A meditation app became an instant necessity in 2020, as we were slapped in the face with an ordeal that demanded a holistic approach. You may have tried one before, but let me show you how you can either affirm your chosen app to be worth the slash on your budget, or whether it’s time to jump in to another one. I would really want to name this post as Top Meditation Apps Reviewed – What They Haven’t Told You and What Makes Each of Them Unique, but the SEO world might hate it well enough to kick me out of the online sphere.

What I choose to offer, on the other hand, is a quick comparison that no one has ever done before. Here I will discuss some nitty-gritty details that other reviews may have left out, or simply have overlooked. I will not delve deeper on the descriptions per app, because these meditation apps are so popular, you may have read or tried it before. 

The usual case would be: you have read a review it sounds so good you already jumped into the app that looks best, and so you love it so much you wouldn’t even want to try out something else (or you are tied to an annual subscription already). I have tried all of these apps, hence I will show you how each one is almost similar but equally unique at the same time.

If it were a media platform

Here is a quick comparison of my top 5 meditation apps. I compared them to your usual social media platform to give an idea about the user experience. It varies per location, or whether you are purchasing it via iTunes or Google Play. Promo codes may not be available in the app version too.

Meditation Apps Reviewed - UX compared to social media

So, let’s get into the details.

1. Calm

Websitehttps://www.calm.com/

Best for: meditators who are also pop culture fanatics, parents (for their kids – especially if they lack the energy to read their children a bedtime story)

Calm down, it’s just Harry Styles!

If you like pop culture and music, this one is for you. Calm is the hardest one to beat in terms of offering exclusive content from popular musicians and celebrities. Not that a celebrity would make a meditation app wonderful, because that’s purely marketing, but because some of those are still offered even if you’re not subscribed. That means, the app can still be useful to you even if you wouldn’t bother paying. Calm also offers a lifetime membership ($366), and they update their celebrity (okay, instructor) offerings from time to time. They also have ASMR options.

Lebron James for Calm
Lebron James for Calm

Class count (approximation): Anxiety – 27; Beginners – 14; Calm body – 8 

Calm offers its classes in series type. Hence, if you would want to cultivate an intention or a virtue such as gratitude, there’s one whole series for that, only under one instructor. I don’t consider that as Calm’s strength, because I always value various techniques and a mindfully-curated platform. There are only 1-2 classes under a category that would be available in the free version. 

What it has that other’s don’t

Lebron James, Harry Styles, Matthew McConaughey and other celebrities as your readers; Calm Mix (music) featuring popular musicians such as Ellie Goulding

What to love even without subscription

Sam Smith’s How Do You Sleep, which is experimental, dreamy, precise and sharp that it doesn’t sound pop enough (which is lovely)  and Kygo’s Golden Hour Calm Mix

Sam Smith’s How Do You Sleep? and Kygo’s Calm Mix are still available in the free version. And it feels good to do this on repeat. Calm lives up to its brand name, as these playlists are perfect to calm you down. Even Sam Smith’s.

2. Tide

Websitehttps://tide.fm/en_US/

Best for: people curious about meditation, but not decided enough to start their journey

Finding the beauty in the simplest things

Tide can also be considered to feel like you’re navigating through a self-help blog. It offers articles about meditation or tips like “4 Ways to Make Your Monday Productive”. I appreciate Tide’s inspirational quote per day that will welcome you as you open the app. While there are nature sounds available too, Tide is the only app that offers a library of mundane sounds or urbanscapes to create a rhythm so familiar to us that we tend to overlook its beauty. Stop and smell the roses–the mundane is actually a gateway to transcendence.

What it has that other’s don’t

Nothing. Just kidding. The special part would be the quotes of the day glossed over instagrammable layouts and unique wallpapers, with mundane soundscapes repetitive enough to relax you. The sustained rhythm in these sounds (which can actually be played as background music for any meditation class) resonates with your breathing pattern. 

Tide’s interface is so simple, but beautiful, nonetheless. Likewise, its offerings are simple too you can’t progress much in your meditation practice. It feels like you can actually finish all the meditation classes not even in a year. Also, Tide does not offer special classes such as “cultivating gratitude”.

The music feels cinematic to me, not meditative. Tide positions itself as if you’re just browsing through Instagram, and checking in with your friend. The speaker in all of the classes is just one person, just like in Headspace. But sometimes, I would like to check-in with other “friends” too. The meditation format is consistent (but boring): breathwork-emotions-affirmation. No visualization, and there is a lot of silence.

If you are a beginner who wants to experiment about the meditation experience, this one’s for you.

What to love even without subscription

Nothing. Get out of here after your free trial. Go to Calm. Tide should level up to what they’re competing against. All of what they are offering are in the other apps listed here. Nothing special other than your quotes glossed over instagrammable nature photos, and urbanscapes–some of which make me cringe (i.e., pencil).

You don’t really need to pay to “stop and smell the roses,” because what you need to cultivate is your discipline to make meditation a habit. If you like to meditate over the repetitive strokes of your pencil, then do it on your own. 

Availability: Free download and available instantly also via Amazon (fair energy exchange applies, Amazon pays me shall you take my recommendation – but in this case I think Amazon pays me nothing, coz it’s free!)

3. 10 Percent Happier

Websitehttps://www.tenpercent.com/

Best for: Skeptics and bored meditators

This app will entertain you well enough, and next thing you know you are in love with meditation.  

Personally, I would describe 10 Percent Happier as the only meditation channel in the world, and this is one of the best reasons this app is worth the subscription. While the annual plan is quite expensive than the rest, it is mindfully produced and innovative in a sense that it brings meditation to the non-practitioner. Its production value promotes meditation in an unconventional way.

Meditation Apps Reviewed - 10 Percent Happier
Ten Percent Happier

Founded and hosted by TV news personality Dan Harris, it feels like watching his lifestyle show. Each class has a video with an interview or a background of the topic, hence, it feels like you are watching a wellness docu-series on Netflix. Topics are socially relevant, and interviews are infused with Dan Harris’ humor, so even sensitive topics (i.e., racism) are approached in an light-hearted, but ethical manner.

Class count (approximation): 27 (around 5-7 episodes); singles are categorized under topics

What it has that other’s don’t

Humor and social relevance. Dan Harris interviews the meditation coach before the start of each session, and then the coach leads the session. The app also has an Ask a Question functionality, which is easily accessible under your profile page. You can “get guidance from a living, breathing meditation coach with over a decade of experience” through this area. In short, self-care and emotional support have never been easier through this app.

What to love even without subscription

Coronavirus Sanity compilation of short meditation classes and other talks (i.e., Racism, Science of Anxiety). There are also available talks and single meditation classes available for the free version, but these are just a few. So, you are almost locked out once your subscription ends.

This app may not be for seasoned meditators, but it offers a different and evidenced-based perspective through the learn-then-meditate format. And the insights will actually make you 10 percent happier. They are living up to their brand name in that regard.

4. Headspace

Websitehttps://www.headspace.com/

Best for: Beginners who have decided to build a meditation habit 

Meditation Apps Reviewed - Headspace app
Headspace’s trademark: the animated visuals

Founded by Andy Puddicombe (who used to be a Buddhist monk) with Richard Pierson, Headspace gives you the experience of meditation as a journey. It feels like the TED-Ed of meditation, wherein common but still difficult to understand concepts (i.e., emotions) and meditation jargons (i.e., visualization technique) are explained in a simple manner, with visuals to make it a lot easier. Moreover, it feels like a virtual coaching tool where you learn to understand your own journey towards your self.

Headspace feels like a maze and a journey, like a gameboard you roll the dice, then discover and grow your journey. The other lessons will be revealed only as you go along, so you are in it for the ride. 

Cool offerings: Techniques 101, Pregnancy, workouts, community

Accessibility outside iTunes and Google Play: enable free via Alexa (how cool is that?); new: via Snapchat

What it has that other’s don’t

Its proprietary animation works best for visual learners. Emotions are most of the time difficult to understand. Some people just feel like there’s a hole inside of them, and that they were born incomplete. Headspace explains this to you visually (cute graphics, if I may say) so you could understand those vague emotions that keep dragging you down to the darkest space of your subconscious.

You can work based on an emotion, and it offers a performance mindset journey, including a partnership with NBA (Finding Focus x NBA).

What to love even without subscription

Nothing. Only 2 sleep guides are free after the trial. Roll the dice and go to #5.

5. Insight Timer

Websitehttps://insighttimer.com/

Best for: beginners who likes to discover, and seasoned meditators alike who wish to deepen their practice

Meditation Apps Reviewed - Insight Timer - learn empathy
Insight Timer options to meditate about empathy

What it has that other’s don’t

Free forever; instructor (and voice) variety, Solfeggio frequencies, angelic transmission (there’s a lot, really; just trying to be concise here) 

I actually wonder why the other popular apps didn’t even bother picking up on these features. The first app I subscribed to was Headspace. And I left instantly just because I got bored listening to a single voice over and over. 

I don’t think meditation deserves to get bored from, and these other apps are missing out on that. Meditation is enjoyable, and in my opinion, meditation doesn’t need a celebrity to endorse it. You don’t need a David Lynch to tell you discover transcendental meditation, because meditation is inherently magical, cross-disciplinary, and expansive, you do not even have to convince an individual to take a bite. But when you do position yourself of convicing people to stay on your app, then you might want to consider your intention of how you provide value to your users. That is precisely the reason why I consider Insight Timer as the best meditation app of 2020. You are allowed to explore, and it’s free forever. If you want to explore more about how you can maximize Insight Timer, check out my comprehensive review here.

Insight Timer does not only allow you to deepen your meditation practice, but also your spiritual consciousness. I credit all my manifestations through Insight Timer. That’s why I consider this app as the best meditation app in 2020 (and maybe even in 2021!)

What to love even without subscription

Everything. It is fully beneficial even if you won’t subscribe to Premium, because you will have access to all classes. They won’t lock you out, not even almost.

Meditation classes are free. To reiterate: forever. They even allow users to donate to specific instructors. If you wish to support the service, you can purchase or be an Insight Premium member for $65 annually. This is only if you wish to have unlimited access to masterclasses. 

Among all of the apps mentioned here, only Insight Timer offer a variety of instructors, a wide array of visualization, angelic transmission, healing, and value cultivation practices. There is also a community engagement aspect, wherein any user can rate each class, so you will have an idea whether a class would be enriching or not. Pace is the same for all the rest, and Insight Timer gives you the freedom to customize your practice. And it will not be at the mercy of the developer.

Again, if you wish to learn more about Insight Timer, check out my in-depth evaluation here

Final thoughts

Stop trying to afford Headspace and Calm. Stop getting tied to a meditation app that teaches self-discovery and focusing techniques that are conditional. 

All of them offers anxiety and stress-relief classes, sleep music, lectures, and a free trial. Set an intention and ask for a sign, just so you would know which one to pick. Take the one that would deepen your practice, at a cost that feels like not having to cost you at all. Because commitment becomes too easy if you enjoy it. 

Are you already subscribed to a meditation app? What is your favorite? Please feel free to share with me any other experience that is worth sharing about your favorite meditation app. The beauty of meditation is always worth sharing. /highfive!


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