Mobile Mindfulness

There’s some good news for users of mobile apps for mindfulness – a recent systematic review has revealed a number of apps that pass the expert rated test of quality and performance. The result? A list of go-to mobile applications for mindfulness.

The systematic review, conducted last year, identified 700 apps in the iTunes app store, which were advertised as ‘mindfulness’ apps (Mani, Kavanagh, Hides, & Stoyanov, 2015). Of this seemingly overwhelming and positive number, only 23 of these apps provided mindfulness training. By utilising a quality framework called the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS), this study was able to characterise these mobile apps for mindfulness on five important indicators: Engagement, Functionality, Aesthetics, Information Quality, and Subjective User Satisfaction.

The maximum score possible on each of these indicators was 5, and the minimum standard for quality acceptability was 3. Here are the 10 most highly rated apps of the review.

The Apps

APP Engagement Functionality Aesthetics Information Satisfaction Overall
Headspace 3.8 4.8 4.7 4.0 4.0 4.0
Smiling Mind 3.4 4.5 4.3 3.8 4.0 3.7
iMindfulness 3.0 4.8 3.7 3.7 2.5 3.5
Mindfulness Daily 3.2 4.0 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.5
Buddhify 2 3.6 3.8 3.7 3.5 3.8 3.4
Complete Mindfulness 3.0 4.0 4.0 3.7 2.8 3.4
Mindfulise 3.6 3.5 4.0 3.3 2.5 3.4
ACT Coach 3.0 4.0 3.0 3.8 3.5 3.3
Rhythm Free 3.4 3.5 4.0 3.2 3.0 3.3
Simply8 2.8 3.8 4.0 3.5 2.8 3.3


The Takeaway

Of the 700 apps found in the initial search, only 4% of these actually provided mindfulness training and education. This is a really big difference, and a reminder to be wary of the claims vs. the content of mobile apps, especially when they relate to health. The remainder of the apps were either duplicates, or simply relaxation, timers, reminder, or reference apps that did not meet the criteria for being a mindfulness app.

While the evidence of this review suggests that mindfulness apps in general, rate moderate to highly on measures of quality and content, it is worth mentioning that simply calling an app a ‘mindfulness app’ does not make it so. There is currently no gold standard for how mindfulness is characterised and best taught and practiced interactively. Furthermore, there is a need for thorough evidence based studies measuring the efficacy of mindfulness apps. While measuring the quality and content of these apps across multiple indicators is important, it does not provide the necessary evidence that these apps are successful at training individuals in mindfulness across time.

Further research, including clinical trials will begin to provide the evidence we need. In the meantime, we can be sure that the apps above will provide us with quality and satisfying experiences of being mindful on the go.

Mani, M., Kavanagh, D. J., Hides, L., & Stoyanov, S. R. (2015). Review and evaluation of mindfulness-based iphone apps. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 3(3), e82. doi:10.2196/mhealth.4328

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