Bible study on the iPhone just keeps getting better. I am blessed to get to play with some exciting products on the iPhone, PC and hopefully soon the iPad. One of those products is from one of the smallest of the companies producing Bible software for iPhone, Mantis. But they are also one of the most creative. And is named as one of my top four Bible apps for the iPhone.
The company just released 4.7 from the Apple App store with a few really nice improvements.
Text to Speech
The first addition of note is the Text to Speech capability using one of five optional voice add-ons. The voices can be purchased either in the app or through MantisBible.com for only 1.99. I tested them out reading from 1 Peter.
Of the five voices, I liked the Ryan voice the most. It is an adult mail voice and is clear and easy to listen to. If you prefer a female voice you can choose Heather or Laura. The Heather voice was my personal favorite. Two of the voices are children’s voices and they are not as good, but your kids might prefer them. The Kenny voice actually sounded a little more like a girl to me.
You first must install the voices from the library menu by tapping the book name in the top left corner. Tap the Media tab and scroll down to see the voice names. Purchase them by tapping and the next screen will give you the option. If you purchased them online, you will have to tap the Check for updates in bright red at the top of the screen to have them in your list of available content. They take a little while to download, so be patient.
While in a reading window, tap on the Tools button in the top right to reveal the toolbar. The button directly next to the larger white Options button is a sound icon. It reveals the reading toolbar at the bottom (pictured below). From there you will see the toolbar at the bottom of the text with the close button to turn off the voice, a long slider, the voice chooser button in white and the play button to the right. Tap the white box to choose among the installed voices. Hit the play button and it will start reading to you.
I am not sure what the slider is used to adjust. It thought it was for the speed of the voice or the volume, but it seems to do nothing right now. Also you cannot switch voices on the fly; you must first pause the voice and then tap the voice selection box. Not sure if this is by design or a bug. I wish it would automatically stop the voice and take me to the screen where I can choose another voice.
While choosing the voice you can adjust the volume and speed of the voice (see the above screen shots – the lower left screen shot shows the voice selector with volume and speed sliders).
This will be a nice feature while driving or exercising. You can do your devotional “reading” while on the go. Aside from the minor annoyances, it works great!
Verse Memorization Module
There are verse memorization apps in the Apple App store, but it makes so much sense to have one in your Bible app. When reading your devotions or listening to someone teach on a verse you can quickly add the verse to the memorization module and come back later to learn it.
You access the module from the menu that appears when you press and hold the verse number. For example, if you want to add Romans 3:23 to the memorization list, top and hold the 23 in Romans 3:23 and the menu will appear. If you have used Mantis for awhile you will recognize this as the way to access the inline translation chooser, commentary chooser, and other functions like adding notes or highlights. The inline study Bible as they like to call it is one of the greatest plusses of MantisBible. Now there is a Memorize button with a heart over the word.
After adding the verse by tapping the Memorize button, you access your list of verses by going to your notes. At the top you will see folders. If you have no other folders of notes it will be the only one there. Otherwise find the Memorize folder. Tap on the verse you added and the Memorization module screen appears. From there you can work on memorizing the verse. Hit the Question mark button to learn about how to use the module as it is not obvious, but once you are told it is quite useful and easy to work with.
The way to memorize is by repetition. You read and re-read the verse over and over. You then start tapping words to remove them from the verse (see right below). After awhile the entire verse is gone but you are saying it from memory.
At the bottom of the screen you see [RESET VERSE], which you tap so you can see the original verse. When you think you know it, tap the test button at the upper left (see above pictures). There are two test styles. With the Scrambled button selected, when you tap the Test button it puts all the words of the verse in the bottom half of the test screen all scrambled in the wrong order (see left below). Tap the words in the proper order to show that you have it memorized. The alternative test type lets you type out the words. When the 1st Letter button is selected prior to tapping the Test button, a keyboard is placed in the bottom of the screen (see right below). Start typing the first few letters of a word to make it appear above to test your memorization.
The final new feature in this release is the Advanced Search function. I won’t go into a lot of detail here. But from the MantisBIble.com forum, here is what they developer is saying about it.
New Search Screen (allows you to search across all installed volumes at the same time, select specific books of the Bible to filter the search, and allows you to view the entire verse for each "hit" and drill-down to strongs numbers, etc., all in the search screen.)
The search feature is much improved and will give you more control over finding content.
MantisBible just keeps getting better. The text to speech and memorization modules are very nice additions. As per my custom of rating using the App Store model, I give Mantis a definite five star rating. After reading some of the reviews about stability issue in the App store reviews, I was surprised. I think that one caveat iPhone software users should consider is that if an app is buggy or crashing ask yourself two things.
1. Have I reset my iPhone since upgrading? That usually fixes problems I have had with a cantankerous app.
2. Have I been updating for so long that it might be time to do a fresh install. The iPhone OS keeps all your preferences when you simply upgrade. After a few point releases it is a good idea to delete the app and reinstall from scratch either from the App store or by syncing with iTunes on your desktop.
I have had no issues with buggy behavior with v. 4.7. Nor has it crashed once. YMMV!