Headspace and Calm are both user-friendly mindfulness and meditation apps. Headspace is geared towards beginners, and provides structure to ensure that you build upon previous sessions’ lessons before advancing to the next. Calm, on the other hand, may be better for those with an established practice looking to choose meditations and exercises in no particular order. Headspace starts at $12.99 per month and Calm starts at $14.99 per month. Both apps offer a free trial period and discounted rates for annual subscriptions.
Headspace: Pros, Cons, & Cost
The Headspace app is a bright and cheerful introduction to mindfulness and meditation. Everything in the app is structured, which makes building your mindfulness and meditation skills easy. As we note in our full review of Headspace, there isn’t currently have a free version. But you can try the app out during a 7-day free trail if you sign up for the $12.99 per month subscription.
- Non-intimidating introduction for beginners to mindfulness exercises and meditation techniques.
- As you progress and build skills, more advanced meditations are available.
- There are free trials of the premium app and significant discounts for students and families.
- The celebrities that appear in the app do not distract from the core meditation teachers in the app.
- Everything in the Headspace app is locked behind a paywall and you must choose a subscription to access anything.
- Those who already have an established meditation practice or consider themselves more advanced may not find what they are looking for with Headspace.
- Student and family plans are only available on the Headspace website, not through the app
Headspace has several cost options including discount options for families, students, teachers and businesses.
- Headspace: Headspace is $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year. The monthly subscription comes with a 7-day free trial and the monthly subscription comes with a 14-day free trial. You can get started here.
- Headspace Family Plan: Headspace’s Family Plan is $19.99 per month or $89.99 per year and allows for one account holder and five family members that live at the same address. There is no free trial offered and you must sign up on the website.
- Headspace Student Plan: Headspace’s Student plan costs $9.99 per year! You must sign up on the website and prove eligibility.
- Headspace for Educators: Headspace is free for educators in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. It is also free for anyone who works for the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK.
- Headspace 4 Work (H4W): H4W is a per-employee subscription that large companies and corporations can buy at cost. It includes special mediations just for office workers in addition to the app’s regular content.
Calm: Pros, Cons, & Cost
Calm has really great content including topic-specific meditations and music playlists, but most of it can only be found in the premium version. While they do offer some free content, it can be difficult to find, leading new users to think there isn’t any. Calm also features several big name celebrities throughout the app, which may be a perk for some but distracting for others.
- There are several free meditation courses (5-10 sessions each) on topics like self-care, anxiety, sleep, and stress.
- The music for focus, meditations for kids, and easy-to-do yoga are really awesome and engaging features.
- Calm’s app is fairly user-friendly, easy to navigate, and gives you an option to personalize.
- The free meditation courses are not easy to find and it can be easy to assume there isn’t any free content.
- Most of the meditations feel geared towards those who already have a meditation foundation.
- Celebrities throughout the app can make the meditations feel gimmicky.
- All music, kids’ meditations, and yoga content are only available in the premium subscription.
Calm App Cost
The Calm app has several cost options and a number of discount options for students, families, teachers and businesses.
- Calm Free: no cost to download from the Google Play or Apple App Store and has limited free meditation courses.
- Calm Premium: Calm’s premium subscription is $14.99 per month and only available through the app stores, or $69.99 per year with a seven-day free trial.
- Calm Lifetime: A lifetime subscription is $399.99 and is only available through the Calm website.
- Calm for Families: The family plan is $99.99 per year and mindfulness exercises is only available on the Calm website. The account holder can add up to five people and they do not have to live in the same household.
- Calm for Students: Students can get Calm for $8.99 per year, with three months free. Only available through Amazon Prime Student program.
- Calm for Teachers: 40% discount off yearly subscriptions for teachers, as well as free resources to use in the classroom.
- Calm for Businesses: Calm for Business has two options, “Teams” and “Business”, with costs varying depending on how many employees are added to the plan.
Pro-tip: In order to maximize savings with the Calm app, do not sign up for a free trial right away! If you wait, you can often find a 40% discount in the app or one will be emailed to you.
In-Depth Comparison of App Features
Both Calm and Headspace have a number of similar features, ranging from content for kids and exercise to topic specific meditations for focus or sleep. Some featured areas are more extensive than others depending on which app you use, so it can be helpful to look at what both offer to determine whether Calm of Headspace is best for you.
Meditation & Mindfulness
A major difference in Calm vs Headspace is the way their meditations are structured. Calm is more of a free-flowing, user’s choice app. It is not required that you go through meditations in a certain order, so you can freely choose which sessions to complete at any given time. Headspace, on the other hand, is very structured in the way their meditation courses are set up – you must complete session one before you can advance to session two.
Another key difference in Calm vs Headspace is the way mindfulness skills are taught. Headspace has a section called “Techniques and Support” which specifically teaches users what a body scan is, what noting is, and how to overcome common feelings while meditating. Calm doesn’t have a dedicated section like this, and instead, incorporates fundamentals of breathwork and other techniques into meditation sessions. Headspace stressed the importance of these fundamentals to those brand new to meditation.
Both Headspace and Calm have dedicated “Sleep” areas, but the two approach sleep in a very different way. Headspace has a much larger section in their sleep space dedicated to teaching you how to fall asleep and how to achieve that through meditation. Calm has select meditation courses on how to fall asleep, but their big focus seems to be sleep stories led by celebrities and, in the kids section, led by children’s characters.
Calm’s sleep section, especially the Sleep Stories area, looks more like a commercial on TV, peddling the benefits of meditation without actually practicing meditation. While Headspace’s sleep section is rather tame in comparison, the app seems to take a more serious approach to falling asleep, staying asleep, and unwinding your mind.
An awesome feature in both the Headspace and Calm apps is their mindfulness for kids content. Both apps do a really spectacular job at teaching mindfulness exercises, like breathwork, and meditation skills to kids from toddlers to teenagers. All of the exercises geared towards children are short, teach basic skills, and are easy for many kids to complete.
However, Headspace’s content prominently features the characters from Sesame Street and is not as appealing to children older than five. While they do offer content geared towards old children, it’s not as dynamic as the content for kids in Calm. Something the Calm app does much better than Headspace is their kids space – not only does it have meditations for daytime and sleep stories for nighttime, it has storybooks, lullabies for little ones, and has a really awesome look.
Meditations for Focus
Content dedicated to regaining or learning how to focus appears in different ways in Headspace and in Calm. Headspace has a heavier emphasis on meditations and mindfulness while Calm does not. In fact, the Headspace app has an entire hub called “Focus” and has featured sections like “Focus at Work”, “For studying” and “Quick Resets”. All of these areas are geared towards helping you recenter on the tasks at hand.
To find content to help regain focus in the Calm app, like meditations, you must either search for “focus” or browse through their entire library. Calm has a few meditations on how to focus at work, but it is not as extensive as in the Headspace app. What Calm does much better than Headspace, however, is its music playlists. Their playlists called “Work Flow”, “Lo-Fi Beats”, and “All Day Workflow” are far superior to the playlists in Headspace and are great to have on while you work or study.
Exercise & Movement
Headspace and Calm both feature exercise as part of their meditation programs. Calm’s “Movement” section places a strong emphasis on yoga, which you can choose to do while sitting, standing, or lying down. There are also meditations exclusively for walking, which helps bring your mindfulness practice into your everyday world.
Headspace, on the other hand, uses their “Move” hub more as a mini-workout app with cardio, some HITT workouts, dancing, and yoga available. There are some “rest day” meditations, but these are largely meditations geared towards athletes and not for someone who occasionally walks too long on the treadmill.
Profiles & Stats
Both Headspace and Calm keep track of your meditation stats, like how long you’ve meditated and how many sessions you’ve completed in your profile. Both apps will also show you what your listened to history as well as provide mood check-ins.
However, there are some unique differences between these two to note. Headspace allows you to befriend people in their app and you can then compare your stats to each other and send encouragement. Calm does not have this feature, but does have check-ins and really great journals available in-app (like their gratitude journal).
Best Alternatives to Headspace & Calm
Headspace and Calm are both really great mindfulness and meditation apps, but they may not be the best fit for some.
If you only want meditations and are a beginner, Ten Percent Happier is by far a better choice to make. While it is pricey at $99 per year, you will not only learn the basics of mindfulness and meditation, but Ten Percent teaches in a way that makes you want to continue with your practice. If you are a more advanced student and want more variety and longer meditations, Insight Timer is the way to go. With its extensive free meditation library, you can easily find a multitude of meditations to suit your needs. You can find out more about what makes these two meditation apps unique when you read our in-depth Ten Percent Happier review and our Insight Timer review.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Apps
While meditations can go far to improve your overall wellness and mental health, sometimes you need more support and learning opportunities. For those interested in meditation who are also looking to learn coping techniques and skills, CBT apps like Happify or Sanvello would be a great fit. Both apps offer meditations, but also focus on learning and implementing CBT skills to help refocus negative thoughts and decrease anxiety and depression symptoms. To learn about how their CBT-based learning program work, you can read our detailed Happify review or our in-depth Sanvello review.
For those struggling with anxiety or depression, speaking with a licensed therapist may be the best choice. You can read about how subscription-based therapy works in our comprehensive review of BetterHelp or in our Talkspace review. To choose your own therapist, you can search an online therapist directory or read our comprehensive best online therapy options review.
Calm vs Headspace: How They Stack Up
Headspace vs Calm Comparison
|Cost||$12.99 monthly with a seven-day free trial |
$69.99 annually with a two-week free trial
|$14.99 monthly with seven-day free trial, available only in the app|
$69.99 annually with a seven-day free trial
40% coupon for those who wait to subscribe
|Calm, especially if you get the 40% off your first year subscription! |
|Free Version||No||Yes, but very limited ||Calm |
|Free for Teachers||Yes||No||Headspace |
|Meditations and Mindfulness||Great for beginners|
Offers structured meditation courses to build skills
Specifically teaches mindfulness skills
|Geared towards intermediate meditators|
No specific structure
Celebrities can be distracting
|Headspace for beginners |
Calm for intermediate
|Kid Section||Meditations for toddlers to teens|
Sesame Street branding makes it feel more geared towards children under 5
Meditations are quick and easy for most children to complete
|Meditations for toddlers to teens|
Wide and rich variety of content, including stories, music, sleep, and naptime meditations
Calm for Kids has a really great aesthetic
|Exercise||Features HITT workouts, cardio, yoga, and dancing|
Meditations for athletes
|Features yoga and walking meditations||Calm|
|Focus||Meditations on how to refocus, recenter and maintain focus throughout the day|
Some music playlists for focus
|Limited number of focus-centered meditations|
Great music playlists to listen to during work or study to help keep out distractions
|Headspace for meditations |
Calm for the music
|Sleep||Dedicated meditations to help you switch off your mind and fall asleep|
More serious approach, less commercial feeling
|Limited meditation courses to help with sleep|
A lot of celebrity-led sleep stories, which makes it feel somewhat gimmicky
Choosing whether Calm or Headspace is the right meditation app for you, will ultimately depend on what you are looking for. If you’re looking for more of a meditation-focused app, then Headspace is the right choice for you. If you’re looking for a wider variety of content in addition to meditations, Calm is probably a better fit.
That said, both apps are able to teach you meditation and mindfulness techniques that help you build and maintain your practice. Honestly, if you find yourself loving certain aspects of both apps, I recommend just getting both.