Summary: both apps are very good at helping you start or continue meditation.
The Calm interface can best be described as very modern with a nature feel. There are nature backgrounds that you can utilize, and the flow of the app feels very current. There are several buckets that Calm organizes it’s content into, including sleep | meditate | music | other The other category is a little bit of a catch-all, including kids, masterclass (world renowned meditation experts), body and breathe. Calm buckets out things a little more broadly at the top level, whereas Headspace will creatively label each category to a lower level. For example, to find “Personal Growth” in Calm, you would click into the Meditate category, then Personal Growth. In Headspace, Personal Growth is it’s own top level category.
The Headspace interface is friendly and colorful, with animation bringing a consistent theme to communicate more advanced meditation concepts. It’s a genius move, whereby complex lessons are communicated through a quick series of animations. These aren’t for everyone though, some people learn differently. The trial version includes a few videos so that can give you a feel if the animations are for you. Along the bottom bar of Headspace is a simplistic layout that includes Home | Explore | Sleep | Profile
It’s an underrated point, but the people who are in your meditation app are some daily companions. If it’s a good relationship, you will be hearing their voice daily, or at some frequency. For Primary narration, Headspace has Andy Puddicombe, who is a former Buddhist monk and very adept at explaining meditation concepts and using illustrations. Currently, Andy is the one man show for Headspace narration, which we think works out just fine. Calm’s primary narrator is Tamara Levitt. Tamara is a meditation specialist, and in comparison to Andy is a little more talkative in her approach (talkative in a helpful way). John Armstrong, a Stanford Professor, is available as an alternate in the Calm app.
Starting with a trial, Headspace provides free access to a good cross-section of their content. This includes 10 sessions of their Basics series, a Breathe mini, Singles (Feeling Overwhelmed, Early Mornings, Kids Calm, All Obstacle Animations, 3 Sleepcasts and what’s really great is they provide the first session of every course free. There is no time limit on this trial. This is a really sound approach to trial and several of us at NadaPada tried it and really found to get a good amount of content out of it prior to subscribing. Headspace is $12.99 a month or $69.99 a year.
Calm puts a little more pressure on you— with a 7 day free trial. Basically you get full access to all of Calm for 7 days. If you feel like you can jump in and get the test drive done in 7 days, then this is pretty good. We do feel it’s a little aggressive for an exercise that is meant to relax you. Calm is $59.99 a year.
Approach to Sessions
Both apps have a wide variety of sessions from not only length but also concept, ranging from 3 minutes to over 20 minutes. Headspace boasts a wide variety of meditations. You really need to explore the app to see what’s in there, as they are continually adding more content. From eating, to creative writing, to mindful tech, vacation, business travel, dealing with regret, navigating change, interviews, etc. There is a ton of content to keep you interested and working on your meditation practice.
Similarly, Calm has plethora of content as well. Sleep meditations narrated by Matthew McConaughey, music by Sigur Ros, relationship with self series, body scan, calming flight anxiety, etc. Somewhat difficult to say who has more content and it probably isn’t that type of game. What’s important is what resonates and works for you and your practice. Calm has more of a Hollywood approach and a little less sequencing to it’s meditations.
Sounds like we are bagging out of one of the other, but these are two really good apps! Priced similarly, with expansive variety and great for both beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The thinking here is that it all comes down to personal preference. Do you like the structure of Headspace, the look and feel, the content. It’s an app that you’ll be using multiple times per week, with a voice talking to you, so you kind of have to be ok with it. Our recommendation is to start with Headspace trial, get familiar with what it has to offer then try calm for 7 days. You’ll have a clear head to make a great decision on that 7th day!