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Guide: Headspace vs Calm: Best Meditation App for You
While there are several great meditation apps, there are always two at the top: Calm and Headspace. I’ve been a Headspace user since last year until recently when I let my subscription expire. Especially since my friend was nagging me to try out the Calm app.
Let’s take a look at how these two meditation apps stack up and differ in terms of prices, guided meditation sessions and usability. We will also discuss how effective they are because that’s the most important thing at the end of the day.
1. App interface
If you are a beginner, both Headspace and Calm will help you get started with easy and simple steps. When you open Calm for the first time, you will be asked to select your goals. I chose to improve focus, sleep better and learn to meditate. There are a few other options. That makes the interface less crowded and allows you to see what is important to you. Someone Before Bed by Matthew McConaughey?
Headspace takes a similar approach where the user interface is beautiful and easy to use. Different courses focus on different aspects of life. You start with the basic course which is divided into 3 parts with 10 sessions each – a journey of 30 days. Then there are different courses for stress, work, and so on.
In both apps, each session is not made available until you complete the previous one. So you cannot jump forward. You can download the sessions on your phoneBoth Calm and Headspace use bright colors in their user interface, which is strangely satisfying.
Headspace uses short animated videos to explain what the course is about, while Calm uses nature-inspired background music and wallpapers to keep you interested. I’d rather listen to the explanation – help me understand what to do before the journey begins.back to menu ↑
2. The sessions
Andy Puddicombe is the voice behind all sessions you go through in Headspace. He trained as a Buddhist monk and studied meditation on his travels through Asian countries before starting Headspace. I found his voice with a British accent very gentle and soothing.
At Calm, it’s Tamara Levitt whose voice is equally soothing and soft, but with an American accent and has over 20 years of experience. In Calm you can also change the narrator to John Armstrong. He is a teacher at Stanford’s Life Design Lab.
Headspace begins with 3-10 minute sessions of the Basic Course lasting 30 days – plenty of time to get used to practicing mindfulness. Quiet sessions are similar in length and scope and will help you answer questions such as what to do, why to do it, and how to do it. Both apps provide precise instructions that are easy to follow. Take a deep breath, relax your body, think XYZ, and so on.
There are short breaks in the sessions where no one is speaking. That’s where you practice. I liked them both equally. However, headspace is more direct and gets to the point faster. Calm will share some facts and research before telling you what to do. While it shows they’ve done their homework, those with shorter attention spans can distract it.
When it comes to variety, Calm is the clear winner. There are sessions for different aspects of life, a music tab where you can listen to different nature inspired sounds such as falling water, waves and more. Then there are bedtime stories that will help you fall asleep quickly.
Headspace is more linear and wants you to continue with the guided meditations. No wallpapers, no music, and no stories here. A more focused approach. Calm also has a breathing section where you can set the duration of the rhythm in and out. It’s pretty cool.
Headspace uses gamification to keep you busy. There are achievements to unlock and goals to be achieved. Calm will show you a calendar with each day you meditated on it. They call it the Streak. I think gamification is a time-tested technique that is also used in several other health and fitness apps.
Headspace urges you to follow a program for a set number of days, while Calm directs one, which is a new technique you can try. Again, Calm focuses more on variety.back to menu ↑
3. Prices and platform
Both Calm and Headspace are available on Android and iOS. Headspace’s free plan takes you on a 30-day journey and covers the basics of meditation. After that, the plan starts at $ 12.99 / month or you can pay $ 399.99 as a one-time fee.
With Calm you get 7 days of premium access, after which a subscription will cost you $ 59.99 per year, or you can pay a one-time fee of $ 299.99.
Although Calm seems cheaper every year, you have to pay a hefty amount in one go. Headspace is more expensive but comes with a monthly subscription which is better for testing the waters before you commit on a long term basis.back to menu ↑
A WSJ report says these two meditation apps cover 85% of the $ 1.2 billion meditation market. Both are great meditation apps, period. Headspace is focused on the journey and offers guided meditations. In addition, it helps if the founder is a Buddhist monk. He practiced before he began to preach.
Rest, on the other hand, is more bang for your buck. Aside from guided meditations as discussed earlier, you will get features such as music, wallpapers, sounds and bedtime stories. While these apps are suitable for beginners, they are a means to an end. So which app are you going to try out first?
The next up: Had a long day? Relax? Here are 3 iOS apps to help you relax.back to menu ↑
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