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Guide: Headspace vs Insight Timer: Best Meditation App For You
Meditation apps are emerging with heavyweights like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer leading the race and fighting for domination. After all, it is a big business. A recent report from ResearchAndMarket estimates the US market for meditation apps at over $ 1 billion.
For clients, meditation apps provide a way to learn meditation, be mindful and stay focused.
After a year of being a Headspace user I started looking at the alternatives and found Insight Timer. Andy Puddicombe, a monk turned businessman, owns Headspace. He wants to learn meditation and help you practice it by following his strong and relaxing British accent.
Christopher and Nicholas Plowman have Insight Timer and want to create a community of meditators and teachers. Insight Timer aims to be a platform for teachers to teach or sell their meditation methods and meditators to monitor and assess them.back to menu ↑
1. App interface
Headspace has a neat interface where you will see lots of animated characters trying to convey what the course is about. There is a library tab where you can find all the courses available. The app now offers a new tab called Sleep, which is something new since my last visit. We will discuss it later in the guideThere are different categories such as stress, illness (there is one for cancer patients), relationships and so on.
Insight Timer is more about the community. There is a Today tab with new daily meditations for you. For some reason, Insight Timer thinks I should know the number of active users in the world before I meditate. There is a handy timer to time your sessions. Finally, there is a Courses tab that is self-explanatory.
Both apps are based on material design. However, Headspace looks a bit more flawless and makes you want to use it often.back to menu ↑
2. Courses and sessions
We install the apps to help us take a course and learn or improve at meditation. Headspace comes with a 30-day beginner plan with 10 sessions, with each session having 3 parts called Basics. Each part starts with an introduction and an animated video. Each session lasts approximately 10 minutes.
The sessions and the course help you estimate what to expect from it. The courses are suitable for beginners who don’t know where to start.
Insight Timer has a short beginners course of 7 days. Apart from that, you can choose from more than 12,000 meditations. Yes, I felt lost too.
Where Andy Puddicombe is the only voice you hear in Headspace, there are many teachers on Insight Timer. If you don’t like one, there is always another – options are always good.
You choose a category or use the search to find niches such as sleep, focus, healing, and so on. When you open a course, you will see playtime, user ratings and teacher name. It is a marketplace and a thriving market. You can follow the individual teachers, read reviews, send messages and interact with users, and create bookmarking sessions.
Where you get consistency in Headspace, you get variety and community in Insight Timer.
Andy has a very calming voice, and there are plenty of breaks between his sessions for you to follow his instructions. Insight Timer has many courses and not all of them are created equal. Different approaches and techniques combined with different teaching methods and accents make it more difficult to narrow down. For example, 5 Minutes to Focus had long breaks, while Robert Plotkin’s Evening Productivity had no break at all.
Headspace has introduced Sleepcasts which are a combination of guided exercise and ambient sounds to help you sleep better and faster. Headspace uses gamification that unlocks achievements for consistency. Works for some people I guess, but not for me.
Not to be outdone, Insight Timer has a music section where you can find hundreds of music focused on different atmospheres such as water, forest, and so on. You can filter these sounds by length, category and most played. Insight Timer has a similar gamification system that lets you unlock milestones to be consistent.
You will find that some of these audio clips take almost 1 hour. These are more suitable for meditating or simply relaxing than trying to sleep. However, some users claim to sleep better with background noise.back to menu ↑
3. Community and timer
The power of Insight Timer comes from its active community. The app claims to have nearly 6 million meditators. Unfortunately, you cannot add users who have left reviews on a course or session as your friend. You can only do this on the home page where the most recently active users are listed. What if they don’t follow the same teacher or sessions? That defeats the purpose of having a community.
I liked the timer feature in the Insight Timer. You can set a time limit before you start meditating so that you don’t lose track of the time. Choose an interval indicated by a sound, then choose the music. Suppose a 12-minute session has 3 intervals, with you hearing a thing after every 4 minutes. That’s a subtle way to keep track of your sessions. I also use it during workouts to keep track of my HIITs. Just save it as a preset. Or do you use it while cooking?
Sounds are enchanting and remind me of the Tibetan monastery I recently visited in Coorg. Luckily it was prayer time during my visit so I got to hear the symphony of the singing, the music and the gong.back to menu ↑
4. Prices and platform
Headspace and Insight Timer apps are available on Android and iOS platforms. Both focus mobile users, which makes sense given that the meditation sessions last only 5 minutes. That means you can practice new Zen habits everywhere.
Headspace’s free plan comes with 30 sessions, which equates to 1 month. You can repeat these sessions as many times as you want. After that, it will cost you $ 7.99 / month paid per year, or you can upgrade to the lifetime membership for a fee of $ 399.99.
With over 12,000 sessions in their portfolio, quite a few courses are available for free on Insight Timer. The full catalog of the app plus along with features like offline and dark mode will cost you $ 60 / year.back to menu ↑
Rest in chaos
Ironically, these apps expect us to focus while constantly listening to their voice and getting notifications to upgrade. Isn’t meditation about getting rid of all distractions, including smartphones?
Headspace is well designed and more focused. You can start immediately with fewer options. I think it is ideal for beginners. Insight Timer has more courses and free content and a free to use timer that is useful even for other activities. Where Headspace has a lifetime subscription, Insight timer has a cheaper annual subscription.
The next up: Do you want to throw away the smartphone while meditating? Who not! Check out our in-depth review of Muse, a meditation headset made for people who are always on the go.back to menu ↑
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