In starting a routine meditation practice, as discussed in my review of Transcendence, I wanted a simple timer app to use on my phone to manage the duration of my sessions. I didn’t want one with an audible alarm because I want to be able to gently open an eye to glance at the timer to see where I stand, without being jarred from deeper states. This works well for me and the style of meditation I’m doing (NSR, in some ways similar to Transcendental Meditation). I find that an audible alarm, no matter how gentle is very jarring and unpleasant for me, and it’s rare that I go over by more than a minute or so when watching the clock. I would liken this to an alarm clock for sleeping – in that I don’t want the feeling of grogginess that comes from waking from the middle of a REM cycle, as opposed to waking naturally during light sleep. I can also get more relaxed because I know I don’t have to tend to an alarm, and can just start my cool-down on my own terms when it’s comfortable and without reaching for my phone.
Of the “meditation timers” I found in the Google Play app store (for Android, obviously), almost all were more complicated than I was looking for, by implementing meditation tracking, including social features, coming with a library of sounds, using pretty but abstract and unclear graphics, etc.
I’ll review the timers I tried for meditation – please forgive the red-tint to the screenshots, I had Iris Mini running when they were taken (I know it looks funny, but you get used to it and it’s great for eye health and restful sleep after using a device, unlike writing blog posts in the middle of the night).
Ovo Timer has an easy interface that’s very versatile for timing varying durations without having to change app settings. Disabled vibration and silent alarm make it silent and completely unobtrusive. It offers a very clear visual indication when complete (by resetting to the ready status). Its dark theme is nice for a dimmer, more relaxed environment, but is very functional in a lighter setting as well. The interface for setting the duration is very pleasant and straightforward to use. While I did find one I preferred for meditation, I plan to keep this timer around for other uses, particularly for cooking and work tasks.
Flip’s Timer is simple and about as minimal as it gets in interface. When the alarm is set to silent it serves its function well. This was a good candidate. In particular, I liked that the timer used the full 360 degrees of the circle to visualize time, rather than as a fraction of time (as in the next app). My only complaints, common among these timers, is that it would be nice to have a stronger visual indication when the timer has completed and that there’s a notification when the timer completes – while this didn’t make any noise or vibrate, I didn’t like that I couldn’t disable it. The duration is set in the preferences menu, which makes it great and unambiguous if you always want the same duration, but a hassle if you want to set timers of different durations.
Visual Timer – Countdown
Visual Timer – Countdown has a great interface and is very easy to use. Unfortunately, the notification when the timer completes is a deal-breaker. There are settings for enabling or disabling vibration and setting (or muting) a ringer when the timer finishes, but there’s no way to turn off the notification, which causes a vibration, even when the phone is in do-not-disturb mode. While still not as loud as a ringer going off, the sound of the brief vibration, especially if the phone is on a hard surface, can be just as jarring. The graphics are also a little more sterile or utilitarian than the others, which isn’t a problem but was a bonus for the others. On the plus side, it does offer presets for timers of different durations, so it is easy to set up for different meditative practices or other tasks.
Transcend Meditation Timer
Transcend Meditation Timer looks to be the one I’ll stick with. The interface is incredibly simple and minimal, and the settings minimal and clear. As an added bonus, it gives the option of silencing all sounds and enabling do-not-disturb mode on the phone automatically, so I don’t have to enable those myself before starting it. Pressing the stop button after the timer completes (or the pause button while it’s running) turns off the silencing features, which means your phone stays quiet until you interact with it, not just when the timer ends. While running, it also goes full-screen, hiding the notification bar, which is a nice touch for avoiding distraction, and it just looks nice (you can see this in the featured photo at the top of the page.
Like Ovo Timer, the dark theme is nice for dim, visually-subdued environments, and like Flip’s Timer, the duration is set in a menu – if you always plan to meditate for the same duration this is a convenience, if you vary duration session-to-session, this will be a minor hassle.
The main issue I found is that if the timer is paused, there doesn’t appear to be a way to reset it other than leaving and returning to the app. I don’t think this will apply often, and it’s an easy workaround, but I’ve submitted a feature request for a button or menu option to reset the timer if it is paused.
Do what’s comfortable for you. Use whichever of these (or any others) suit you best and make maintaining a meditation habit easiest. If you prefer a gentle audible alarm, the Transcend Meditation Timer does include one, as do the MANY “meditation timers” available on the Google Play Store.
While timer apps may not specifically relate to reading or Masonic education, I do feel meditation can be an important and fulfilling component of the practice of Masonic principles and of improving one’s self.