go from there. Send texts, photos, even your current location on a handy little map. If you can handle all the blatant racism and femmephobia from other users, then you’re in for a good time. That is, if you can stand keeping up conversations with people who clearly have no online etiquette or real-world people skills.

PROS: Simple, “tried and true,” more variety in terms of amount of people, age groups, diversity, etc.

CONS: That notification noise still haunts me to this day, many users are still clueless and creepy racists, the profile picture cropping thing is totally misleading, bullshit limits on how many favorites you can add (only 10 per 24 hour period? Maybe I wanna favorite EVERYONE, you assholes!), supposedly pretty buggy for users (I didn’t have any problems, but….)

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Scruff

It’s basically the new Grindr, but it’s obviously geared towards the bear/otter/wolf/stone-cold-silver-fox crowd (so if you’re not hairy you’re not wanted or welcome). Has more features that make it more sophisticated than its predecessor, but it isn’t without its own slew of cons.

PROS: Profile has options for trans*-identifying users, it fits a niche market, has a global option as opposed to a “just people nearby” thing, track views and favorites that you’ve made (and ones made on you from others), VIDEO MESSAGING!, check-ins, ability to add more favorites, travel modes, unsend messages, etc.

CONS: Almost NONE of that shit is available unless you pay the expensive fees to upgrade to Scruff Pro (which they wouldn’t fucking shut up about); practically ZERO diversity (aside from the five people of color I encountered on Scruff, literally every single user looks the same); they’re SUPER bitchy and intimidating about their incredibly strict profile guidelines but VERY lax about actually enforcing them; they don’t let their already-sexualized cover models give interviews to people writing for porn blogs; they do. not. stop. sending you notifications from Johnny Scruff himself, reminding you to follow him on Twitter (which he doesn’t even use), even if you’re already following him.

Basically, this is just a more offensive and cliquey version of Grindr, so I think I’ve said all I need to say here.

Jack’d: Gay Men’s Social Network

Type in “gay” in your iPhone’s app store search bar and this is one of the first things to pop up. It’s an oldie but not a very goodie.

PROS: THREE different profile pictures to choose from! 2 “private” ones, too! More accurate distance measuring software, some kind of matchmaker function that it uses to pair you up with other users (because “just friends” isn’t acceptable)

CONS: Their “scene selection” tool is ridiculous and only lets you choose one (see photo), it’s marketed as strictly for use by gay men but women have profiles here, too (which I’m only mentioning as a con because a lot of them are just looking for “gay best friends”), recent user reviews are less than favorable, basically just shows you every Grindr user but with a couple extra pictures.

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Hornet

YouTube celebrity Davey Wavey recommended it so you know it HAS to be good!

PROS: You can change your location and see who’s in another place (and trick them into thinking you’re there, too), there’s a notes function, STI/STD testing status updates and reminders, HI-RES!, age and race filters, option to forward profiles to friends and become the matchmaker you always knew you were meant to be.

CONS: Profile limits (“About You” section must be shorter than the length of the average Tweet), it’s basically a prettier looking Grindr so it’s just the same old shit. But it’s not bad.

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VGL

From what I’ve been told by friends, this one is currently going around Facebook much like Scruff did back in its infancy, so it’s getting a lot of ad space. But from what I can tell, it might be pretty legit.

PROS: VGL stands for “Very Good Looking,” so you can rest assured that this app is for HOT GUYS ONLY (like seriously, they’re very good at reminding you it’s only about finding “HOT” guys) (see photo); you get UNLIMITED pics and messages here; there’s some kinda meet-up (hookup?) forum function; incredibly detailed filtering options help facilitate your racism/ageism/sizeism/overall shittiness and intolerance; oh, and Bryan Cole, Duncan Black, and Paddy O’Brian are apparently all users (see photo).

CONS: None of those pros are actually good things, obviously. And Bryan, Duncan, and Paddy don’t actually use the app, so it’s got issues with people pretending to be others online. Height filter doesn’t accommodate anyone outside the 4’-7’5” range (I guess anyone taller or shorter than that automatically isn’t attractive. Go figure.), you can only view profiles of the “HOT”-labeled users if you’re a VIP member.

In short, avoid this one at all costs.

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Bender

PROS: Actually admits to being a cruising app; video messaging a la FaceTime (perfect for sexting); lets you specify your preferred sex role (top/bottom/versatile); filtering only applies to online/blocked status and top/bottom preference.

CONS: Unattractive layout; hasn’t been updated since December 2012; many users don’t have profile pictures; boring overall.

Growlr

Whoever made this app actually put time and effort into it, and it shows. They even update it somewhat regularly, too, which shows they care about this app (not something I saw very often in my journey to find a good gay social networking app).

PROS: Cutesy look/setup (cutest logo by far); WAY more options in profile creation/editing; Facebook connectivity; location altering ability; mainly “bear” crowd-oriented, but way more diverse than Scruff (this one’s like a better, less offensive version); lists all the Bear/leather-oriented bars near you (and further!); photo galleries, notes, even blog options here! This thing really does have everything!

CONS: Users can be just as douchey as the average Grindr user, but they tend to be more sizeist/body-policing in nature as opposed to racist or homophobic; not a lot of diversity (bust still more than Scruff).

Basically, if you’re gonna choose Scruff over Grindr, choose Growlr instead.

Conclusion:

You can probably tell by now that I don’t have the best personal view on cruising apps. However, that’s not to say I want to discourage people from using them. These apps are essentially the face of the future of gay dating, so it’s not like one can ever really escape them, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to use one in order to meet people or have sex or even just talk to someone. I do think it’s good, though, to know what you’re getting into before you dive right into the pool.


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