What are the best daily meditation apps of 2021? Who wins in a fight of Calm VS Headspace? How about Synctuition VS Calm?  Aura VS Buddhify? What is the best free meditation app of 2021?

As a meditation teacher, I’m naturally pretty darned interested in different mindfulness applications. Reviews for Headspace, Calm etc. are all over the internet. But I thought I’d share my opinion as a teacher.

There are so many different options available at the moment. I’ve been stuck on a perpetual cycle of Download / Install / Meditate / Repeat. So I thought I would review all ones I’ve tried, and give you my opinion on the best free meditation apps of 2021.

One thing I would like to mention, however, is that meditation apps are not as effective as traditional meditation according to research from Harvard Medical School. Indeed, Mindfulness guru Jon Kabat Zinn calls them “McMindfulness”. Andy Puddicombe might pretend that they are the real deal in his marketing for Headspace, but true gurus like Thich Nhat Hanh state otherwise.

Use daily meditation apps at the beginning of your practice, when you are just starting to learn to meditate. Then when the time comes, book an actual proper meditation lesson. 

You might also like to see my picks of the best gadgets.

What’s The Best Daily Meditation App Of 2021? Calm? Headspace? Or Something Else?

Trying to pick the very best daily meditation app of 2021 is not easy. Because there are a lot of them. It’s certainly not just a Headspace VS Calm situation.

For starters, there’s:

Here are my picks of the best daily meditation apps for 2021. 

Headspace (Free, optional monthly subscription)

Headspace is one of the most popular mindfulness applications. It’s been downloaded and installed by millions of meditators. And no wonder, because it is definitely one of the best meditation apps of 2021 and it is easy to see why.  Headspace is one of the best daily meditation apps because it does legitimately help you to get into the habit of meditating. 

Simplicity is what sets Headspace apart. If you look at Headspace VS Buddhify (below), for instance, Buddhify offers lots of different ways to meditate in your daily life, where Headspace is entirely about developing a habit of meditating each and every day. It is the quintessential app for daily meditation.

headspace vs buddhify

Do you struggle to develop the habit of meditating? As an online meditation teacher, I speak to a lot of people who struggle to get into a daily habit. I personally recommend things like including Buddha statues in the home, using mindful reminders, and using the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to develop the habit. But if you must be on your phone, then Headspace is perhaps the best option. 

Former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe has poured his personality into this app. And it shows. If you look at Headspace VS Calm, for instance, you will see that Headspace has way more character. So, for simplicity and personality, choose Headspace. It’s the best meditation app for beginners and for people who want to develop the habit.

The Showdowns: 

Headspace VS Calm:  Headspace helps more with the journey and with getting in the habit. Calm has more features, including music and wallpapers.

Headspace VS Insight Timer: Insight has more courses and a free timer which is helpful for your sessions.

Headspace VS Waking Up: Waking Up offers lessons on the philosophy of the practice but isn’t as good at helping you get in the habit.

Headspace VS 10 Percent Happier: 10 Happier offers talks, which can help you let steam off, but Headspace is a lot easier to use. 


Calm Review (Free, optional monthly subscription)

Calm is both an application and website. This one’s all about learning different techniques.  When you download and install the free version of Calm you will gain access to a number of guided meditations, and you can unlock more by signing up for a monthly subscription. My favourite thing about Calm is that it looks beautiful. The design is gorgeous.

If we look at Calm VS Headspace I think you’ll agree that Calm has far more appealing visuals.

headspace vs calm

She’s a beauty. Not only does Calm look beautiful but it also comes with nature sounds, background music and animated backgrounds. In the battle of Calm VS Headspace, Calm scores big points for its superior presentation.Plus there is a lot you can get out of this app. It helps with anxiety, stress, and depression too… it’s not just about meditation. 

There are definitely daily meditation apps with better voices. If we look at Calm VS Insight, for instance, the latter has lots of recordings with noted teachers like Jack Kornfield, Bodhipaksa, Sadhguru, and Sharon Salzberg who know how to present guided meditations more effectively. But this is a relatively minor setback for a truly wonderful app.

Calm is the best meditation app in terms of presentation and is ighly rhecommended for anyone who wants a beautiful application with stunning production values.

The Showdowns:

Calm VS Insight Timer: Calm is better for beginners, but Insight Timer has more content and courses. 

Calm VS Breathe: Calm looks better in my opinion, but Breathe is a really good way to relieve stress with its guided breathing sessions. 

Calm VS: 10 Percent Happier: 10 Percent Happier offers more teachings and ultimately more content. 


>Buddify 2 : Meditation & Mindfulness App ($2.99) 

As you can tell by the name, this is a mostly Buddhist meditation app that is inspired by traditional Buddhist methods such as Anapanasati, Vipassana, and Samatha (although God knows you are better off booking a lesson with a proper meditation teacher if you want to learn proper meditations like these). 

Buddihfy 2 is a truly impressive app. What’s best about it is that it is so unique. Even if you already have a mindfulness application you should probably download and install Buddhify 2 anyway. It has features no other app does.

Buddhify 2 is designed for people living in urban environments. If you live in a city, Buddhify 2 will help you to find mindful moments in the chaos of city life. It does this by showing you how to meditate at different times. Buddhify 2 has meditations to do while exercising, while using the internet… so you basically meditate while doing all the stuff you already do.Guided meditations are presented by various guides, and they range from okay to brilliant.

Oh, and on a side note, I love the colour-wheel presentation.

Buddhify 2 sets itself apart from the pack. If we look at Headspace VS Buddhify 2, or even Calm VS Buddhify 2, it’s easy to say that this one Buddhify 2 has far more unique features. The guided meditations are useful for day to day life and it makes it easy for even the busiest of people to start meditating.

calm vs buddhify 2

Overall, tis so I have to say this is one of the best daily meditation apps if only for its uniqueness 


Insight Meditation Timer

The original Insight Timer is incredibly popular, with more than two million users. 

That popularity is partly thanks to its versatility and ease of use. The ability to just time a session and use interval bells as markers… It’s all so easy.

Insight also offers guided meditations for free.

By far the worst part of it is its design.

Take a look at Headspace VS Insight, or VS Insight VS Aura, and there’s just no competition.  Insight desperately needs a paint job. And that’s a shame, given that everything else here is fantastic

insight vs aura mindfulness app

Beautiful, she is not. Alas.

Even though it is not the best-looking option, it is definitely one of the best functioning, and highly recommended. There are tons of great free functions when you download and install it.

Insight Timer offers incredible content.  I’d just prefer it if this sweet application came wrapped in better packaging.

 Aware Mindfulness Meditation (Free with in-app purchases)

Aware is entirely focused on mindfulness.

Aware offers a great introduction to mindfulness with high quality guided sessions.

I particularly like the friendly voice that the guide has.

When I consider Calm VS Aware I have to tip my hat to Aware in terms of the voice. It’s so soothing and relaxing.

If you have been looking for something to help you manage your thoughts, boost your concentration, and achieve other personal development skills, Aware is the best choice for you.

It’s also worth looking at Headspace VS Aware because both help you develop the habit. Personally, I find that Headspace offers more direct help, where Aware is more versatile and actually teaches you much more.

Simple Habit, Meditation For Busy People  (Free / $9 a month subscription)

If you struggle to keep a mindfulness routine, Simple Habit will help.

Simple Habit specialises in five-minute sessions, so they’re perfect for even the busiest of bodies.

These five-minute sessions cover a variety of topics and they come from highly experienced teachers, so you know that the instructions here are top dollar.

Simple Habit includes sessions for stress, sleep, and other common problems.

So, let’s look at Simple Habit VS Headspace VS Calm etc.

When you compare Simple Habit to the other options in this list, you’ll find that this one is a middle-of-the-road app in almost all ways. The voices are better than Calm but not as good as Insight. The presentation is better than Insight but not as good as Calm. And the habit-forming part is about equal to Headspace. So, this app sits perfectly in the middle, making it a good choice for most people.

I consider this one of the best meditation apps of 2020 because it does everything you need and does it well.

Aura: Mindfulness (free // $12.99 month subscription)

One of the best ways to boost your happiness is to develop a positive mindset.

Aura helps.

Aura Mindfulness offers practices that help us to have a positive mindset throughout the day.

One thing that sets Aura apart is that it has a little bonus feature that helps you boost your gratitude.

simple habit app vs aura mindfulness

Another fantastic aspect of the Aura app is that it uses your demographic and mood to determine the best type of meditation for you.

The Aura app sets itself apart with advanced functionality. The presentation is beautiful, too.

Overall, Aura is one of the best meditation apps for anyone who wants to make mindfulness a habit. The advanced functionality helps you to know which exercise to use at any given time, and this makes Aura a powerful app for boosting your happiness.

DOWNLOAD  ON GOOGLE PLAY

Synctuition Mindspa Meditation (download here)

synctuition app free

Synctuition prides itself on being the most advanced mindfulness app. It is backed by more than 106 scientific studies and is the third largest mindfulness app in America. It uses 3D audio technology to and soundscapes to produce truly relaxing effects. And to be fair, it is stunning. If we looked at Synctuition VS Headspace, its beyond obvious that Synctuition has way better production values and is a lot more advanced than Headspace. Highly recommended.

Stop, Breathe & Think Guided Meditation

Stop, Breathe & Think is another one packed full of guided sessions. It separates itself with the inclusion of yoga and acupressure videos.

Stop, Breathe & Think also offers a great way of controlling your emotions. It has trackers that let you keep track of your feelings.

This is one of the best free meditation apps of 2020 for anyone dealing with complications like depression, stress and anxiety.

Pacifica – Anxiety, Stress & Depression Relief

Pacifica is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

This app is designed with the express purpose of helping people deal with negative thoughts. This, in turn, helps counteract anxiety, depression and stress.

Pacifica comes fully-loaded with thought-recordings, daily challenges, a mood tracker and audio lessons.

 Mindful Meditation Pro

Mindful Meditation Pro
Mindful Meditation Pro

Mindful Meditation Pro focuses on using the subconscious mind for relaxation and wellbeing. It combines mindfulness with hypnosis to help you get into a deep state of relaxation and focus.  

The developers state that combining meditation with hypnosis creates a powerful tool for conquering stress and improving mental health.

The app has an average review of 4.6 from 658 Ratings at time of writing. It’s a fantastic mind therapy app. I particularly enjoy the Sound Method, which I find wonderfully relaxing.  It also has specific sections dedicated to problems like confidence and self esteem.

Get it on the App Store.

Sattva Meditation App

Sattva is similar to Headspace in the sense that it helps you develop the habit.

It comes with the standard bells and whistles—guided practices, timer, mood trackers…

The most interesting feature in Sattva is an insight engine that shows you how your practice is changing your life.

Sway

What makes Sway different to other apps in this list is that it is what the developers call an “Interactive meditation”. Well, not to argue with the developers, but it’s really a form of dynamic meditation. These types of movement-based mindfulness are a great alternative to regular, seated exercises.

Sway focuses on mindful movement. It asks you to continually move—to “sway”, if you will—by moving your phone from side to side while lying down, or moving your entire body while standing up (you can even sway while you’re on the bus, the official website tells us).

While you’re swaying, it plays ambient sounds and music that calm and focus your mind. There are six different “levels” that push you towards developing mindful habits, and you must complete certain goals to progress to the next level, in a way reminiscent of a video game. Miss a day and you get pushed back a level.

So, is Sway any good?

One of my favourite things about Sway is that it has excellent production values. The sounds and the animations are delightful. And as for the actual exercises, they are simple and helpful. This app can definitely be used as a supplement to traditional practice.

What I appreciate most about Sway is that it is a truly unique product. There are hundreds of applications on the market that do precisely the same thing. Sway gives you a different way to meditate. 

Sway is worth the $2.99 price tag.  Whether you’re a well-seasoned meditator or a newcomer, you will enjoy Sway and find it very beneficial. 

Conclusion

The best thing about all these applications s is that they offer different styles and different functions.

There is a clear winner for every purpose.

Best Meditation App For Habit Building: Headspace or Simple Habit

Best Meditation App For Beginner Meditators:  Aware

Best Meditation App For Relaxation: Calm

Best Meditation App For Practical Applications Of Meditation: Buddhify 2

Best Meditation App For Learning Different Meditation Techniques: Insight

Best Meditation App For Making You Happier: Aura 

What I realised when I did all these reviews is this: there is something for everyone.

Each one offers something different. They all have unique features.

My choice? As a mindfulness teacher, I have to tip my hat to Insight Meditation Timer because it has recordings from my favourite teachers.

Which do you think is the best meditation app?

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Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.