Bible Study Apps Versus Devotional Apps

With all the Bible study apps available on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac, it’s easy to get confused about which app a person should use. I’ll post a few recommendations over the next few weeks, but today I want to discuss a fundamental question. What do you plan to do with the app?

People use their Bible study apps in different ways. How do you plan to use your Bible study app? Will you merely read the Bible, track your reading with a reading plan that the app provides or do you want to create your own personalized Bible reading plan? Will you highlight the passages on occasion or add personal notes, like you can do with a pen or pencil in the margin of your paper Bible? Maybe you want to work on a research paper for a Bible class in college or seminary. Some people need to translate the Bible into another language as part of a translator team or for a tribe in the jungles of South America in mission work.

congerdesign / Pixabay

There are apps that can handle all the above functions of reading or studying the Bible, but many apps work better for some of the things listed above and don’t do others that well.

Bible Reading and Devotional Bible Study

bible app youversion lifechurch
YouVersion Bible app for reading and devotions.

Some people want little more than a book reader that displays at least one translation of the Bible and that’s it. Maybe they want to search the Bible and even track their daily Bible reading. We call these devotional Bible reading apps. The list of common ways people describe these kinds of apps include…

  • Bible reader app
  • Devotional Bible app
  • Bible app
  • Bible study

The last name is a misnomer. I think Bible study apps include features that simple Bible reading or devotional apps don’t often include. Also, calling a devotional or simple Bible reader app a Bible app is like calling both a minivan and a NASCAR vehicle a car. They’re both cars but different people drive them. Jimmie Johnson, the driver of the #48 Lowes car in NASCAR may drive a minivan on occasion, but a man who drives his kids or grandkids to and from school or baseball practice probably never drives a racecar.

Here’s what every good devotional Bible app or simple Bible reading app should offer users.

  • Bible reading in all the popular translations like KJV, NIV, CSB or ESV and more.
  • Highlighting of verses
  • Add personal notes to the Bible app
  • Sharing on social networks
  • Copying to other apps to send a verse in email or a text message to your spouse or friend
  • Search the text of your translation
  • Customized display of text (fonts, sizes, background colors)

Would you expect any other features in a simple Bible reading app? Please respond in the comments to add other features that you would include at a minimum. But read the next section first, since many of the other features a person wants in their Bible app will mean they really need more than a simple Bible reader app. They want a Bible study app.

Bible Study App

olive tree bible on android
Olive Tree Bible study app on Android tablet.

Bible apps with more than the above features typically fit in the class of Bible study apps. These app developers target scholars, pastors, Bible teachers in Sunday school or informal communities of Bible students or people who want to study the Bible for personal development and spiritual growth.

The list of basic minimum features you should expect in a quality Bible study apps include…

  • All of the features included in a Bible reader or devotional Bible app
  • Includes other resources like commentaries, Bible dictionaries, atlases, study Bibles, language study tools like Strong’s dictionaries and lexicons
  • Advanced search tools that do more than find a list of verses with the word “grace” or “holy” like boolean searches
  • Multiple windows showing at the same time on-screen
  • Notes with advanced formatting
  • Library management that shows all of your books and lets you download or even remove books
  • Offline reading and study tools
  • Sync
Logos on Android without Internet
Logos on Android without Internet

Some of the best apps in the iOS or Google Play Store don’t include all the features in the above list. For example, Logos Bible from Faithlife doesn’t let you do Exegetical study (original language study) on their iOS and Android app without an Internet connection. However, I’d still call it one of the better mobile Bible study apps available.

What do you expect in a serious Bible study app? Let me know by commenting below.