Calm Review: A Complete Overview

By Lydia Noyes
HighYa Staff
Published on: Sep 21, 2019

What Is Calm?

Calm is a mindfulness app designed to help you learn how to meditate, get more sleep, and live in the present moment.

Awarded Apple’s App of the Year in 2017 and the Google Play Editor’s Choice award in 2018, Calm is the self-proclaimed #1 app for sleep and meditation.

Alex Tew and Michael Acton Smith co-founded Calm in 2018. Today, the app is available through web and for Apple, Android and Amazon devices, and it contains more than 100 guided meditations as well as multi-day courses, sleep stories, educational classes, and more.

Calm is far from the only meditation app currently available, so is there a reason why you should consider it over the competition? This article should help you make a smarter choice.

How Does Calm Work?

As with most meditation apps, Calm is free to download. Some of the Calm’s options include the following:

Calm Meditation

Calm’s primary feature is its collection of guided meditations that are designed for beginners and advanced meditators alike.

At the time of writing, Tamara Levitt is Calm’s Head of Mindfulness and the instructor for the majority of the app’s meditations.

Levitt draws her inspiration from over 25 years of study and practice of meditation traditions like Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana/Insight, Shambhala, Zen, and Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist teachings. She writes, produces, and instructs the majority of Calm’s meditation programming.

Calm also offers meditations from guest instructors, including Oren Jay Sofer, Shinzen Young, Mallika Chopra, and Elisha Goldstein.

These meditations range in length from three to 25 minutes and cover topics like managing stress, improving focus and concentration, fostering better relationships, breaking bad habits, finding happiness, increasing self-esteem, boosting mindfulness, and more. There are also meditations designed for kids and for improving your productivity during the workday.

These meditations can be taken as standalone sessions, though it’s also possible to take meditation programs based around specific goals. These programs give you one class to follow each day and range from seven to 21 days.

If you’re coming to Calm as a meditation beginner, the app suggests starting with their introductory program, “The 7 Days of Calm”.

The course is designed to teach you meditation basics and set you up for the intermediate program, “The 21 Days of Calm”. After completing these foundational courses, you can choose whatever mediation sessions most interest you from Calm’s library.

Also included in the meditation section is a daily 10-minute meditation called the Daily Calm that’s designed to help you transition into your morning or evening. If you prefer to practice on your own, you can use the app’s unguided timer to track your session.

As you establish your meditation habit, Calm lets you track your progress by viewing your daily streaks and total time spent meditating. It’s also possible to download most Calm meditation sessions for offline listening.

Calm for Sleep

Calm has many options for if you're turning to the app for meditation for insomnia. It offers a collection of over 100 sleep stories, which are short story sessions designed to help you drift off. Topics include classic literature, children’s stories, scientific articles, non-fiction essays, and more. Calm adds new sleep stories weekly.

If narration isn’t your thing, Calm also offers hundreds of hours of exclusive soothing sleep music. Options include original compositions, white noise, nature sounds and more.

Calm Masterclasses

The Calm app includes a Masterclass section, which consists of a collection of programs set up as educational sessions similar to a podcast episode or short audiobook. Each masterclass covers a different topic, including gratitude, mindful eating, and work performance, and they often include instructions for mindfulness exercises. You can watch trailers for each session before committing.

Using Calm at Airports

At the time of writing, Calm is partnered with XpressSpa at major airports throughout the United States. This means that Calm users who are traveling can stop in for exclusive deals. These may include a free luggage tag or a ten-minute chair massage.

The Daily Calm Community

Daily Calm has created a community through Facebook for engaging with topics related to mindfulness and the Daily Calm meditation session. You must request access to the group, though you don’t need to be a subscriber to do so. It’s possible to join through this link.

What Does Calm Cost?

At the time of writing, full access to Calm content is available as a 7-day free trial. After that, you are automatically enrolled in a $59.99 annual subscription.

This subscription gives you access to all Calm content, and you can cancel it at any time. It’s also possible to purchase “Calm for Life,” which provides you with lifetime access to the app’s content for $399.99.

Another alternative is to use Calm without signing up for a subscription. This free version lets you follow a select group of timed meditations, sleep stories, lectures, and the first meditation session for many multi-day courses. This totals about thirty different meditations, compared to the hundreds available for subscribers.

All other content is viewable in the app, but it’s “locked” unless you sign up for a subscription or free trial. Your access to this free content doesn’t expire, and you will unlock additional classes if you try the free trial, even if you decide not to continue with a paid membership.

Have additional questions? You can contact Calm directly through their contact page.

Analysis of Customer Reviews of Calm

Amazon and Google Play both host hundreds of reviews of Calm, so we checked them out. The app averages 4.1 stars out of 5 on both platforms.

Fans of Calm reported that the app helped them navigate stress times in their lives by helping them carve out time each day to focus on their own minds.

Many people wrote that they started with a free account but happily upgraded to a full subscription after they tried out several meditations.

We read several reviews from people who said that Calm helped them develop a daily meditation habit when they hadn’t succeeded before and that the sessions were always relevant to where they were in life.

However, others took issue with Calm’s pricetag and limited options on the free version. A few reported that they didn’t realize that the free trial concluded with an annual subscription and wanted to contest the $60 fee.

A few people also wrote that they thought the app’s content was limited compared to other meditation apps like Headspace and Insight Timer.

This leads us to our next session; how does Calm compare to the meditation app competition?

Popular Meditation App Alternatives to Calm

Many people who are intrigued by Calm will also consider other meditation apps like Insight Timer and Headspace. As we’ll explore, each of these apps offers something unique for meditators.

Headspace is a meditation app designed for beginners that’s designed to help you establish a lifelong habit of mindfulness.

The app’s meditations are all narrated by founder Andrew Puddicombe, which many people appreciate for the cohesiveness between sessions. Like Calm, a Headspace membership gives you access to multi-day courses, mindfulness lectures, and sleep-inducing stories.

Only a small amount of Headspace content is available without a subscription. You’ll pay $12.99 per month for premium, or $95.88 for an annual membership.

Insight Timer is slightly different than the other two apps because it offers a platform for meditation teachers around the world to submit their meditation classes or courses.

You can access all of the app’s guided meditations for free, along with a meditation timer that lets you customize everything from the background music to the intervals of traditional Tibetan bells.

Premium membership is available for $10/month or $60/year, and it gives you access to multi-day meditation courses and other perks like the ability to download meditations. The app splits all proceeds from premium membership fifty-fifty with the meditation instructors based on how frequently their sessions are played.

Which app is best? That depends on your personal preferences. You might find Puddicombe’s British accent on Headspace to be distracting or might feel bothered about the differences in audio quality between different Insight Timer meditation sessions.

It’s hard to know which platform will resonate with you without trying them out, which is why we recommend taking advantage of their free trials before committing to a membership.

The Bottom Line: Should You Use Calm?

As this article showed, Calm is a meditation app with a robust offering of content related to mindfulness. It’s an excellent resource for beginners and meditation enthusiasts alike, and we think almost everyone can benefit from trying out Calm or a similar service.

That leads us to our one big concern with this platform – we think there’s little to differentiate it from the meditation app competition.

For example, Headspace offers a similar range of content, including meditation sessions, course, lectures, and sleep stories. Saying that, Calm costs about half the price of Headspace if you pay for a year at once, and it gives you a greater variety of instructors to meditate with.

If you’re in the market for a meditation app, Calm should absolutely be on your shortlist. Take advantage of that free trial to see whether it resonates with you before committing to more expensive membership.

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