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. The company is serious about getting you talking to people and claims a billion messages are sent on its platform every month. What is the secret to all of that message activity? POF is one of the few dating apps that allow you to contact any fellow users without matching or subscribing. That makes it one of the most immediately usable dating apps. While it is not as feature-rich or easy-to-use as our Editors’ Choice, Match, it is a viable alternative for singles on a budget who are looking for love.
Getting Started With Plenty of Fish
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.
As mentioned, POF is here to get you talking to folks. When you sign in, a Who’s Chatting Now counter shows you the tens of thousands of conversations happening at that moment, although what qualifies as chatting is not 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 than those of competing apps like Match and eHarmony, which have a more streamlined, if exhaustive, process. Our other Editors’ Choice, Tinder, is geared more toward the hookup scene, so it prioritizes photos during sign-up.
An extensive CAPTCHA sequence similar to, but not as extensive as, the one you go through signing up for OkCupid follows. (Since the two apps share the same parent company, the use of the same tools is not 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 in our testing. For example, POF asks if you drive a car and how ambitious you are. In the marital status section, it also offers a Not Single/Not Looking option. That status does not, however, preclude you from having to answer a question about whom you want to date.
Other questions 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 appreciated safety feature is POF’s warning to not give away too much personal information, such as your name, phone number, or address on your profile page. There is no option to link your Spotify and Instagram accounts, nor a way to provide any other evidence of your existence outside of POF.
Interface and Profiles
POF’s interface used to be a bit simplistic and fairly dated. Fortunately, recent redesigns have done away with that My First Dating Site vibe, especially on mobile. 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. However, you are free to ignore these guidelines and message anyone you want from anywhere at any time.
OkCupid also offers users the opportunity to message for free but doesn’t make it quite as easy as POF does, and messages are limited to introductions to folks you’ve already liked. The only limits for POF accounts in good standing (not blocked or flagged as inappropriate) are that you can only message 55 new people per 24 hours and your age gap must be less than 14 years, or 9 years if you’re under 22. This is pretty generous. 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. If you find yourself receiving too much spam, you can disable messaging on your profile.
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 are not for me!”) You can also sort by income if you are looking for a sugar daddy or mommy. There is 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, even if you are not being terribly picky, your search might still net a No Results Found response or your search will be broadened for you.
If your search nets someone you would like to reach out to, the process is quick and painless. Profiles show the person’s photo, age, and screen name at the top—and whether they are 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).
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 anyone is free on the app. That does not mean POF is not going to ask for your money, though. If someone likes you, the app prompts 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) and you can unlock the extended profile of all users, which gives answers to a few extra questions and preferences. Plans start at $19.99 for a single month, or as low as $9.99 per month for an eight-month commitment. These fees are on the low side compared with apps like Match and eHarmony, which charge upwards of $40 for a monthly subscription.
With the upgraded plan, you can also see if you have messaged someone before—which is helpful if you spend extensive time on the app, take advantage of its generous messaging limits, or do not want to accidentally and awkwardly re-engage with someone you forgot you previously wrote off. You also get receipts when your messages have been read, and, with 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 Super Yes-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 is the dating app version of jumping the line at the club.
Social Distancing With Plenty of Fish
The COVID-19 pandemic has most of us either locked down or doing our best to stay away from other people to stop the spread of the disease. To compensate, dating apps have offered their own virtual dating options to replace physical interactions. POF’s solution is unique: Mobile users can live-stream themselves and interact with live streams from other members. Beyond using video to build intimate interpersonal relationships, multiple people watching these streams builds a neat little POF community. You can even play streaming games or watch dating advice lectures on, say, dating during a quarantine.
Other dating apps with built-in video chat include Bumble and eHarmony. The company that owns POF also owns Hinge, Match, OkCupid, and Tinder. However, out of those only Match offers video chatting. Tinder lets you match with people beyond just who is nearby. Hinge lets you set up a video chat on a different app. Meanwhile, Facebook Dating takes advantage of fellow Facebook services such as Messenger and the experimental Tuned app for quarantined couples.
Get the Message
Considering that most dating apps put some kind of limitation on how you message other users, POF offers a huge value by removing basically all barriers for this feature. It is not as full-featured as our Editors’ Choice dating app, Match, but it is a good way to get your feet wet in the dating pool without spending a ton of money. In addition, even if you do choose to subscribe, the fees are lower than those of its competitors. Its prompts to start meaningful conversations with other members makes Plenty of Fish feel like less of a meat market than apps like Tinder, which are based more on photos and less on conversations.
Very few messaging limits
Many prompts to send quality messages
Free messaging could mean more spam users
Can’t link outside accounts like Instagram or Spotify