How do you pick a good Bible app for your smartphone or tablet? The sarcastic side of me wants to say, “search for ‘Bible’ in the app store” but the helpful side of me realizes that there’s a lot more to picking a good Bible app for your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone or tablet. Just doing a search for Bible and then downloading the first thing you see will result, most likely in getting a really good app. That’s because the most popular and, therefore, most downloaded Bible app is called Bible or Bible HD from YouVersion, a ministry of LifeChurch.tv. It’s great if all you want to do is read the Bible, add notes and highlight passages. If you want to do serious Bible study, you will want something else.
Before you rush off to your favorite app store and search for Bible, ask yourself a few questions.
- Do you just want to read the Bible on your mobile device?
- Do you want to do some serious Bible study of original languages?
- Do you want access to books that you use on your desktop or laptop?
These questions will determine which kind of app you should get. If you answered yes to the first questions, just get the top app. It is mostly like Bible or Bible HD, depending on whether you’re on a phone or tablet respectively. Go over to YouVersion and click on the Mobile tab and you will see an app for your phone or tablet. On the iOS side, 1 out of every 17 devices has Bible or Bible HD loaded on it.
If you answered yes to the second questions, then you will need much more than the Bible or Bible HD app can give you. At present I recommend a few Digital Bible Study apps. More on that in a minute…
Three Categories of Apps
There are three different categories of Bible apps.
- Bible readers like YouVersion
- Digital Bible Study apps that let you do hard core study of modern translations
- Public Domain apps which might be in the first category or the second, but they only utilize public domain books, i. e. no modern translations like NIV or HCSB
Of the second category of apps – the Digital Bible Study apps – most of them have great features that let you do some serous work. You can read commentaries and get at the original meanings of words. You usually can highlight, add your own notes, keep track of your daily Bible reading, and post or share verses with others via email or social networking.
Keeping in Sync with Your PC/Mac
Moving forward, lets assume you are looking for a good Digital Bible Study app that lets you work with modern books and translations. I know some will only need a Bible reader. Like I said above, get YouVersion and your done. It’s the best available. For those who only want the public domain style apps, then go to your app store and search for the best desktop public domain focused app – e-Sword. You will find some apps that have sword in their name and they work like that great free Windows program. They are not necessarily associated with e-Sword, but they have the same philosophy of providing free apps that can read public domain books.
If you have a desktop program, ask the developer if they have a version for your smartphone. I know of a free that do.
- Laridian PocketBible
- OliveTree Bible Reader
- Logos Bible Software
- Accordance for Mac
- WORDsearch (iPad app coming soon)
- Glo Bible
If you own one of these programs on your desktop/laptop computer, then start with that app. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the accompanying mobile apps that might disappoint you. Still, getting the mobile version of your desktop software is a good place to start.
If you don’t own one of the above computer apps, then let me recommend you look for an app with the following minimum features that work in offline mode. When I say offline I mean when not connected to the Internet. Be wary of apps that require an Internet connection. Most will let you read a Bible or book offline, but extra features are only available online. Unless the app is really great, don’t get caught by this because you won’t be able to get online all the time.
- Bible reading
- Bible searching
- Multiple translations and reference works
- Modern translations and reference works
- Ability to add your own notes, highlights and bookmarks
- Tracking of a daily devotion that isn’t tied just to today’s date but lets you mark off days as you finish since you sometimes skip a day
If an app cannot do the above things, then move on to something else.
Let me recommend a few apps that will do all of the above, or will do them very soon, in order of my preference:
- OliveTree Bible Reader – also has a Mac and soon a Windows version
- MantisBible – no Mac/Windows version and the Android version is under development
- Laridian PocketBible – only has a Windows version on desktop but offers a great iPhone/iPad version and Android version in development
- Logos Bible Software – the reading plans, notes and highlights will not be available till sometime after the first of the year and some of the features are only available while online
- Accordance – limited Bible reading tracking and must be a user of their desktop app
One of those five programs will certainly work for you. The first one is one of the most popular and has a large team of developers working on the app and creating new resources. The desktop version of the program, at least on the Mac side, works great and looks wonderful.
MantisBible has some of the most unique features and also includes a large set of excellent resources. PocketBible isn’t the most beautiful, but is rock solid and has some great resources available. Logos and Accordance are really only useful if you use their desktop version and already have a library of books.