Best apps for dating in Shanghai

The best straight and gay dating apps for finding a match in Shanghai

Single in Shanghai and look to meet someone? Time Out round up the top straight and gay dating apps for finding a match in Shanghai, including Tinder, Tantan, Momo, Blued and Dattch

Number of users 16.5 Million in China

What is it? Tantan saves you the hassle of having to read dating profiles and lets you judge a fellow human being based purely on a photo. Potential dates appear based on location searches, using your phone’s GPS, but you can only start a conversation if you both like each other’s pic. To say this app is similar to Tinder is an understatement, though to sign up, all you’ll need is a Chinese mobile number. 

Best feature One neat little addition that Tantan has is the ability to add videos to your profile – queue hundreds of awkward or hilarious performances from random strangers.

Get it tantanapp.cn (iPhone, Android)




Number of users 180 million registered users in China

What is it? Though previously available in both English and Chinese, the English version of this app was discontinued earlier this year with promises of a new, better version soon to come. For now, Momo’s Chinese app combines the traits of a traditional dating website, complete with profiles and images, with location-based data to find users near you. For better or worse, Momo has gained a reputation as being a hook-up app, so don’t be surprised if you get hit on several times a day. 

Best feature Groups with shared interests help you meet people who are looking for more.

Get it immomo.com (iPhone, Android, Windows)




Number of users Approximately 22-24 million users worldwide

What is it? One of the most popular dating apps among Western audiences, Tinder has a simple structure, allowing users to swipe right to like, or left to reject, potential dates. When your choices match you can start a conversation and take it from there. Logging in uses your Facebook account so you’ll need a VPN to get going but after that you can swipe till your heart’s content. 

Best feature The Tinder Moments feature lets you add and share pictures with your matches, which then disappear after 24 hours.

Get it www.gotinder.com (iPhone, Android)




Number of users 70,000 across Asia.

What is it? Bears, otters, wolves, cubs, pups, bulls, gym rats – there’s a veritable zoo of subcultures in the gay community, which 9Monsters’ premise is built upon. The Japanese software is to all intents and purposes a ‘concept’ app, which relies on our willingness to buy into such labels: upon registration, you must categorise yourself as either a Muscle Wolf, Lovely Dog, Slim Cat, Cool Monkey, Sporty Panther, Chubby Piggy, Wild Bear, Bulky Bison, or Athlete Kong. Yes, really.

9Monsters is part dating app, part game. After you’ve chosen what sort of monster you reckon you are, you start off as an egg, and you wait, Tamagotchi-style. From here, it all revolves around the sinister-sounding ‘breeding’. Once you’ve bred with someone, you can’t un-breed, and you’ll start to get an indication of what your type is. There’s a twist in that users categorise each other, so while you might think you’re a Cool Monkey, you’re actually a Chubby Piggy – so if you take a moment to suspend your disbelief at such a quite-frankly-insane-sounding way of finding a boyfriend, it certainly says something interesting about your own self-perception versus other people’s.

Best feature Messages are automatically translated, meaning that you don’t have to worry about the language barrier. Until you meet up, that is, which we imagine would be much trickier. You can also ‘howl’ to get users to notice you.

Get it ninemonsters.com (iPhone, Android)




Number of users 15 million worldwide.

What is it? We don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Blued changed everything for gay men in China, offering individuals in small towns and rural areas the opportunity to connect. The app recently made international press due to a 30 million USD investment, and its userbase surpasses that of Grindr, making it the biggest in the world – which founder Geng Le expects to double this year. Logging on, it’s certainly apparent that Blued is hugely active – we received over 30 messages in the first couple of hours and our profile picture didn’t even show our face.

Blued is in Chinese only. Somebody helped us get registered and after that pressing buttons was pure guesswork, although it’s all pretty intuitive. Now that they’ve got the megabucks, foreign-language versions are expected to roll out. There’s also a lesbian version in the works – Pinked. See what they did there?

Best feature Many dating apps have evolved to incorporate elements of social media, which gives users the reassuring sense that people’s online profiles aren’t totally divorced from reality. Feeding into WeChat and Weibo, Blued is one of these apps with a WeChat Moments-style function to show whatever you feel like – we scrolled through everything from biceps and bums to pizzas and Japanese manga porn. You can also upload a gallery of images on your static profile, so really you get much more of a feel for the other person than from just a cock-shot on Grindr.

Get it www.blued.cn (iPhone, Android, Windows)




Number of users As yet undisclosed.

What is it? Brenda, Wing Ma’am, Laven – there’s a number of lesbian apps on the market, but none of them have quite taken off, not least because users often report finding themselves fending off the advances of straight men wanting threesomes. The other big problem is that all of them simply mimick gay men apps. But now, Danish entrepreneur Robyn Sexton has introduced the most exciting dating app to emerge since Tinder. Dattch, a portmanteau of ‘date’ and ‘catch’, hasn’t officially launched yet in China, but Exton hopes it will this year. ‘We’ve had a huge amount of interest from the Chinese market, and we think it’s going to be one the most exciting territories to enter,’ she tells us, adding that Shanghai and Beijing will be their first targets.

Like Tinder, Dattch is hooked into your Facebook profile, meaning only those who identify as female can register. Users can, however, still register even if they aren’t on Facebook simply by emailing some personal information to the Dattch team. From here, the app’s functions very much cater for the way women behave online – for instance, the fact that users can save profiles easily on a ‘Wishlist’. Those looking for a quick match, however, can play the ‘Would You Rather’ game.

Best feature Dattch has taken a lot of its inspiration from Pinterest, and as such user profiles are very image-focused – not just selfies, but anything they like, creating ‘mood boards’ to reflect their personalities.

Get it dattch.com (iPhone, Android)




Number of users 3 million worldwide.

What is it? If other apps feel seedy to you, then Hornet might be a good option, since it’s marketed as something altogether more conscientious for the gay community. The app also delivers on the tech front, packing in a number of interesting features with a pleasing, glossy design to match.

Safety and security are two big buzzwords in the Hornet hive, and not just when it comes to sexual health (see below). Hornet operates using an HTTPS connection and SSL certificates, which are the same ones that online banking services use. Users also have full control of a private portion of their image uploads, meaning you can keep a degree of anonymity. Otherwise there’s a Tinder-style ‘swipe’ function to help you sort the hogs from the hotties, you can forward profiles to friends, and change your location if you’re travelling somewhere and want to browse ahead. Unfortunately you can’t see who’s checked you out, although that means you can perv freely on people without getting busted.

Best feature Hornet works hard to integrate social issues into the user experience. There’s a ‘Know Your Status’ option which allows you to display your HIV status and the app even supplies regular reminders to get tested.

Get it gthrnt.com (iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire)




Number of users 7 million worldwide.

What is it? ‘Hairy is a plus’; ‘Love beards’; ‘Not into smooth’: gays go gaga for body hair, and that’s exactly why Scruff exists. Since Chinese men aren’t exactly known for their hirsute-ness, the term ‘bear’ here tends to account for size more than anything else, but Scruff is an active app here in Shanghai nonetheless. Then again, its global userbase these days comprises a pretty broad spectrum of body types, so it’s not all that different from Grindr – in fact it’s better, because you don’t need a VPN to use it.

Users can group themselves in a ‘community’ – with labels such as ‘twink’, ‘military’, ‘leather’, ‘trans’ and, of course, ‘bear’ – and use a filter function to search specifically through their desired group. Like the look of someone but not sure what to say? Use the ‘woof’ function. Quite a few people seem to be more verbose than they are hairy – unlike many apps, there’s no limit to how much you can write about yourself.

Best feature If you’re not sure whether to send a message or not, you can scroll through a person’s ‘Insights’, a collection of neat infographics illustrating how often somebody responds to messages; which communities they frequently exchange messages with; age group; and body hair.

Get it www.scruff.com (iPhone, Android, Windows)

Mat Gallagher and John Ovans

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