Battle of the Bible Apps

Old holy Bible in German little dusty and used.

This is going to be the year of the tablet, and what do most people use tablets for? – mostly as a glorified e-reader and web browser. So there is no better way to celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible than by reading it on your iPad or Android powered phone.

A History of Bible Apps

I recently succumbed to the lure of the iPad, but I have been reading the Bible electronically for nearly 10 years. It all began on my little Palm III device and the Palm OS OliveTree app. 10 years down the line there is a sudden surge of users of Bible Apps on Android phones, iPhones, iPod touches, iPads and no doubt all the tablets planned for release in 2011. It is interesting that, as we celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible, the E-Version is going to be everywhere.

The Contenders – two Bible apps

There are several Bible apps available, but really only two worth bothering with and surprisingly (or not) OliveTree are still in the game. Their rival in my Battle of the Bible Apps is the YouVersion app (called simply Bible on your iPad/iPhone) from the camp. Both these apps are available for several platforms including all Apple and Android devices.

I have been using both these apps over the past couple of years on various devices, including my trusty iPod touch, an Android smart phone (Sony Xperia Mini) and most recently an iPad (1!). I must admit after years of struggling to read on handheld devices, the iPad really is the perfect platform for a decent Bible app and with all the other tablets being released this year, this is an important year for the Bible Apps.

Which is better?

For my tests I used the latest versions of YouVersion and OliveTree BibleReader and put them through their paces side by side on three popular devices: an iPod touch, an Xperia Android phone and an Apple iPad.

Let battle commence!

Reading experience

It is a Bible after all, so being able to read it must come first. I found the experience of using these apps depends a lot on which device you are using, screen size and how big your fingers are. On the iPad the OliveTree experience is much slicker than the YouVersion app. Visually on the iPad the OliveTree BibleReader is stunning, and using it was equally pleasurable. On my mini Android phone and iPod touch there isn’t as much difference between them. Navigating to particular passages is easy enough on both apps, allowing you to quickly find your target passage. One main difference across all platforms is that OliveTree scrolls continuously, while YouVersion content is broken into chapters with the need for vertical and horizontal navigation. This makes OliveTree the better reading experience for me.

YouVersion Score OliveTree Score

Translations, translations, translations

Both apps give you access to all the major translations. However, you can only access the NIV and TNIV on YouVersion if you are connected to their server. You can download many of the other version for offline use. The OliveTree NIV/TNIV pack is well worth the few pounds it costs and includes translator notes, just like the paper versions.

YouVersion Score OliveTree Score

Annotating, bookmarking etc

Both apps allow you to bookmark and attach notes, annotating the text in various ways. YouVersion clearly aims to be a more social experience with user contributions for each passage being visible to others. This is a nice idea, but I haven’t yet found many contributions all that helpful. Personally I prefer the OliveTree note taking and bookmarking features, not least because your notes can be synchronised to Evernote. These features seem much more mature on OliveTree and their user interface, particularly on the iPad is far superior to YouVersion.

Reading PlansBoth apps allow you to use various reading plans and both attempt to keep track of your progress. The 400th anniversary of the English Bible is an ideal time to give reading cover to cover a go. The functionality of both apps is similar here, guiding you through each of the passages set for the day and keeping a log of progress. YouVersion maintains the plans and progress on their servers, so that you can go and continue the plan on another device. Great concept, but in the UK I can’t always guarantee having a 3G signal and if you are not connected, the YouVersion reading plan feature (like some of its other features) just doesn’t work. So here again OliveTree wins for me, since I generally want to read my Bible even when there is no network. This behaviour on YouVersion is especially problematic if you own a WiFi only iPad! The developers should really add offline access to reading plans.Who won?YouVersion’s restricted performance offline, makes it almost unusable as a “bible in your pocket” app. Otherwise, it’s features are almost on a par with OliveTree. For me though, and it is probably a matter of personal taste, OliveTree wins by some margin. The sync with Evernote, the better feeling iPad interface and availability of the TNIV/NIV makes this one my continued Bible app of choice.The experience of both apps does vary with platform. On the iPad, OliveTree wins by some distance for me. On the Android phone, with a 3g connection, the YouVersion app is as good a friend – as long as you have a signal.Both versions can be downloaded and used for free anyway, so why not give them a try and read your Bible!Download a Bible App for your deviceOliveTree BibleReader for iPod/iPhone
OliveTree BibleReader for iPad
OliveTree BibleReader for Android
OliveTree BibleReader for BlackberryYouVersion Bible for iPod/iPhone
YouVersion Bible for iPad
YouVersion Bible for Andoird
YouVersion Bible for BlackBerryRecommended: OliveTree BibleReader NIV/TNIV pack for iPad

YouVersion Score OliveTree Score
YouVersion Score OliveTree Score
YouVersion Overall Score OliveTree Overall Score

7 thoughts on “Battle of the Bible Apps

  1. Yes, there is Laridian, and others. But as you say no Android and generally the interface even on iPad isn’t quite up to the others yet.

  2. All I really care about is being able to look up a verse based on one or more keywords. I don’t really care about study materials, Greek, etc. Would you go with one of these apps for that, or is there something leaner that would work well? I have an Android, and mostly want NIV, NKJ, and possibly ESV.

    And great review; thanks! Clear and succinct, but hits the high points.

  3. You don’t even talk about the most important functions like word searches and strongs numbers! How can anyone study Bible passages without having easy way to find where else in Scripture one can find the exact same words? And without Strongs numbers etc, how could one direct such searches to begin with? So far Ii have yet to find a Bible App that is advertised to do these things. I basically need a iphone accessible Bible program that is like the Online Bible I have used for decades on my PC. I just can’t get over that I am not finding this! What? “lay persons” are not studying on i phones etc? Or is hardly anyone really doing it right these days? The horrifying prospect is that people are trusting “Bible teachers” at mega churches etc! That is beyond sad to contemplate!

  4. Well, never been a fan of strongs numbers, but I do have the Greek and Hebrew translations with lexicons on my OliveTree bible app. And actually, taking a look, many of the OliveTree bibles come with strongs included (see Then there are hundreds of other resources you can add too.

    You can of course also just do word searches as well, but the trouble with word based study of the bible is that it rather too often results in “proof” texting.

  5. Verse Box Scripture Memory is a very good app. It is available on the android market. Just search “Verse Box”. Please review this app when you get a chance.

  6. The Holy Bible KJV (King James Version) for Android Free
    It is in English, rated at:
    – The Old Testament
    – The New Testament
    – The Pentateuch
    – Historical Books
    – Poetic Books
    – Major Prophets
    – Minor Prophets
    – The Gospels

    It has features like:
    – Add verses to favorites
    – Create notes to verses
    – Search for words, phrases, complete or partial
    – Bread of Life
    – Share with contacts: Email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc..
    – Widget to your desktop
    – No Internet connection required for operation.
    – Contains a brief explanation of each book.
    – Design and nice GUI, dark to save battery.

    Download from Market

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