Choosing Therapy’s Scoring Criteria for Meditation Apps
Adding meditation to your daily mental health and self-care routine might seem overwhelming at first, especially for those brand new to the practice, but choosing the right app can make all the difference. Choosing Therapy’s in-depth, unbiased reviews that are based on careful research, expert interviews, and first-hand product testing can help you find the best meditation app for you.
Below we review our scoring criteria for meditation apps, including definitions of key characteristics and features and a breakdown of the star rating system used in our mediation app reviews.
Variety of Meditations & Size of Library
An ideal meditation app will feature readily available and easy-to-find meditations for all levels of meditators, as well as a high volume of content in their library. Courses within the app will also be clearly labeled with their targeted meditation experience level, such as for beginners, intermediate, or advanced students of meditation, and users can register their current meditation level and be offered/recommended meditation courses geared towards their specific level. Additionally, these ideal meditation apps will feature libraries with a diverse variety of meditation courses, as well as stand-alone meditation sessions.
The most popular and common types of meditations an ideal app should feature are:
- Meditation courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced meditators
- Sleep meditations and stories
- After work or before bedtime wind downs
- Meditations for stress, anxiety, or depression (low-mood)
- Focus meditation for work or school
- Meditations for kids & teens
Beginner courses should be structured so each lesson builds upon the skills learned in the previous sessions. Intermediate courses should take knowledge from beginner courses and elevate them into longer sessions with less guidance. Advanced courses will have significant periods of silence and should feature options to use timers, bells, or other sounds to denote and track time.
In addition to offering a large library of content featuring all of the popular and common types of meditations, a really outstanding meditation library will feature easy search capability, including a way to identify and filter for non-secular or religious style meditations, length of meditations, and meditation teachers.
Star Ratings for Variety of Meditation & Size of Library
5 Stars: The app features a large and diverse library of meditation courses and stand alone sessions. There are easy to find meditations for all levels of meditators and it offers meditation courses for beginner, intermediate, or advanced users. Users can register their current meditation level and be offered/recommended meditation courses geared towards their specific level. All courses are clearly labeled by level, with all intermediate and advanced courses building on skills from the previous levels. Users can easily filter the meditation library, including ability to identify and find non-secular or religious style meditations, length of meditations, and meditation teachers.
3 Stars: The app offers a mid-range sized library, but lacks a few of the most popular and common types of meditations. While users have the option to select their meditation level, meditation courses may not be available for all levels. The library may not feature filtering options for non-secular or religious style meditations, length of meditations, and meditation teachers.
1 Star: The app provides a small sized library and is missing several of the most popular and common types of meditations. The app does not ask the user about their meditation experience or only offers courses geared towards one meditation level. There are no filtering options for the meditation library.
The highest quality meditation apps will feature tutorials that explicitly teach users the various mindfulness techniques they will need to use during their meditation sessions. These apps teach mindfulness techniques either as an audio or video lesson that users can watch prior to starting new meditation courses. Mindfulness techniques should be explained in an easy to understand manner and make sense to both beginners as well as advanced meditators. Users will be able to revisit these tutorials as often as needed to refresh their memory of how to correctly use each technique.
The top mindfulness techniques we look to be taught are:
- Body Scans
- Focused Attention
- Grounding Techniques
Star Ratings for Mindfulness Techniques
5 Stars: The app features audio or video lessons on the top mindfulness techniques and also tells users which mindfulness techniques are featured in a session in the description. All techniques are explained, in a way that makes sense to beginners as well as advanced meditators, and can be revisited as many times as needed.
3 Stars: The app either has a dedicated section in the app to teach the top mindfulness techniques OR the app tells users which mindfulness techniques are featured in a session in the description and spends time at the beginning explaining and practicing the technique.
1 Star: The app does not feature a dedicated section to learn what mindfulness techniques are, teach how to use them, or show which techniques are used in a meditation session.
Interface Design & User Experience
A meditation app should be easy to navigate, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing. Many people turn to meditation apps during times of stress, anxiety, and more, which means they need something that works intuitively and quickly. We look for elements like recommendations based on the user’s meditation level and goals, as well as what type of search functions are available in the app. If it is challenging to find a specific topic in the meditation library it will result in a deduction in points. For meditation apps that feature content for kids and teens, we look to see how easy it is for this age group to navigate the app without parental guidance.
In addition, a meditation app should also be visually inviting with attractive designs. A meditation app that is not organized well, or has too many bright colors or unappealing/distracting caricatures, will score lower in the category. Meditation apps should be neatly ordered and organized, feature a soothing color palette, and be intuitive for any level meditator to use.
Star Ratings for Interface Design & User Experience
5 Stars: The app is easy-to-navigate, intuitive, and users of any age can quickly figure out how to use it. It also has pleasing designs, colors, and exceptional organization.
3 Stars: The app offers a mediocre user experience, it’s somewhat tricky to navigate, and it takes more time to understand how to use the tools or find the meditations you want. The design, style, and organization aren’t as appealing as other meditation apps.
1 Star: The app is difficult to use, poorly organized, and has an unappealing design with too many bright colors or unappealing/distracting caricatures.
We believe the ability to personalize your experience is a notable element in quality meditation apps. When you sign up for an account, or before paying for a subscription, the meditation app should begin the onboarding process by taking an interest in the user.
The app should ask questions like:
- What’s your level or current experience with meditation?
- What are your meditation goals?
- Are there certain stressors you want to focus on?
- What time of day do you want to practice meditation?
The app can then provide recommendations and guide the user towards a meditation course to help them achieve their goals. A meditation app may be penalized for suggesting courses or sessions that don’t match the user’s answers to the onboarding questions.
There should be options to customize a meditation practice by providing organizational tools like a “Library” or “Saved” section. If users enjoy a specific session, they shouldn’t have to search for it every time they open the app. Some helpful characteristics of personalized libraries include sections for saving favorite meditation courses, single sessions, and teachers.
A meditation app will also score better in the personalization category if it tracks progress, allows users to set reminders and notifications to meditate, utilizes gamification tools to keep users motivated, and provides curated challenges or programs to help users advance their practice.
Star Ratings for Personalization
5 Stars: It feels like this meditation app was designed just for you! It’s intuitive and makes recommendations that match your preferences, goals, and lifestyle. You can customize your entire experience, create your own library of favorite meditation sessions or courses for easy access, and follow/save your favorite teachers. It tracks your progress, challenges you, and motivates you to stay committed to your practice.
3 Stars: The app recommends courses and sessions that are off-target. The app includes a Library/Saved meditations section but has limited tools or categories. The app documents when you’ve completed a particular session but doesn’t track progress or motivate you to challenge yourself or achieve new goals.
1 Star: The meditation app does not make recommendations and lacks customization tools.
Many of the top meditation apps now include extra features and resources they did not just a few years ago. These apps offer a variety of extras like soundscapes and white noise, music playlists, physical fitness classes, community spaces, group meditations, and educational resources. Apps with these extra features and resources are ideal because users are given a one-stop-shop for their mental and physical wellness.
Features like soundscapes, white noise, and music playlists are great perks for people who are working, traveling, or have small children. Fitness classes like yoga, pilates, HIIT, and cardio are great offerings for people who need to balance the stillness of meditation with moving their bodies. Community spaces are a great way for those practicing meditation at home to feel like they are connected to a like-minded group of people. Additionally, meditation apps that feature live group meditation sessions, either through sound only or video casting, also create a sense of community for those practicing at-home, which is something we look for.
5 Stars: The app offers a variety of extras like soundscapes and white noise, music playlists, physical fitness classes, community spaces, group meditations (audio only or video sessions), and educational resources. These apps give users a one-stop-shop for their mental and physical wellness. Group and individual coaching/workshops are available.
3 Stars: The app offers a select variety of extras, like soundscapes and white noise, music playlists, and fitness classes. They may feature only a community space, group meditations, or educational resources but not all. It is unclear if group or individual coaching/workshops are available.
1 Star: The app does not have any extra features or resources and is strictly an app that features a meditation library.
Cost & Free Trial Periods
One of our goals is to protect consumers from costly apps that don’t meet expectations or quality standards. Some meditation apps will cost more than others, and we want to identify how companies support each price tag. An affordable meditation app will not necessarily be rated higher than an expensive app, and vice versa. The cost should be reflective of what the app offers. In other words, are you getting what you paid for?
The transparency of pricing is another important factor in this category. Meditation apps that provide clear costs, cancellation policies, and refund policies will score higher in our rating system. A user should know an exact price before a purchase without facing any unknown costs or additional in-app fees. Apps commonly charge different prices depending on the platform, which will not result in a lower rating. We’re looking for clarity, honesty, and fairness when it comes to cost.
We also think it’s important for users to be able to have a trial period before committing to a monthly or annual subscription. If there’s no free trial offered, there should be a free version of the app available. For example, in place of a free trial, an app may have a free basic version with access to a selection of meditation courses and single meditation sessions. Overall, you should be allowed to look around the app, sample the user experience, view the options, and use the tools before making a purchase.
Star Ratings for Cost & Free Trial Periods
5 Stars: The meditation app’s cost is directly reflected in its quality, and the company makes the pricing clear to the user. You’re getting exactly what you paid for, and there are no surprise costs or additional in-app fees. Members get a free trial for at least seven days to learn about the app and try meditation courses or sessions before purchasing. If there’s no free trial, there is a free basic version that gives users a solid idea of what the app offers.
3 Stars: The price of the app doesn’t directly match the quality. It was somewhat difficult to find an exact price or cancellation/refund policy. You can point to other meditation apps that provide more for less. There’s a limited free trial of fewer than seven days or a limited free version that does not show a clear picture of what the app has to offer.
1 Star: The price does not match the quality of the app. Price wasn’t clearly listed and/or cancellation/refund policy was not listed. It’s entirely too expensive for what users are getting. There is no free trial and no free version.
As with any app, the quality of a meditation app’s customer service is a significant rating factor. Meditation apps may be penalized if it’s difficult to find support contact information, connect with a representative, or if it lacks channels of communication (e.g., only has email, no phone numbers listed). We also take into consideration user reviews when scoring for customer service. We research and analyze positive and negative reviews that mention customer service and track when app developers respond to complaints in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Star Ratings for Customer Service
5 Stars: The app offers excellent customer service. There are multiple channels to communicate with a representative, including email, text, chat, and phone. Responses to issues and complaints are completed within 24 – 48 hours. There are very few, if any, customer complaints in reviews online. When issues are reported in reviews online, the app developers respond efficiently and effectively.
3 Stars: The app provides an average level of customer service. There are limited channels to communicate with a representative. Response time takes more than 72 hours. App developers sometimes respond to issues reported in reviews online.
1 Star: The app provides poor customer service. You can only reach a representative through one channel. Response time takes over a week and many issues are left unresolved. App developers do not respond to reported issues in reviews online.
To make our scoring system more balanced, we collect an average of star ratings from reviewers from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. This ensures that we’re quantifying an objective perspective on the yoga app and not just grading solely on the experiences of our reviewers.
Summary of Scoring for User Review Category
The average score of the rating system will be recorded in our overall rating system. For example, if a yoga app has 4.5 stars out of 5 stars in the Apple App Store and 3.5 stars out of 5 stars in the Google Play Store (8 stars / 10 stars = 80%) which would be 4-stars in our rating system.
5 Stars: 90 – 100
4 Stars: 80 – 90
3 Stars: 70 – 80
2 Stars: 60 – 70
1 Star: 50 – 60
Reliability & Longevity
Our reliability and longevity score will be determined by how long an app has been around, how many reviews it has, how often upgrades or updates are conducted, and how often they produce new content. While it may seem unfair that a newly released app has fewer points because it lacks longevity, remember that our goal is to protect the consumer.
We want to direct users toward apps that will continue to grow and won’t disappear or phase out after a user purchases an annual subscription. It’s important to note that we also conduct updates to our meditation app reviews, so a newly released app may receive a higher score after they prove its reliability and longevity over time.
Star Ratings for Reliability & Longevity
5 Stars: The app has existed for more than five years and has collected at least 1K reviews. The developers conduct regular updates, routine upgrades, and new content is uploaded weekly or more frequently.
3 Stars: The app has existed for two years or more and has collected at least 500 reviews. The developers have conducted only one or two updates or upgrades. It’s been a few months since new content has been added.
1 Star: The meditation app has less than 200 reviews and has existed for less than a year. OR the app has existed for many years but has limited reviews, no upgrades or updates have been made, and it’s been over a year since new content has been added.
Credibility & Expertise
When learning a new skill, we look to those with expertise and credibility to teach us. When reviewing meditation apps, we not only examine the expertise of the content creators, such as the meditation and mindfulness coaches and teachers, but we also examine the expertise of the app developers and the quality of content created. We want to make sure that all meditation courses and sessions are teaching mindfulness techniques correctly, in an easy-to-follow and learn format, and that professional meditation coaches and teachers teach them. Additionally, we listen for recordings that are well rehearsed and executed, with recording audio that is crisp and clear.
We spend time examining the company history, its founders, advisory teams, app developers, meditation coaches and teachers, as well as the content offered, to ensure they meet the above criteria. Any company that teaches mindfulness techniques poorly or incorrectly, or has unrehearsed, poorly executed, or grainy sounding audios will score low on our scale.
Star Ratings for Credibility & Expertise
5 Stars: App was developed and informed by experts, and audios are created by trained/certified meditation and mindfulness coaches and teachers. All mindfulness techniques are taught correctly and in a way easy to follow and learn format. Audio recordings are well rehearsed and executed, as well as crisp and clear.
3 Stars: App developers and/or meditation and mindfulness coaches and teachers lack experience and/or teach only some techniques correctly. Techniques may be difficult to learn or follow in the way they are presented. Some of the audio recordings may not be as well rehearsed or executed as others and sound quality is grainy at times, even when connected to WiFi.
1 Star: App developers and meditation and mindfulness coaches and teachers have little to no experience. Mindfulness techniques are not taught correctly or at all and the audio quality is poor, with unrehearsed and poorly executed meditations. The sound quality is not crisp and clear.
Privacy & Security
Digital privacy and security are important to consider when choosing an app. An ideal meditation app keeps the user’s account information, such as credit card numbers, email addresses, or other identifying data, private and protected at all times. When ranking for this category, our objective is to promote companies that have transparent and ethical privacy and security policies, as well as data sharing practices, and who consistently meet users’ privacy expectations. Companies that are unclear about these policies and/or exhibit unethical actions regarding privacy, security, and data sharing, will receive lower scores.
Star Ratings for Privacy & Security
5 Stars: Privacy policies are easy to find, clearly stated, and specific. The company is transparent about data sharing practices and consistently meets users’ expectations. There are no reports of security issues, such as personal information or credit card information being stolen.
3 Stars: Privacy policies and data sharing practices are difficult to find and/or generic and unspecific. There have been some incidents of users facing security issues with private information.