Free to browse and message members. Shows the total number of users currently online. Active user base.
Awful interface. Personality assessment tests have to be completed quickly, or they time out. Some profile sections are behind a paywall. Easy to confuse ads for user profiles.
Plenty of Fish has awful Web design on the back and front ends, but it may be a decent choice for those who want to find a date without opening their wallets.
Want to chat and message with fellow singles ASAP? Plenty of Fish—or as it’s commonly known, POF—bills itself as the dating app where the most conversations take place. They’re serious about getting you talking to people and claim a billion messages are sent every month. What’s the secret to all of that message activity? POF is one of the few dating apps that allow you to contact a fellow member without subscribing. That makes it one of the most immediately usable dating apps. While it’s not as feature-rich and easy-to-use as our Editors’ Choice, Match, it’s a viable alternative for singles on a budget who are looking for love.
Getting Started With POF
Founded in 2003, POF is one of the more mature dating services and predates the smartphone app era. It has successfully transitioned into the modern age, with both an iOS app and Android app, but it still has a desktop version if you prefer to go old school. I primarily used the Android app during my testing, but I took a dip into the desktop site as well.
As mentioned, POF is here to get you talking to folks. When I signed in, a “who’s chatting now” counter showed me that there were 136,882 conversations happening at that moment, although what qualifies as “chatting” isn’t defined. Rather than ease you in one question at a time, POF hits you up with a parade of questions on a single screen, which makes the signup process a bit less user friendly compared with competing apps like Match and eHarmony that have a more streamlined, if exhaustive, process. Our other Editors’ Choice, Tinder, is geared more toward the hookup scene, and prioritizes photos during signup.
An extensive CAPTCHA sequence similar to, but not as extensive as, the one you’ll go through signing up for OkCupid follows. (Since the two apps share the same parent company, the use of the same tools isn’t surprising.) You then face a barrage of dating preference questions similar to the ones other apps ask you, but a few interesting ones stood out. For example, POF asked if I drove a car and how “ambitious” I was. In the marital status section, it also offered a “not single/not looking” option, which seems odd for a dating app. Strangely, in a later question, that status doesn’t preclude you from having to answer a question about who you want to date.
Other asks include your income and information about your parents and siblings. After adding a brief description of yourself and a few interests, along with a photo, you can start looking for matches. One safety feature I appreciate is POF’s warning to not give away too much personal information, such as your name, phone number, or address on your profile page.
Interface and Profiles
POF’s interface is a bit simplistic and fairly dated. The main screen has a lot of blank space that simply looks like a design flaw, and the icons have a “My First Dating Site” vibe. Unlike other apps though, POF puts messaging front and center, prioritizing your inbox and a list of users who POF deems more likely to respond to messages. Including the Will Respond profiles is a nice way to highlight members who are most likely to give you the time of day. OkCupid also offers users the opportunity to message for free, but doesn’t make it quite as easy as POF does. As with any free dating app, though, you run the chance of encountering casual users who want to dabble without committing to a paying plan.
The search function operates with your standard filter options—age, intent, ethnicity, and body type—plus the ability to search by the length of your potential match’s longest relationship. (“You haven’t spent more than eight years with someone? Then you’re not for me!”) You can also sort by income if you’re looking for a sugar daddy or mommy. There’s a Nearby function for when you just need to chat with someone within 0.5 miles and a More Prospects field at the bottom of most screens to keep you “fishing” longer. Unfortunately, I found that even when I wasn’t being terribly picky, my search would net a No Results Found response. The search function can also be a bit laggy; most times that I tried to refine my search, it took a few extra seconds to run, whereas this function was instantaneous in my testing of most other apps.
The search process is better on the desktop version of the service—but profiles are covered in ads and links to other profiles, so much so that I was often confused about where I had landed when clicking on a profile. The site also uses potentially face-reddening page titles like Search for Cute Girls. There’s no option to link your Spotify and Instagram accounts, nor a way to provide any other evidence of your existence outside of POF.
If your search nets someone you would like to reach out to, the process is quick and painless. At the top of every profile is a large Send Message button, which takes you straight into a field that shows the person’s photo, age, and screen name at the top—plus whether they’re currently online. To help you start the conversation, the screen also shows a list of things the user enjoys. POF prompts you to mention something specific about their profile, likely in an effort to keep the “lol u up jk” messages to a minimum. You also have the option to send the message as Priority, which floats you to the top of the receiver’s inbox. Of course, that will cost you extra (more on that in a minute).
One unique and helpful feature that POF offers is the Spark option. Click on the quotation mark in the upper left corner of a profile and you get an icon you can drag over a photo or text. This allows you to highlight a portion of a profile that’s particularly interesting to you and you can use it to “spark” a conversation. It’s a quick way to call out something you find interesting or want to learn more about, and it’s helpful and fun to use.
Individual profiles feel more or less like spreadsheets—tons of data, with nothing particularly highlighted or featured. The Meet Me function works like Tinder with the option to swipe left or right to quickly scan through profiles (an option most apps have now).
Plenty of Fish trumpets its number of conversations for one main reason—messaging is free on the app. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to ask for your money, though. If someone likes you, POF will prompt you to upgrade your account to see who it is. Upgraded accounts also get access to a list of the newest users (who respond more to messages, or so POF says) plus you can unlock the extended profile of all users, which is basically gives answers to a few extra questions and preferences. Plans start at $19.99 for a single month, or as low as $6.99 per month for a one-year commitment. These fees are on the low side compared with apps like Match and eHarmony that charge upwards of $40 for a monthly subscription.
With the upgraded plan, you can also see if you’ve messaged someone before—which is helpful if you spend an extended time on the app and don’t want to reengage with someone you previously wrote off. You also get receipts when your messages have been read, and in some super-sneaky tracking, you can even see when someone views your profile and when a particular person was last online.
Like other dating sites, POF lets you boost your profile using Tokens, which cost $1.69 to $1.99, depending on how many you buy, along with SuperYes-es which are basically a way to say you really think you like someone. You can also use Tokens to make your message a priority, which, as mentioned, pushes it to the top of the receiver’s inbox. It’s the dating app version of jumping the line at the club.
Get the Message
Considering that most dating apps charge you to message other members, POF offers a huge value in not making you pay for this feature. It’s not as full-featured as our Editors’ Choice dating app, Match, but it’s a good way to get your feet wet in the dating pool without spending a ton of money. And even if you do choose to subscribe, the fees are lower than its competitors. Its prompts to start meaningful conversations with other members makes Plenty of Fish feel like less of a meet market than apps like Tinder, which are based more on photos and less on conversations.