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Review: Spoke – Mindfulness to a hip-hop beat

Developer: Spoke World Ltd
Price: Free
Size: 65 MB
Version: 1.0.25
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Mindfulness apps are plentiful on the App Store, but they all tend to take on a familiar tone. There’s a tendency towards a certain kind of ambient, dare we say ‘New Age’ musical language that might have the very opposite of the desired effect, depending on your own tastes.

Spoke doesn’t attempt to broaden that palette so much as it attempts to appeal to a different niche entirely. In particular, according to Spoke’s blog, young males who aren’t well-catered to by existing options. Out goes the serene synth washes, whale sounds, and tinkling pianos; in comes the lo-fi beats and spoken rhymes of UK hip-hop.

Episodes are tailored to your mood

At the start of your journey with Spoke, you’ll be asked to select your own predominant mood from a graph (gloomy, lonely, depressed etc.). The app will then form a personalized program of motivational episodes themed around that mood, with daily notifications to remind you to check in. You’ll be encouraged to return to the aforementioned mood board as part of your daily routine.

The language used in each of Spoke’s three to seven-minute motivational episodes isn’t a million miles away from any other mindfulness app. While UK hip-hop producers and rising artists provide the vocals, each speaker has apparently been “trained by neuroscientists, psychologists and therapists”.

The goal is to ‘complete’ your daily ‘journey’

The content of many of the episodes takes a more overtly musical form, but the lyrics cover familiar breathing exercises and motivational lines. Whether you respond to this kind of thing or not will be a deeply personal thing, so we’ll reserve judgment on that front. Being exhorted to “thank yourself for taking the time for you” won’t hit home with everyone, we suspect, but the messaging is relentlessly positive.

What’s truly impressive is the fresh approach Spoke takes, as well as the sheer polish and professionalism with which it’s delivered. The production is top-notch, and the experience appropriately friction-free.

The production and presentation are all top notch

Spoke is seemingly targeted at a slightly younger crowd than other, more generic mindfulness apps. This is also seen with the overt gamification that’s on display. As you listen to successive episodes, you’ll level up three core stats (Skill, Psych, Sounds) and unlock new episodes.

We’re not sure about the scientific validity of that scoring system, but gamification is a well-established trick apps pull to snag and retain an audience. One early episode claims that it’s been shown to take four to eight episodes before you’ll start to feel noticeably calmer, more at peace, and more confident, so offering an additional incentive to go past the initial batch of episodes seems smart.

Gamification is a strong component

Spoken is an impeccably produced if relatively niche mindfulness app. If hip-hop (and UK hip-hop specifically) does nothing for you, the app is unlikely to have the same level of benefit. Of course, the same would be true if it was all ambient, acoustic rock, jazz, or any other single musical genre.

We always appreciate specificity and focus in an app, and we’d love to see others following Spoke’s lead and tackle the mindfulness genre from a unique musical angle.