For some gay men, the mobile cruising app Grindr has become a de rigueur accessory — almost as important as owning a smartphone itself. And with more than 3.5 million users in 192 countries, Grindr has certainly earned its reputation as the most popular gay cruising app.
But why limit yourself to the 100 nearest guys on one cascade? There are plenty of other cruising apps out there to increase your odds of hooking up . . . err . . . networking with other “men seeking men.”
We’ve compared some of them against the big daddy to see who and what we’re missing out on by focusing on Grindr.
Features: Kind of like Grindr for gym queens, but don’t worry — there’s no BMI test required to join. This network seems to have a lot of users in Toronto. It can be filtered by distance and by city, or you can chat with whoever’s online around the world. Profiles can contain a lot of information and up to three pictures. Users can filter the cascade by age, online status, ethnicity, availability of pictures, scene and how recently someone’s joined the network. Users can even browse a list of users who’ve viewed or “favourited” them. The whole app appears to run by donation.
Bugs: Jack’d seems to have combined the best aspects of all the other cruising apps. The only downside is that profiles and pictures sometimes take a long time to load, and the interface doesn’t allow sideswiping through profiles or pictures.
Features: Billed as a kind of Grindr for bears, Scruff users will find the app fairly familiar if they’ve used Grindr before. But there are a number of additional features, including options to make your profile more detailed, link it to your Facebook page or website, and save photos that users send you. The cascade can be arranged to display only those nearby, or the “global” function allows you to chat with users thousands of miles away or to search specific cities. There’s also a function that lets you rate users on whether or not you’d be interested in them. If that user rates you similarly, you’ll both get messages alerting you. While the profiles are generally more hirsute than Grindr’s, users seem to come in all shapes, sizes and furriness. For an additional fee, you can increase your maximum number of blocks to 1,000, which still sounds like a small number.
Bugs: In the middle of our trial, Scruff developed some kind of connection error that took out the service and the Scruff website. That doesn’t bode well.
Features: The US dating site Adam4Adam has been around since 2003, although its popularity is declining.
Bugs: Maybe we’re slow, but we couldn’t get this app to display more than 16 guys. Which is a definite bug.
Features: The South African/UK-based cruising website has been around since 1999 and has more recently moved into the mobile market. Profiles can include multiple pictures, and there’s lots of room to get detailed and informative in your profile.
Bugs: Gaydar was always more popular in the UK than North America, and it doesn’t seem like the move to mobile has been hugely successful this side of the pond. A recent “nearby” search brought up men who were 100 miles away in less than 50 users. The cascade can’t be filtered by interest. Users who have free guest accounts can send messages, but they can’t initiate chats unless they subscribe to paid member accounts, which begin at $9 per month.
Features: The popular gay cruising site doesn’t have a mobile app, only a mobile-friendly version of its website. While this makes the site somewhat less convenient for smartphone users, it frees it from Apple’s puritan restrictions. In practice, this means you get to see a lot of other users’ cocks and anuses. The website will still use your GPS to tell you who’s nearest and to give you lists of nearby cruising spots.
Upgrading to full membership for $6.95 per week or $89.95 per year allows members to view more profiles and more profile details. Free members can view only paid members, while paid members can see both paid and free members.
Bugs: To get the most of this site, you really have to upgrade to full membership. But compared to the other apps we tried, Squirt does cut right to the chase.
Full disclosure: Squirt is operated by Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra.
Features: Hi-larious name. Allows multiple pics.
Bugs: Not nearly enough users to be worthwhile.
Features: Kind of a more cruisey Facebook, BoyAhoy profiles include a wall where a history of profile pics, status updates and gifts from other users are displayed. Your BoyAhoy profile can even be linked to your Facebook. The platform allows users to display multiple pics. Users buy or earn points to find out who’s checking them out, give gifts or save pics of other users (which must be vitally important for users who don’t know how to capture screenshots from their phones).
Bugs: The search function is pretty wonky, and only the “near” option is of any use. You can search users in your city, state, country or globally, but it can’t be targeted any further. And the city function has a funny habit of displaying users 40 to 60 miles away.
Features: Grindr has the most active users and has become a cultural touchstone for gay men the world over. By using a smartphone’s GPS, it finds the 100 nearest users and arranges them in a cascade for easy browsing. Users can chat in real time, send unlimited pics, block up to 10 users per day, and maintain a “favourites” list of users who’ll always be at the top of the cascade. For $2.99 per month, users can subscribe to Grindr Xtra, which puts an additional 200 users in the cascade, allows unlimited blocks and adds a number of navigational enhancements.
Bugs: Limiting the cascade to simply the 100 or 300 nearest users privileges geography over mutual interests or types. Grindr doesn’t allow much profile space for users to describe themselves, so it’s impossible to browse users by interest. Grindr allows only a single profile pic. All this combines to guarantee that every conversation will have some variation of “Hey, what’s up? Great headless torso. Got more pics? What do you do? I mean for fun. I mean sexually for fun . . .”
You can filter users by age, but not by what they’re looking for on the site. You’ll also quickly find that you see the same guys on Grindr all the time if you’re always logging in from the same place at the same time, especially if you check in from particularly gay locations, like anywhere in downtown Toronto.
Features: Can’t say. This one wouldn’t load after we downloaded it from the app store.
Features: Manhunt has a history with the gay community, having survived more than a decade since it was founded as a phone chatline in 2001. With more than four million users, it is the largest gay cruising website in the world. The mobile app combines web users with mobile users, allowing you to maximize your cruising. But mixing in desktop users eliminates geographic targeting. The app allows you to filter users by ethnicity, body type and sexual activity. For a fairly steep fee — $5 for a week, $9 for a month or $85 for a year — you can view more user pics and keep longer buddy lists.
Bugs: It’s an imperfect marriage of mobile and web platforms. Mobile profiles can’t display a lot of information (it’s a lot of “age/body type/position” profiles). Basic-version users can see only grainy thumbnail pictures of users. The mobile app doesn’t seem to have penetrated the market. In Toronto’s Village, we found only four mobile users within a mile. Lack of a real-time chat function means users must rely on a messaging function instead.
Features: Like a Grindr for the fetish community. A recent search turned up lots of users, and because of the nature of the site, you know that you’ll already share a mutual interest.
Bugs: Profiles can’t get very detailed, although a metric for how active or passive you consider yourself is a required field on every profile. You can upload only one public picture. Non-members reach their maximum profile views very quickly.
Features: This Vancouver-based upstart claims more than 300,000 members since launching in October 2010. It’s a cross-platform service that includes an app and a web version that is also trying to become a cultural hub with event listings and bloggers. The cascade seems to max out at around 260 guys, but they don’t appear to be arranged geographically. A somewhat stalker-y function allows you to browse users by their exact locations on a Google Map. For $1.99 per month, GuySpy+ enables travel mode, which allows users to browse in other cities. It also increases the number of guys users can see and cruise, and enables a function that notifies you when your favourite guys go online.
Bugs: That map function sure is creepy. You can disable your exact location from showing, however. Since GuySpy’s cascade isn’t ordered geographically and can’t be filtered by interest, it seems to combine the worst aspects of Grindr with the non-immediacy of web-based cruising.