Review of the Best Meditation Apps (That I’ve Tried)
In this post you will find a review of some of the best meditation apps (that I have tried). They also tend to be some of the most popular. I have included important factors like monthly price, amount of content available on the free plan, narrator’s voice, variety or content, if there’s a self-timer, and other value-adds that make the app unique. I do have a favorite, which I will note on that app’s details.
THE TWO MAIN FACTORS I CONSIDERED
When looking for the best meditation apps, there are a couple of factors I prioritize. This may differ from what you value, but knowing this will give you a good idea of how I’ve ranked each app.
The first factor is the price. If it’s going to cost more than $10 a month, I’m not going to pay for it. That’s not because I don’t value my meditation time, it’s because I tend to use a timer function daily and the guided meditations only 2-4 times a week. I know there are free timers out there, so the content really has to be awesome for me to pay $10/month to listen to a handful of guided meditations. I realize this may be unique, but many people are running on a tight budget, so this factor also applies to them.
If you’re charging over $10/month, you’re over-charging in my opinion. Meditation is pretty commoditized these days (I am also to blame with our zafus), but I support the meditation and mindfulness movements and that includes making these movements and their resources available to as many people as possible for as economical a price as possible. I try to make recommendations with this in mind.
CONTENT (Variety, Length & Voice)
The second factor is content. This includes variety, length, and voice. What’s most important to me is the voice. It’s pretty hard to listen to a practice with a distractingly put on, whispery “meditation” voice. So if the teacher’s voice is tough to handle, that’s a hard no for me. If the voice passes, the variety of content that the app provides comes next. I personally love body scans and visual meditations. If these types of content are in the app, I’m happy. Length is also worth considering. If there are tons of 10-minute meditations, but you like to practice for 30+ minutes, it’s not a good match. I usually go for about 20-30 minute meditations, and that’s usually the sweet spot in the best meditation apps that I have found.
Overall, there are some awesome meditation apps out there and I’m excited that the space keeps getting bigger. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the meditation apps available. It’s a list of the best meditation apps I recommend. If you go through this list and don’t see your favorite on it, please comment or shoot me an email! I would love to know which apps you love and what you love about them.
HERE ARE MY PICKS:
Calm is one of the most popular meditation apps out there. It has a huge depth of selection and was the first meditation app I ever used. While it does cost $12.99/month, if you do the $70 annual subscription (one-time full payment) it comes out to $5.83/month. Not bad! That’s a B+ value since you have to have the cash to get the monthly cost down below $10.
As far as content goes, Tamara, the main narrator, has a natural and soothing voice. One I imagine most people would agree is great for mediations. The Calm app has recently added a male narrator who you can switch to instead (this is limited to a portion of their meditations at the time of writing). His presence is still rather limited in their content, but it shows they’re expanding beyond the solo narrator model. But if you still don’t like either of their voices, you’re out of luck. Calm only has these two narrators for their meditations.
Their selection is pretty vast. They’re very into the “7 Days of ___”; which is a 7 day series of meditations centered around a single topic. These series are nice if you like to have some structure or can spend way too long looking for a meditation to do that day.
Additionally, the Calm app has individual meditations organized by categories like anxiety, sleep, relationships, and personal growth. They even have a selection for kids!
Overall, their content gets an A.
However, their free selection is pretty minimal, so you’ll have to opt for a paid plan to get any real value out of the app. Within their free selection is the timer and access to a few guided meditations.
CALM APP REVIEW BREAKDOWNiTunes Stars: 4.8, 208.5K Ratings
Free or Paid: The app is “free” but to really utilize it you will need to pay. Subscription options include:
Trial: Yes, 7 days. All their content is available on the free trial.
Free Only Content: Very limited after the free trial. The vast majority of the content gets blocked after the trial period expires. There are a few meditations and their timer is available for free.
Overall Selection: Great. It has 100s of meditations and “sleep stories” that are like bedtime stories to help you fall asleep.
Voice: 2 available for meditations (I personally love the female’s voice). Many available for their “sleep stores”.
Self-Timer: Yes. Available in the free option
User Experience: Great. Very intuitive
Value-Adds: Calm Body, Sleep Stores, and meditation selection for children
TL;DR: If you like the narrator’s voice and you can afford $5.83 or $12.99/month, it’s a no brainer. It has the most well-produced variety of content of all the paid apps.
Like the Calm app, Headspace is $12.99/month but comes out to $7.92/month if you buy their annual subscription. Headspace was created by a former monk with an awesome British accent, Andy Puddicombe. Once you download Headspace, Andy guides you through the basics of meditation and mindfulness. I appreciate this series as a requirement because it’s great to have a proper foundation when meditating. Any chance to remove the all-too-common doubt of “I’m doing it wrong” is great.
If you download the free version, this basics course is where your selection ends. This can be a barrier for users since it can be hard for a user to commit to registering for a paid subscription without having an idea of what the rest of the content library looks like. I don’t know if “price” is the right category to critique this experience in, but I’m doing it anyway and giving Headspace a C in price.
In general, Headspace offers the variety of content you’d expect from a popular meditation app. There are a number of categories (stress, personal growth, work & productivity, movement & sport, physical health, kids) that each has a series and individual meditations (including mini meditations and even eyes-open exercises).
Headspace is all about spreading health and happiness to the world. They really do offer guidance for mental and physical well-being through their content. Andy and his team have put together a great app, but there is overall less content than Calm and it’s worth noting that Headspace does not offer a self-timer. There are free self-timers out there, so it doesn’t have to be an automatic no, but it does add a level of inconvenience if you like to use a timer sometimes.
Overall, I’d give Headspace a B in content.
HEADSPACE APP REVIEW BREAKDOWNiTunes Stars: 4.9 stars, 410K ratings
Free or Paid: Headspace offers two auto-renewing subscription options:
Free Only Content: Only the meditation basics 10-day course is available.
Overall Selection: Great! 100s of meditations.
Voice: Only narrated by Andy Puddicombe.
Value-Adds: “Mindful Moments” to keep you present throughout the day. Buddy up and add your friends to meditate with you.
TL;DR: You have to like Andy’s voice and not care that there isn’t a self-timer. Great value and selection with the annual price. It’s more $2/month than Calm (when using annual pricing) for a similar experience, so I recommend Calm over Headspace.
21-DAY MEDITATION EXPERIENCE
Bear with me - this app can be buggy and its content is pretty limited. But(!) it’s worth mentioning before I get to reviewing my favorite meditation app next.
21-Day Meditation Experience is Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s app solely made to host their three-week meditation challenges. Each experience has a theme, like “Desire & Destiny”, “Manifesting Abundance” and “Perfect Health”. The overall experience is very well done. Both Oprah and Deepak narrate the daily meditations - and who couldn’t use a little more Oprah and Deepak in their life?!
Here’s how I make this buggy little app work.
- Never buy anything. Only go here for the free experience. I’ve read that their payment processing is a nightmare.
- It can prompt a sign in every day sometimes, so know your email and password.
- If you’re having trouble clicking anything within the app, just close it and reopen. Sometimes you need to log out and log back in.
- *Most important!* Regularly check if there is a free experience available. It’s always a treat when they’re offering a free one. And it’s even more of a treat when you’re aligned with the experience topic!
Overall, it’s easy to keep this app on your phone and check periodically. Oprah and Deepak make well-produced, semi-guided meditation content - it’s worth the effort to get it for free!
21-DAY MEDITATION EXPERIENCE APP REVIEW BREAKDOWN
iTunes Stars: 2.6 stars, 271 ratings.
Free or Paid: Free (new program), paid (previous programs - I don’t recommend purchasing through the app).
Free Only Content: Awesome when available
Overall Selection: Very limited
Voice: Oprah and Deepak narrate a brief introduction, then the rest is self-guided with a provided mantra.
User Experience: The app can be buggy, have patience when loading. Sometimes it’s best to close and open again.
TL;DR: Download and check periodically for their free experiences.
Insight Timer is hands down my favorite meditation app. It is the best meditation app for free content selection, self-timer, talks, and overall vibe. I love Insight Timer’s approach to running a meditation-based company. Here’s what they value:
- Best free meditation app on the planet
- Meaningful income for meditation teachers and musicians
- A commercially conscious company which is strong and sustainable
First, all of their content is free. Yup! You won’t find that anywhere else. Their subscription solely enables you to download meditations, fast forward and rewind. It doesn’t restrict your content as the other apps do. That’s an insane value when you consider teachers are uploading their content daily.
This brings me to content. Because Insight Timer sources its meditations from meditation teachers all over the world, it has the most content of all the meditation apps by far. There is amazing diversity in their selection. And you’re guaranteed to find a teacher you like since there are hundreds of them.
On top of that, their self-timer is the best one I have experienced. I highly recommend Insight Timer for any and all meditators.
INSIGHT TIMER APP REVIEW BREAKDOWN
iTunes Stars: 4.9, 91.8K
Free or Paid: Free. You can pay for courses $5-$20, donate or subscribe for the capability to download, fast forward and rewind content.
Free Only Content: All content meditations and talks are free. Paid course options.
Overall Selection: Insanely huge and varied.
Voice: Nearly unlimited.
Value-Adds: Courses (paid) and talks (free).
TL;DR: Download Insight Timer and you won’t need any other meditation app.