Update: An updated version of this list was published on December 28, 2013.
The Bible has always been a best seller, but the popularity of Bible-related apps for iOS devices is growing. Bible apps have been popular ever since the App Store opened its doors, and according to an article in The Atlantic (http://bit.ly/aisznm), BibleReader (reviewed in this article) recently broke into the top 10 highest grossing book apps for the iPad.
There are hundreds of Bible-related apps in the App Store. This article looks at the top five apps for the Christian Bible. All of them are available for the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad, and all of them have free versions. In addition, four of the five let you add other versions of the Bible to the app for a fee.
5. Bible HD
Bible HD from YouVersion is the simplest of the five apps. It lets you access most of the translations of the Bible, including the King James Version, New International Version, English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and many more. Many of these translations are accessible off line, but you'll need an Internet to access some of them.
Bible HD shines in the reading plans it offers. A reading plan is a systematic way to help you read through the Bible. For example, some reading plans help you read through the New Testament in 90 days; others take you through the entire Bible in one year using a passage from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Psalms and Proverbs. There are more than 22 unique reading plans in the app.
The iPhone version integrates with YouVersion (youversion.com), an online Bible accessible to any computer with a Web browser. It's like Facebook for Bible readers, but while it is accessible via the iPhone/iPod Touch version of the app, the iPad version does not have this capability built in yet.
Bible HD does a good job if all you want to do is read the Bible. If you need more advanced features, skip down to one of the other apps listed below.
4. Logos Bible Software
Logos Bible Software is one of the pioneers in Bible software and offers Mac and PC versions of their program with some of the most advanced Bible study tools available.
The iOS version of the software is simpler and offers some of the functionality of its big brothers. Logos has a huge library of related books and references that you can purchase and access with their software. Some of these resources are only available for the Mac/PC versions of the program, but more than a thousand are available for their iOS apps. In addition, you can get dozens of free books when you download the app and create an account on their Web site (logos.com).
Some of the app's best features include its ability to sync your Bible reading progress with the computer version of the program; the Passage Guide, which finds every reference to a Bible verse in all the books in your library; and the Word Study guide, which can access all of your Bible dictionaries to show you the meaning and usage of important words in the Bible.
Bible HD (above) and other Bible apps require you to be online to use them. Logos works both ways; you can download your books to your device or leave your library on the company's servers and read them while you're online. In addition, you can create custom reading plans for any book in your library on the Mac/PC versions of the program and download these plans
The biggest drawback to Logos is price. The free app lets you access 30 different versions of the Bible from the Logos Web site. However, additional content can be quite expensive. You could invest literally thousands of dollars in additional books and references. Of course, you don't have to do so. But based on my experience, you will want to buy some add-on books to get the full use of the program.
Logos is more for advanced Bible students. But average users can also get a lot of use out of the app.
PocketBible from Laridian is a great app for anyone interested in the Bible. It has a clean, easy-to-use interface and works fine if all you want to do is read the Bible. But as you delve deeper into the scripture, Laridian offers a comprehensive library of books that you can add to your collection at competitive prices.
The iPad version lets you view up to five books at once. The iPhone/iPod touch version can show up to two. This is a great feature if you are reading a passage and want to compare it with another version of the Bible, or view a commentary about the passage. Of the apps mentioned in this article, only one other has this capability (see BibleReader below).
PocketBible lets you add notes, bookmarks, and highlights to the passages you're reading. These can be backed up to Laridian's website and synced back to a new device or copied back to your existing device if you ever have to reformat it. Also, the app has some of the best searching functionality available.
PocketBible offer some simple Greek and Hebrew tools, but is not as good as other apps for studying the Bible in original languages. Like Logos Bible Software, you can use the app in tandem with the Windows PC version of the program, but it is not offered for the Mac. The mobile version of BibleReader is also available for PalmOS, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices.
My only real complaint is that the note taking feature requires you to know a little HTML in order to customize text with Bold or Italics. But aside from that, it's a great app on the iPhone and even better on the iPad.
2. Mantis Bible Stud
Free, app2.me/3086; $17.99-$29.99 (other versions of the app focusing on the NKJV, NASS, NIV, ESV, and NASB Bibles)
MantisBible is a great app that offers a lot of add-on books, some of which are more expensive than the add-ons offered by competitors. The reason why I placed it number 2 on my list is that it has some of the most unique and useful features found on a Bible app.
The coolest feature is the inline study Bible. When you tap on a Bible verse, lists of links are displayed before and after the verse. The links before the verse take you to different translations. The links after the verse take you to commentaries on the text. This feature gives you all the information you need on the same screen—you don't have to navigate to another location in the app. This alone would make Mantis one of the best apps available, but it's not the only useful feature.
Like the other apps, Mantis lets you read the Bible, search, add notes and bookmarks, and share Bible verses with others from within the app. Unlike the others, the app includes a Bible memory tool that helps you memorize verses. Finally, you can purchase a voice add-on to give the app text-to-speech capability (voice add-on files: $1.99, mantisbible.com).
Number one Bible app—BibleReader
Olive Tree has done a great job of developing an app that is not only accessible to the average user, but flexible enough to grow with you into a very advanced research tool.
BR is an eye pleasing app that looks very nice on the large iPad screen or on the high resolution iPhone 4 Retina display. BR and PocketBible are the only apps in this review that let you view multiple books at the same time. BR lets you view two at a time, making it easier to compare translations or to read a verse and its commentary at the same time. In addition, BR not only lets you create notes, it syncs them with your Evernote account. You can record thoughts about a passage and later open them in Evernote via an Internet-connected device with a Web browser.
BR has a lot of quality add-on content. It looks like they offer more free content than the other developers, but some of the add-ons are expensive. You don't have to pay a penny to use BR, but you will get more out of it if you do buy some add-on commentaries and Bible dictionaries. I love the way BR displays the contents of the library – in a bookshelf showing the actual book covers.
If you want to do language study, Olive Tree is the best solution. Only Logos compares to it in terms of advanced Greek and Hebrew study tools.
To study the Greek or Hebrew words, a user could just open the Strong's book. OliveTree makes it easier by letting you tap on links in Bibles with Strong's definition links included and a beautiful window pops up that is scrollable and has links in it that can be tapped.
My only complaint is that BR does not have customizable Bible reading plans like Logos. A text-to-speech tool and Bible memory tool like Mantis would also make it even better.
There are also other apps based on the OliveTree engine. My new favorite is the HCSB Study Bible app ($9.99, app2.me/3094). It is essentially the same app, but it includes content from the brand new Study Bible from Lifeway Christian Resources. It adds maps, book intros, and notes for nearly every verse in the HCSB translation.
A broadening demographic?
The traditional wisdom is that users of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are a fairly secular lot. But with Bible applications becoming more popular—especially for the iPad—they may not be as a-religious as we assumed. Another theory is that the iPad is changing the demographics of iPhone users. Whatever's happening, if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the Bible, plenty of excellent resources are available in the App Store.