Calm vs Headspace: What’s The Best Meditation App?

This is a drawing of a person deciding on the calm vs headspace app

Calm vs Headspace

Meditation Apps for 2021

Calm versus Headspace, which to choose when adding meditation to your mental health toolbox? Having guided meditation can be useful as a calming technique before bed or as a way to decompress if you have anxiety or depression. We dive into what each app costs, how to use them and much more.

Here is Calm vs Headspace: Calm vs Headspace: What’s The Best Meditation App?

This is a drawing of a person deciding on the calm vs headspace app

In today’s blog, I am going to give you an in-depth look into two of the top meditation apps on the market. I will go over the cost comparison, what it was like to use each on a daily basis and how engaging they are to interact with on your smartphone app.

This is Calm vs Headspace.

Have you ever turned to your phone as a means to escape from a mentally or emotionally taxing day?

When you are already in a tough mental headspace, some of the things you might see on that screen will cause you to fall even deeper into those thoughts. It can make you feel even worse than when you started.

I know I am not the only one who struggles with this at times – the constant accessibility of comparison to others, all of us living in a world where your best just never seems good enough. While, for specific reasons, I welcome and appreciate things like social media and the prevalence of technology in our lives today, I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve also cursed it for being such a burden – an ever-present source of anxiety and depression for so many of us.

I know you are already aware of the negative impact that certain social apps can have. I know you know that attempting to cope with your bad day or mental health this way is an unhealthy habit to build. So I’m not here to talk about this today. I am excited to speak to you about something much more positive – a more constructive way to cope or spend time.

Today’s blog is not about how unfortunately available our access is to the things that can upset or overwhelm us. In today’s blog, I will talk about our accessibility to happiness, contentment, comfort, and ease.

Meditation apps like Calm or Headspace are changing how we use technology for good – the good of our mental health, that is. These apps have something to offer everyone, and yes, meditation is achievable for everyone.

I started with my own set of doubts, hesitancies, and questions, but now it’s hard to imagine my life without meditation.

From my improved mental health, greater awareness to an overall better understanding of what meditation is (and can be), I am grateful for both of these apps for encouraging me to get started. But even if I were a bit more experienced, I could never foresee Calm or Headspace not being helpful.

That said, is there one I feel has helped me the most and could do the same for you?

Well, that’s a tough call to make, but I will get there. First, stick with me through some helpful bits of information and comparisons between the Calm vs Headpsace apps because the most important thing is finding the meditation app that’s right for you.

Calm vs Headspace App Cost

Each app provides some great introductory courses at no cost, and downloading each app itself is free. There are, however, subscription options for both.

Headspace cost: USD $69.99 per year | CAD $89.99 per year

Headspace lifetime subscription cost: N/A

Calm App cost: USD $69.99 per year | CAD $76.99

Calm App lifetime subscription cost: USD $399.99 | CAD $499.99

Headspace Free for Teachers

Headspace is free for all K-12 teachers, school administrators, and supporting staff across the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.

Educators can start their free subscription here and welcome mindfulness into the classroom.

Calm App & Naomi Osaka

Further down in your reading, you will see the interaction Calm has with athletes and culture within the app. However in real life they are making a difference as well. During the 2021 French Open Naomi Osaka said she was going to miss all news conferences citing mental health, in return the tournament officials fined here \$15,000 USD after her first miss.

Naomi ended up withdrawing from the tournament, and Calm said they would pay her fine. Naomi asked that they donate it to charity and the Calm Team did just that, sending the $15,000 to the French Youth Sports charity Laureus.

Headspace vs Calm: My Initial Impression

My hope in writing this review on Calm vs Headspace for help with your meditation guidance is to not only answer the simple questions like ‘How much does headspace cost.’

I want to give you a personal step-by-step experience when using both of the meditation apps, taking from how easy they are to navigate to the potential mental health outcome of what they offer.

Hopefully, with this full review of these two apps, you can make a choice today and add one of these to your morning routine and mental health toolbox.

Headspace review

After you create your account, each time you open up the Headspace app, you are taken to the screen for “Today.”

This is a picture of headspace app homepage

They make a new “schedule” for you each day, broken down by morning, afternoon, and night. You can move freely between any of them, but if you were to take them all on in order, here’s what it would look like:

  • A 1-minute breathing exercise
  • Something they call The Wake-Up, a less than 10-minute engaging video on something insightful or uplifting
  • The meditation for the day, up to 20 minutes
  • A course, up to 20 minutes
  • An “Afternoon Lift” (music or a video)
  • A “Nighttime Sleep Cast”

For each section you complete, Headspace puts a checkmark next to it. I love this feature because most mornings, I will just start with the 1-minute breathing exercise, and instead of engaging in the afternoon lift (unless it is music I can listen to while I work), I will do the day’s meditation in the afternoon instead. This helps me when I go out of order, not that there is a right or wrong way to do it. 


Headspace keeps everything straightforward and simple. I love the vibrant cartoon graphics mixed in with some actual videos.

This is a picture of the headspace app cartoon

With each thumbnail and header for everything they offer, you get a good idea of what to expect.

Headspace Features:

The other day I did a meditation on Headspace that I resonated with, and at the end, it included a relevant quote (as each one does) that I wanted to access again. You can save your favorite meditations, but I didn’t do this by mistake. Thankfully, at the very top of the home page next to favorites, there is a “Recent” tab – I was able to find it there because each of the exercises is clearly labeled.

For the daily meditation, under settings, you can change the total time length, starting anywhere from 3 minutes to 20 minutes.

This is a picture of headspace timer in app

 I love having this option to start small and someday work my way up. Plus, it’s just useful when you don’t have as much time on a particular day. I love that you don’t have to skip an entire day’s meditation just because it’s too long.

Headspace Content:

The meditations on Headspace are categorized in helpful ways on their meditation page, where you can select guided or unguided meditations based on time or titles or learn some tips and techniques.

The sleep section on Headspace is extensive and impressive. Like the meditation page, anything sleep-related is categorized. Among these are sleep music, guided exercises, expert advice, and my personal favorite: “Sleepcasts.”

This is a photo of headspace sleep section

Sleepcasts offer a wide range of stories told in soothing voices. Each is 45 minutes long, making it easy to plan for if you want to make this part of your evening routine. I’m also a fan of the soundscapes, which are some pretty amazing recordings of sounds around the world, such as forest streams and ocean piers.

In terms of the actual content, the speakers on Headspace explain insightful things in easy-to-understand ways. All their voices are pleasant, and you can choose between speakers for most courses.

What I liked About Headspace:

  • Organized and clearly labeled
  • Easy to use
  • Valuable material
  • Graphics and colors that keep you engaged
  • Calm, pleasant voices
  • Daily reminders to practice
  • Free two-week trial

What I Didn't Like About Headspace:

  • Some more experienced users note some repetitive content
  • Beginner-friendly and may not be ideal for advanced users
  • The times for each activity are vague on the home screen (i.e., Today’s Meditation is 3-20 minutes)
This is a picture of the headspace app being vague

Calm app review

Once you open up your Calm app, you are welcomed by the images and sounds of nature, and on the home page, you will find a large image titled your “Daily Calm.” This is your main meditation for the day.

This is a screenshot of the calm app opening page

The home screen changes daily and is around 10 minutes each time, which I find to be a sweet spot for meditators of all 
levels, at least for one manageable session. The main narrator, Tamara Levitt, has an incredibly soothing voice. It’s apparent from the moment you open this app why they used the name “Calm.”

Below that, you have a “Daily Trip,” which is similar to the concept of Headspace’s “The Wake-Up,” only more meditative in nature. The Daily Trips are informative, but also like exercises.

While the “Daily Calm” meditations are each focused on a certain wellness topic, their other meditations (ranging from 3-30 minutes) are split up into categories such as beginners, anxiety, personal growth, and sleep.

This is a picture of calm apps meditation choices

From there, you can choose between starting a course or doing a single session. While each is labeled in some way, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to how (except for the fact that it’s at least categorized), so you just have to scroll through until you find one you connect with.

Calm App Features:

Like Headspace, Calm also has main sections in the app for Meditation, Sleep, and Music. While there aren’t as many sleep stories available, there is a wider range of length, averaging 30 minutes but also some shorter and longer.

The music for sleep section is pretty remarkable. It is categorized by nature melodies, lullabies, guitar, ambient, deep sleep, and others. Popular artists I’ve listened to include tracks by Mike Shinoda and Lindsey Sterling.

Calm also has some great features, such as the ability to change your nature background and sound, which you can completely control and adjust, and keep playing during meditation sessions.

This is a picture of calm apps section to change nature scenes

On your main page, you will also find things like “Recently Played” and “Favorites,” as well as a “Quick & Easy” section where you can do quick check-ins or body scans.

Calm App Content:

Calm is well-known for the quality and variety of its meditations. I love that there are featured meditations led by names you recognize, like LeBron James, who does a series on “Mental Fitness.”

This is a photo of lebron james in the calm app

That said, being more of a beginner, the insight I have gained from both apps has been invaluable so far.

I am the most impressed Calm’s “More” section, where users can head to for everything from a quick breathing exercise to a masterclass lead by experts. This masterclass educational component sets Calm apart from other apps. Here you can watch courses on topics like mindful eating, creative living, social media addiction, gratitude, stillness, and more.

There is also a “Calm Body” section for gentle stretches, warm-ups, and cool-downs. While there are only eight videos, for me, that helps keeps things simple – there is something for the morning, afternoon, evening, and before and after workouts.

This is a picture of the calm app body section

The only downside is that they don’t have a video to show these movements, only narrations. But I like that I can tune into my body more than my cellphone screen, and the speakers explain the steps well enough that I don’t have to look as long as I’m listening well.

Finally, in the Calm app, unless there is a time length in the corner of a video thumbnail, it means that it is a course. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but I wish they could indicate how many sessions were in a certain course before clicking on it.

this is a picture of calm app course

For instance, if you wanted to do, say, a 3-day challenge, you could scroll through the icons rather than go into the course. That said, there are a few courses where “7 Day” is in the name.

What I liked About Calm:

  • Visually appealing
  • Calming aesthetic
  • Soothing & celebrity voices
  • Physical body component
  • Wide range of labeled music
  • Mood check-ins and tracker
  • Daily reflections (and phone notifications)
  • Free one-week trial

What I Didn't Like About Calm:

  • Busy home screen
  • No social component
  • High monthly cost for premium

Headspace vs. Calm: A Tale Of Two Apps

How Much is Headspace:

Headspace is $69.99 for a year, which ends up being about $5.80 per month. A month-to-month subscription is $12.99.

I stumbled upon an offer a few days into my free trial of Headspace and ended up getting my first year for $48.99, so they do seem to provide special offers, but I’m not sure how frequently.

The Features of Headspace:

  • All content is downloadable with paid subscription
  • Move section where Olympians teach workout classes
  • Focus section with music and other exercises
  • Available on iOS and Android
  • Track your stats and keep up with friends

How Much is the Calm App:

Calm Premium is $69.99 per year, which ends up being about $5.80 per month. A monthly subscription is $14.99 per month.

The Features of the Calm App:

  • All content is downloadable with paid subscription
  • Available on iOS and Android
  • Regularly updated app
  • Can track days, minutes, and consecutive days meditated
  • Ability to play meditations and music with the app closed
  • Option to set how long you want music to play

Best ways to use the apps to help with anxiety and depression

As with any other practice or technique for mental health, there will be times when you need meditation to help calm you down on the spot. But the more you make meditation a regular practice, no matter what time of day, you may experience fewer and fewer of these more “urgent” moments (or need for more “SOS” meditations, as Calm and Headspace like to call it).

Meditation as part of my morning routine helps set the tone for my day. I love that both of these apps have an afternoon component or at least calming music fitting for the workday or other tasks to help you sort of reset and refocus.

For those who struggle with anxiety or depression, I would highly recommend doing a morning practice. And if either of these conditions impair your sleep, as they tend to do, I would also recommend using one of the more sleep-focused features such as stretching or stories in your evening routine.

Is Headspace or Calm better for sleep?

Between the sleep music and wind downs for drifting off and the nighttime SOS for waking in the middle of the night, my vote is for Headspace in terms of better sleep. Calm has an extensive section of categorized sleep stories but more generic soundscapes than Headspace.

Calm vs Headspace

As I learned in a Calm course this week, meditation can be passive or active. By this I mean, sometimes it involves simply being, and other times it involves pursuing something you seek, such as more peace or compassion. So when it comes to which app is better, this depends largely on your goals. Do you let most of the material come to you, much in the way that Headspace provides? Or do you search through it to find what you need the most, as you would with Calm?

Currently, I am an active user of both apps because I appreciate that they both represent this fundamental aspect of meditation. While I do enjoy searching through the many features that Calm offers, if I had to base my choice on an app that suits daily use and where I am now, I would go with Headspace.

I appreciate seeing the layout in front of me each day, and I don’t have to take time to search around and decide. And if I need to make minor adjustments to things like time, I can. Later in the day, once I become more aware of my feelings, an app like Calm is great. For instance, if I needed a meditation specifically for stress.

Although Headspace has these categories, too, what it boils down to for me is the simplicity of the homepage and other components of Headspace.

As I am continually learning these days from these two valuable meditation apps, meditation can be simple. Taking a few moments to breathe can benefit you, even if you do not venture into it with a specific intention in mind.

If I circle back to the thoughts I had when I first started writing this blog, I am reminded of how easy it is to pick up our phones and do something that isn’t healthy or helpful for our mental health. Maybe part of it has to do with the iconic bright orange cartoon character logo or the main speaker’s bright English accent, but when I grab my phone in the morning to meditate, the first thing I do is click on Headspace.

Headspace encourages and inspires me to pick up my phone and do something different.

Which is Better Calm or Headspace?

Finally my answer…

Headspace is the better option for beginners. It makes meditation simple and accessible for all users.

That said, Calm has many great features in addition to meditations such as music but may be better suited for more seasoned meditators.

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