Meditation and smartphones don’t immediately seem like the best fit. When your phone is normally a source of great distraction, it isn’t an obvious choice for a tool to help you calm your thoughts and your body. But most of us need a little help to tune out the hustle and bustle of daily life, and there are some great apps out there that will help you achieve that goal.
I’ve been immersing myself in peace and calm this week to bring you the best meditation apps. While it’s been a lovely experience all around, only a few stood the test of time well enough to be considered for our best meditation app.
Simple is best, especially when it comes to apps for meditation. If you’re already comfortable meditating and you’re not looking for guidances, Meditator is your best bet. While I usually prefer the jacks-of-all-trades for App Filter, Meditator stands out for doing nothing more than it needs to. The only thing it can do is time meditations, nothing more.
Of course, there is power in that simplicity. The app allows you to set up three preset meditations, each three timers: preparation, total meditation, and intervals. You can give each step its own chime, choosing from eleven perfectly appropriate sound effects like flutes or tingshas and selecting how many times you want the effect to repeat. The app can also vibrate to mark your timers if that will help you stay in the moment. Finally, you can choose from four ambient backgrounds if silence isn’t your thing—ocean, storm and river are great, but the forest sounds of crickets can easily overwhelm your peace of mind.
There is one mark against Meditator: it can’t continue without your input if it’s interrupted, so you might be well-served to put your device in airplane mode while meditating. Of course, that may be a good habit regardless; it’s hard to foster mindfulness while texts and calls are pouring in.
Relax Melodies is extremely popular, and it isn’t hard to see why. If all you’re looking for is background ambiance and a timer, it’s a great meditation app. It’s marketed as a sleep aid, but it works beautifully for those moments when a little white noise is all that you need to sink into clarity.
If there’s a sound you find particularly meditative, Relax Melodies probably has it. For me, it’s rain on a roof. Maybe it’s the sound of birdsong for you. Not only does Relax Melodies have both, it can also combine them at any volume level. Layer zen music over the sound of wind and add a monk chant in the background, or any other combination of up to ten tracks, and then save it as a favorite. Set it to a timer and you have yourself a perfect environment to let your troubles wash over you. There are even binaural beats to bring in if you find them helpful.
The free version of the app has all of these features included; the paid version removes ads, adds more sounds and beats, and lets you keep the melodies playing in the background while the app is closed.
There are several guided meditation apps on the App Store, but, to put it bluntly, most of them aren’t very good. Generally, you’re better off syncing audio files to the Music app or finding quality meditation podcasts. Headspace, however, makes for an intriguing option if you’re willing to invest money in your meditation as well as time.
Headspace isn’t the best app for people who are deeply into meditation, but for those of us who are new to the scene and feel like we need a helping hand, it’s kind of fantastic. It’s designed around accessibility, with cheerful introductory cartoons, an interface that feels like any number of great social networking apps, integration with Facebook and Twitter, and pretty infographics that show you how well you’re progressing in your meditation journey.
All of this fluff is fun, but Headspace is also a great tool for meditation. Each day brings with it a new daily meditation crafted by UK meditation guru Andy Puddicombe. The meditations are calming and encouraging without becoming saccharine, and they urge you to breathe, relax, and accept your own limitations. The app also includes a full-featured meditation timer, and optional reminders that can give you the push you need.
There’s a down side to all of these excellent features, though: Headspace comes at a steep cost. The app itself is free, and includes ten short daily meditations to get you started. After that, the service costs about $15 per month. That’s a small price to pay for the benefits of meditation, but quite a bit when compared to the competition. Still, the quality of the tools means Headspace stands out as a serious contender for the title of best meditation app.
Ultimately, your choice for the best meditation app will depend on your needs: guidance, selection or simplicity. But Meditator is our pick for the App Filter’s best meditation app. The others have some very cool features that make very good distractions from the most important thing: mindfulness. Meditator clears away the clutter, leaving only the tools you need to enhance your experience and remain distraction free.