Simple Habit teaches you mindfulness through five-minute audio sessions. It wants to become the Spotify for meditation and relieve stress in ‘busy people’.
Earlier this week, at its annual I/O event, Google announced the Best Play Store Apps of 2018. The list was spread across nine categories. Simple Habit, a meditation and wellness app, won in the ‘Standout Well-Being App’ category. Google noted that the app was “empowering people to live the best version of their lives, while demonstrating responsible design and engagement strategies.”
Simple Habit was started in 2016 by Yunha Kim (a former investment banker on Wall Street). It emerged out of Yunha’s need to manage stress in her own life when she was running her first startup, Locket, in the Bay Area. To maintain a healthy work-life balance and to improve focus, Yunha turned to daily meditation. She later founded Simple Habit with the idea of offering five-minute guided meditation sessions to “busy people” dealing with stress and anxiety.
In May 2017, Simple Habit raised a seed funding of $2.5 million from Y-Combinator and a clutch of other investors. Later that year, Google featured it in the Editor’s Choice section of Play Store. The Android app has been downloaded 500,000 times and is rated at 4.7 out of 5. There is an iOS and web version too.
Founder-CEO Yunha has said in the past that Simple Habit aims to be the “Spotify for meditation”. It offers 50-plus free sessions, and over a 1,000 guided meditation courses to premium subscribers. The app has 1.7 million users on its platform, though the number of paid members is not known.
“We’re seeing 25,000+ new users sign up for our app every week, and that number continues to grow,” Simple Habit tells YourStory on email.
Let us dig into the app.
Simple Habit is for busy people, and that is stated upfront. It is your app to fall back on when the going gets tough.
After you log in, the app asks you to set your goals for the year. It offers you choices like Learn to Meditate, Sleep Better, Reduce Stress, Calm Anxiety, Improve Focus, Find Happiness, and more. You can make a selection that helps the app understand your needs better and throw up relevant sessions. It is akin to choosing your favourite genres or musicians on Spotify.
The next screen prompts you to set a personalised alarm for meditation. You can save a time and the app will remind you every morning. You may skip this process too.
The screen after this suggests you to play a five-minute ‘Simple Habit Starter’ audio, where Cory Muscara, a psychology professor at Columbia University, introduces you to mindfulness and meditation.
On the app homepage, there are three sections - On the Go, Series, and Teachers.
‘On the Go’ is possibly the most good-looking and engaging feature of Simple Habit. It asks you ‘what are you doing?’ and prompts you to choose from a wheel of activities, moods or situations. It also asks you how much time you have in hand - five, ten or twenty minutes.
Once you choose a mood or situation, it asks you to specify further. Based on your selection, the app throws up relevant meditation sessions that you need at that precise moment. Say you choose ‘Tough Day’... Simple Habit wants to know if you’re depressed or stressed or need a purpose or feeling under the weather, and more.
If you click on ‘Stressed’ the app opens up a session telling you how to deal with it. Umpteen such sessions and guided courses can be accessed for various moods and moments.
The second tab after ‘On the Go’ is ‘Series’ and it is for users who have more time on hand, and are keen to browse and discover. On the Series tab, you can browse through multiple genres and playlists ala music-streaming apps. These include Morning Meditations, A Healthy Mind, To Sleep Better, To Calm Anxiety, To Reduce Stress, and more. Each topic has multiple sessions under it.
Umbrella topics/genres like Sleep, Health, Relax, Focus, Resilience, Relationships, etc., are listed as you scroll to the bottom of the Series tab. Each topic has a series of sessions under it.
Simple Habit also has an ‘Unguided’ section where users do not have to listen to any meditation coach or mindfulness teacher. Instead, they meditate in silence or to sounds of nature like rain, ocean, wind chimes, fireplace etc.
The third tab is ‘Teachers’ that lists all coaches, psychologists, therapists, mind trainers, and so on whose sessions are a part of Simple Habit.
This feature allows you to directly access your favourite coach’s session without having to navigate through the app.
At the bottom of the screen is the ‘Me’ tab that allows you to keep a track of your activity on Simple Habit.
Simple Habit lets you know that you can “unlock all meditations” if you become a paid user. In India, a monthly subscription is priced at Rs 350. At present, the app is running a 50-percent special promotional offer for new users. The amount is billed as a one-time payment. Simple Habit also offers a 30-day free trial like Netflix. You can cancel your subscription any time.
The ‘More’ tab at the bottom is for trivia, FAQs and additional information on the Science of Meditation. You can also buy and gift Simple Habit subscriptions.
We took a session titled 'Feeling Under The Weather'. It started with a meditation coach saying, "I am sorry to hear that you're feeling under the weather."
"Get into a comfortable position, sitting or lying down... Now, close your eyes. Rest your hands in a comfortable position... Begin by focusing your attention on the breath... Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth... Exhale loudly for the next three breaths..." and so on.
The guidance is punctured with pauses at the right moments for you to take that deep breath or three breaths or alter the position of your body and so on. It almost feels as if the coach is physically present with you right at that moment. The instructions are effective and to-the-point, and uttered with great calm.
The session ends with the instructor saying, "Thanks for meditating with me today. I hope you feel well again soon."
Why Simple Habit scores
Simple Habit is a sophisticated and beautifully designed app. The interface is lucid, the colours are calming, the navigation is ‘simple’ and frictionless, and the content on offer is rich and engaging.
With ‘health and wellness’ exploding as a category in tech, Simple Habit is well-timed and entirely utilitarian for business professionals or even the lonesome souls.
The benefits of meditation are underscored, and each audio session is of a high production quality. Simple Habit picks, chooses and carefully vets trainers, coaches and therapists on its platform to appeal to the discerning user.
The only possible area that can be beefed up is the number of free sessions on offer. While premium subscribers get to unlock thousands of meditation sessions and join a community of millions, price-conscious users might feel starved of good playlists.
Of course, the Simple Habit model is to make users pay — part of it goes towards the teachers on the platform — but to acquire new users, especially in emerging markets, a well-stocked free offering might help.
Now that Google has put its might behind it, Simple Habit’s dream of becoming the ‘Spotify for meditation’ doesn’t seem all that improbable.