How to Create a Meditation App Like Headspace or Calm

'Breathe in, breathe out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Allow thoughts to come and go.’ These words have become an essential part of our modern life, where meditation is widely accepted as the best and most effective way to cope with stress, anxiety, procrastination, and even imposter syndrome. No wonder the meditation app market is flourishing.

Nowadays, our everyday life is tied around smartphones — we work and rest with phones in our hands. Our smartphones can even relieve stress — that’s why meditation app development becomes more popular with each passing day. We created a step-by-step guide on how to develop meditation apps like Calm or Headspace. Here, you can find insights about the meditation app industry, a meditation app development cost, a mindfulness app development process, and how to select key features for an app. Enjoy!

Reading time: 12 minutes

Meditation App Development
Table of contents

Who else is on the meditation app market

Let’s talk about competitors first. Currently, there are two major players: Headspace and Calm — they share around 70% of the U.S. meditation app market.

Headspace is a meditation app that provides guided mindfulness sessions in multiple languages. In 2010, a former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe and his ex-client, Richard Pierson founded the startup in the UK. They started with offline meditation events across the UK but then quickly realized that the future is online. With friends and family support, they released the app, and by August 2022, it had reached 65 million downloads and earned $610 million in revenue.

Calm, the second biggest healthcare mobile app, appeared on the market two years later, also in the UK in 2012. In 2019, their revenue surpassed $100 million.

Top 2 meditation apps in the U.S., Headspace and Calm

Key features of a meditation app

We gathered 7 features you will definitely need in order to build a meditation app for mental health maintenance that everyone will love and use.

Sign-up / Sign-in page

First things first. A sign-up form meets all users of a meditation app. Our advice is to simplify it as much as you can to give users a quick start. People definitely don’t want to spend more than 3 minutes filling it in. The sign-up page should ask to create a username and a password, to put an email address, and to agree to the Terms and Conditions while the sign-in board of a meditation app should have login and password fields.

Headspace / Calm sign-up pages

Personal profile

This feature helps users personalize their page, add photos and profile status, as well as check subscription plans, change language settings, and enable notifications. If the marketing strategy for your meditation app is to build the community around it, you can also add a friends list to a user’s personal profile like Headspace, or check-ins on Calm.

Headspace / Calm personal profile pages

Meditation library

Content is what keeps users engaged and increases the Customer Retention Rate (CRR) of a meditation app. The more diverse your content is, the more people will stay in the app, browsing and trying new sessions. Usually, apps offer different lengths of meditation, guided and unguided options, and thematic sections: sleep, anxiety, fear of flying, and so on. We recommend dividing meditations into logical groups, so users can easily navigate through the library.

Plus, when you develop a mindfulness app, it’s also good to think about implementing different voices like male and female narrators. For example, both Headspace and Calm invite celebrities to record guided meditation sessions with apps, so users can ease their minds by listening to LeBron James, Matthew McConaughey, or Lucy Liu.

Headspace / Calm personal libraries

Play / Stop buttons

The play screen is not just for users’ comfort but also acts like a call-to-action in a meditation app. Big bright buttons raise a desire to tap, dive in, and start exploring sessions. Also, the majority of meditation techniques require closed eyes, so it’s better to set a 3 to 5-second pause between the moment the user hits play and meditation starts. Here is the list of necessary elements for this page that will please your users:

    • Play / Stop buttons;
    • Scrubber, so users can see how long the meditation lasts;
    • Rewind buttons;
    • Sound settings, like volume, speed, and voice.

Headspace / Calm play interface

Personal progress

Let users see how much they progress on meditating! Seeing the results and getting rewards like badges motivates people to keep at it. Headspace and Calm have app features like this — they give streaks for meditating X days in a row or completing a whole course. It can also be a good idea to have in your meditation app.

Headspace / Calm progress tracker pages

Push notifications

That’s how a meditation app like Headspace keeps users engaged: push notifications act like triggers to open the app. Calm offers to set up a daily reminder; for instance, every morning at 8:30 am, you can get a notification with a friendly invitation to meditate today. Headspace uses this feature to share mindful and inspirational messages throughout the day.

Headspace daily notifications. Source: Twitter @MelCLiu

Payments options

In-app purchases and subscriptions are how your app will make money. That’s why interfaces should be simple and clear to use. At Purrweb, for clients who want to create a meditation app like Calm, we pick only the most preferable payment options. Be it credit/debit card, ApplePay, GooglePlay, or PayPal integration — the choice depends mainly on what you’re comfortable working with, as well as what your targets prefer using.

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How does a meditation app like Headspace make money?

There are 4 popular monetization models for a meditation app.

Subscription. To be honest, the most popular meditation apps are not free of charge, and premium subscriptions are a major way of monetization. Headspace offers 10 introductory meditation sessions for free, and if you want to keep going, you have to pay $5.63 per month or $69.99 per year which is even more than a basic Netflix subscription. Calm came up with a 7-day free trial, after which you will be invited to pay $12.99 per month or $69.99 annually. Also, meditation apps offer an option of a one-time payment that gives you access to the sessions catalog forever. Calm goes with a $399.99 price. One of the mindfulness apps we’ve developed — Breath Method — is subscription-based, too.

Fee per download. Some mindfulness apps, like Buddhify, charge a small fee per download — $7.44 from the iOS App Store and $5.99 from the Google Play Store.

In-app ads. Another way to make money from a meditation app is in-app ads. They are usually used by apps with free access to sessions, like Deep Meditation, which also might suggest you remove ads by paying a small fee. However, stats say it has the opposite effect. Users get annoyed by pop-up windows and stop using apps. That’s why we recommend looking at other monetization options.

Partnerships and sponsorships are also a strategy to work with. Almost any mindfulness app has a broad mature audience to offer for brand partners. For example, Headspace has collaborated with Amazon, Air Canada, Nike, Spotify, and many other companies. If you need some inspiration, you can see the full list of their collaborators here.

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Which tech stack to choose for a meditation app

If you’re planning to create a mindfulness app, choosing an appropriate tech stack can cut costs and speed up development. But which one is beneficial for your product? At Purrweb, we recommend sticking to a JavaScript-based tech stack. It has everything you need to integrate any type of feature into your app.

There are three types of frameworks under this JavaScript umbrella: React.js, Electron.js, and React Native. Each of them is useful for their own purposes.

The first two are used for web-based and desktop apps, respectively.

If you want to build a meditation mobile app, React Native is a solid choice. At Purrweb, we’ve been using the framework since 2016 and can attest to its efficacy. It’s a perfect fit for an MVP — a stripped-down version of the app made for testing market hypotheses.

There are several reasons to consider this tech stack for meditation mobile app development:

Saves time. You can release a feasible version of your product in less than 4 months. That’s because you don’t have to develop iOS and Android versions independently — you can create a singular codebase. With just a few tweaks, your product will be functioning — ready to hit both the App Store and the Google Play market and reach a wider audience.

Also, you can save time because React Native developers don’t have to develop features from scratch. For instance, if you want to build a wellness app where users can meditate and track progress even if the phone is locked, you won’t have to build it from the ground up. React Native has libraries of pre-built functions, and your developers can use this prewritten code and release the app faster.

Cuts costs. If you want to develop an app for different mobile platforms, you won’t have to hire two separate development teams. Maintaining code quality is easy, too — you’ll spend less money on developers restructuring your code to fix issues.

React Native is an open-source stack — you won’t have to pay for licensing. Other frameworks have some tools locked behind a paywall. For example, Ionic provides access to extra features for an additional cost.

And because there are many UI toolkits, you can incorporate beautiful designs into your MVP without spending a fortune to prototype them from scratch.

Helps to make adjustments to your product as you go. One of the main reasons startups release MVPs is to test market hypotheses and see what works and what needs to be changed. React Native lends itself to this idea well. Even if your funding and resources are limited, you can seamlessly add or remove functionality. Thought of some killer features? Integrate them into the next update of your MVP. Think the “select your age” slider in your meditation app feels clunky, and the buttons look better? Replace one with the other without rewriting your entire codebase.

How to create a meditation app

If you want to create a successful meditation app from scratch, follow these steps:

 Step 1. Define your business idea

Before starting the design and app development process, you need to clarify the concept of your future app. Business idea shows all development zones of your future app and clarifies in which direction the app should move to become successful. It’s better to decide on your goals beforehand.

Step 2. Design your meditation app

If your app aims at helping your users with stress, anxiety, and mental health maintenance, you need to make a user-friendly interface and choose the main colors carefully. Such apps like Headspace and Calm have a minimalistic design and pastel color palette. Colors such as pastel pink, violet, and green are common among meditation apps.

Step 3. Develop MVP

First of all, you need to choose the platform: iOS or Android. If your budget allows, you can ask your development team to create the app for both platforms. If you want to save money, choose a cross-platform development using React Native. MVP building is a good decision if you want to test your idea and get feedback from real users.

Step 4. Gather feedback and plan the app’s improvement

After you release your MVP and collect feedback, it’s time to determine your next steps. The release is only the beginning of your business path. App’s improvements never end.

How much does it cost to build an app like Headspace or Calm?

The next question is always ‘Do I need millions for a meditation app?’. The answer is no! Did you know that Headspace began as a startup with only $50,000 of initial capital that they gathered from friends and family members? After 10 years, the app earned millions of U.S. dollars on meditation and has users from 190 countries around the world.

The general rule about pricing is the more teams you hire, the more you pay. Many startups want to build multiple apps for different operating systems to cover a larger variety of markets but don’t want to hire multiple teams for meditation app development. The good news is that at Purrweb, we work with the React Native framework that allows us to develop a meditation app like Calm really quickly, and to use one JavaScript code and one team for both iOS and Android app versions. It saves our clients tons of time and money.

Also, for our clients, we try to make the development process as transparent as possible, and we always openly discuss all future steps. The average meditation app development time for the Purrweb team is 5 months. Let’s do the math now!

How much does it cost to build a meditation app like Calm or Headspace? When you want to make a meditation app with us, you will pay for full-cycle development, including:

The service Estimated time frame and cost
UI/UX design 1.5 months / $5,265
Frontend development 3 months (in parallel with BE) / $18,495
Backend development 3 months (in parallel with FE) / $15,210
Admin app 2 months (in parallel with FE and BE) / $8,640
QA testing in parallel with development / $5,400
Project Management throughout the entire development / $3,750

We prepared an approximate assessment with the features we mentioned before:

According to similar projects we have made, the estimated cost of a meditation app like Headspace or Calm is from $57,000 to $65,000 for a full cycle of development — UI/UX design, development, and QA testing.

Our experience in meditation app development

We’re no strangers to creating meditation apps. At Purrweb, we’ve developed over 300 projects — some of them were solutions specific to the wellness industry. For instance, one of the apps revolved around sleep stories.

We’ve used the aforementioned process to create a competitor to Headspace called The Breath Method — one of the relaxation meditation apps. The platform provides guided meditation with breathing exercises. It also includes content that drives user engagement: some articles showcasing the importance of proper breathing, audio lessons with breathing cues, and a special section with techniques to reduce stress — all created by the founders. It works great for people living in big cities, those struggling with their hectic lifestyles, feeling pressured and emotionally drained.

 The Breath Method app interface

The Breath Method app

Let’s examine the path of this app from the idea to a full-fledged product:

We have met with the founders in May 2020. The second wave of COVID-19 was looming, and they wanted to create an app centered around breathing exercises to alleviate anxiety. We already had experience with such apps, so we agreed to work together.

The founders were right — many mindfulness apps didn’t have breathing exercises at the time. The clients had only a vague idea of what they wanted, so we helped them flesh it out.

Firstly, we analyzed the market and worked out the features and the overall design of the app. For features, we included the registration screen, breathing course playlists, and other content. As for the meditation app design, we settled on some colors: a lush green/warm gray.

For coding, the founders wanted to hire a separate app development team. But we could write the code from scratch ourselves — not only did we have every developer needed, but we could also get designers, managers, and QA specialists to join. Eventually, the clients chose to stick with us.

We used React Native as the app’s main tech stack. The client wanted us to additionally develop a landing page that would get the audience to download the app. For this task, we used Gatsby — a React-based tool to build fast, beautiful websites. The founders saved money, and we spent less time on development.

a prototype of the landing page

The landing page prototype

Of course, we encountered some challenges while developing some meditation app features. For example, there wasn’t enough quality content on the platform at first. But we managed to complete and release an MVP in 5 months. Now, the app is up and running, and you can download it on the App Store or in Google Play Market. And if you want to find out more about how we developed this app, visit the link below.

Let’s start the meditation app development process today!
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Let’s reinforce

Is it a good idea to build an app like Calm or Headspace? Yes, because the meditation app sector is a trending area for your future startup. The amount of stress in everyday life only increases, and people desperately need creative tools to ease their minds and relax. Also, the meditation app is easy to monetize because the majority of competitors have already implemented premium subscriptions, and audiences are already warmed up to the idea of paying for an app regularly.

Remember, when you want to build a meditation app, a solid idea and a reliable experienced contractor are more important than initial capital. Headspace started with only $50,000 in their pockets and grew into one of the biggest health apps in the world.

There are some reasons to build a meditation app:

    • The demand for meditation apps grows, and the profitability, too. The average number of meditation practitioners is about 350 million people, and your products wouldn’t go unnoticed.
    • Such apps go with many other practices for body and mind. You can’t limit it only to meditation. You can add habit trackers, relaxation music, or sleep practices to your meditation app and expand the range of users.

We define 3 types of meditation apps:

    • Guided or unguided meditations. Guided meditations with the teacher’s help are suitable for newbies. Unguided meditations don’t offer a teacher’s help. If practitioners like to meditate in silence, this type is appropriate for them.
    • Movement meditations. Practitioners can meditate not only while sitting but also while walking or dancing.
    • Visualization meditations. This type of meditation focuses on inner images instead of letting all thoughts go.

While creating a meditation app like Calm or Headspace, you can face difficulties.

    • The audio plays smoothly. One of the challenges of meditation apps is to make the music play uninterrupted. Music disruption can spoil the relaxation process.
    • The app is simple to use. Each meditation app has to be updated, but at the same time, stay simple and intuitive. You need to discuss with your UI/UX team all ways of keeping the app uncluttered and intuitive.
    • Localization. If you want to create an app for global auditory, you need to hire specialists to make the translation proper since incorrect translations can make a bad impression on users from other countries.

We will be happy to help you build an app like Headspace and maybe even better. If you want a full-cycle development, drop us a line, and we’ll write to you in 24 hours.

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  • How meditation apps make money?

    There are 4 popular ways: premium subscription, fee per download, in-app ads, partnership and sponsorship.

  • How much does it cost to build a meditation app?

    You need about $65,000 and 5 month to build a meditation app like Calm or Headspace.

  • What technology to choose for the development?

    If you want to save money and get two apps at a time, we recommend you to use React Native framework. This technology will help you get an app with one code base and deploy it for both iOS and Android platforms.