The Best Meditation Apps for Android and iOS

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The Best Meditation Apps

Woman meditating.
monkeybusinessimages/iStock

Modern life is stressful, and technology is one of many culprits that contribute to many people's high levels of anxiety of a daily basis. It may seem strange, then, that turning to your smartphone could actually help alleviate stress. But that's definitely the case with these apps, which aim to help you relax and increase mindfulness by guiding you through a meditation practice.

The following apps are available for both Android and iPhone, Additionally, I'll focus on apps that are free to download, since you shouldn't always have to shell out money in the name of well-being. Just note that some of these apps do have optional add-ons, such as additional guided meditations, available for download for a cost. Some of them also have premium versions that unlock additional features, but the free downloads include the features I mention in the write-ups below. Additionally, many of them offer communities where you can interact with other users who are interested in subjects such as mindfulness, stress reduction and meditation.

Before we jump into the list, one important note: If you're new to meditation and mindfulness in general, don't overlook the value of taking an introductory course in person. It helps to have someone guiding you through the process especially if you're a newbie, and you're more likely to continue with the practice of meditation if it's not left up to you finding the motivation to download and open an app on your smartphone. That's not to say these apps don't work for beginners as well as more advanced users, but you shouldn't expect specific results because a successful meditation practice requires consistency.

 

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Insight Timer

Insight Timer

This completely free app has something for pretty much everyone interested in developing a meditation practice, from simple timers to more than 4,000 guided meditations, all of which are free like the app itself. That's probably why it's logged more than 1.8 million users and is one of the best-known meditation apps around. The most basic use case is using Insight to keep track of the time when you want to meditate for a specific period — and you can select from a variety of ambient sounds (or just choose silence) and can opt to hear interval bells. Plus, there's something satisfying about being gently brought back to reality by the sound of a gong at the end of your designated meditation session. I use this app myself (not as much as I should, though!) and I find that it improves my day each and every time. 

Compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS
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Calm

Calm app

This app is all about decreasing your stress and anxiety levels, increasing your overall happiness and improving the quality of your sleep. To accomplish these goals, the app guides you through multi-day series, though you'll need to pony up for a subscription to access most of them. These include 7 Days of Calm, which provides an introduction to mindfulness and meditation; 7 Days of Managing Stress, which introduces you to anxiety-reducing techniques; and 7 Days of Gratitude, which focuses on getting you to appreciate what you have in your life. 

ou can also use the Calm app for either guided or non-guided meditation that isn't part of any of these series or programs, but it's definitely worth exploring the various features when you download this app. And keep in mind that it stands out from other similar apps with its focus on improving sleep quality — check out the seven-day program dedicated to just that.

Compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Web

Paid Features:

  • 7/21 Days Series
  • Guided walking, kids, anxiety, deep concentration, commuting, returning to now and non-judgment meditations
  • New Daily Calm every day
  • Additional sleep programs
  • Additional relaxation techniques

 

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Omvana

Mindvalley (Omvana)

The basic concept of Omvana is similar to that of the other apps mentioned here — improve your mindfulness through guided practice — but it offers a unique focus on music. In addition to browsing and choosing from the app's own library of tracks and meditations with a variety of different focuses (including mindfulness, stress, relaxation and sleep), you can use the mixer tool to choose the perfect vocal and the perfect background sounds to create a customized meditation experience. You can even save the ones you like for future use. The Omvana app also integrates with Apple's HealthKit to pull in data about your stress level (presumably from your heart rate) with the end goal of helping keep you calm.

Compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Web

Paid Features:

  • Additional tracks, including guided meditations and music, available for purchase in-app
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Aura

Aura app

The Aura app has one of the simplest concepts among the various options suggested here: Each day, you get a different three-minute meditation that's customized based on how you're feeling in the moment. The app will ask you to select how you're feeling from a list of options: okay, anxious, sad, great or stressed. Even if you select the same emotion multiple days, the meditation you get will be different each time. Aura also includes a mood tracker so you can see how you're feeling over time, and it offers daily reminders for completing short breathing exercises. You'll also find some of the more standard meditation app features like unguided meditations with nature sounds.

Compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS

Paid Features:

  • 24/7 meditations
  • 3- and 7-minute meditation options
  • Full mood-tracking for lifetime
  • Save an unlimited number of meditations

 

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Sattva

Sattva App

Like the other apps in this article, Sattva is available for Android and iPhone and focused on mindfulness with a variety of guided mediations. The standout features here are a mood tracker to help you notice patterns over time, an "insights engine" that attempts to show you how meditation is improving your life and a heart rate monitor that can measure your heart rate both before and after meditating (though this only works if you have an Apple Watch). The Sattva app also adds a bit of gameification to the meditation practice by using challenges and trophies to keep you motivated. 

Compatibility:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Web

Paid Features:

  • Additional meditation tracks available for purchase in-app

 

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Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind

This download from an Aussie non-profit is an especially good choice for the younger users out there, as it was created specifically with students in mind. Smiling Mind offers programs for a variety of age groups, including 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18 and adults. The app has an easy-to-use interface for keeping track of your progress over time, both in terms of how many sessions you complete and how your emotions change. Families can set up sub-accounts from one login as well.

Compatibility: 

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Web