Bibles on iPhone: Free 2 Pray Editions
There are a lot of Bible apps out there, and like the rest of the App Store, the majority are ugly garbage. But that doesn’t mean a kid on an iTouch needs to be stuck with a King James in Comic Sans. I’ve looked at 191 Bible apps, to try and cut out some of the chaff.
What app is most suitable for you will depend on where, how, and why you want to read the Bible. If you have an iPod Touch, or a low data limit, you’ll want a Bible app with offline translations. If you’re a Bible College student, you might want an app with side-by-side with Greek. If you’re a nitpicker, you might want two translations side-by-side. Or Study notes. Or translators’ notes. Or you might need a big font, or a serif font. I’ve tried to pick out five apps that I think will have most people covered, and point out why you might be interested in some of the others instead.
Some of the publishers of these apps also have apps dedicated to a particular translation. As far as I can see, these are just the same as buying in-app, and if you get the ‘master’ app you can then try some of the translations out before paying.
Remember, you can always have more than one Bible app!
Choosing a Bible translation is a very personal decision, and one I’m going to stay clear of here. If you want help picking a translation, try them all. Ask your friends, pastor, elders, minister, scholar, or priest. Don’t just read nobodies on the internet frothing at the mouth about them, many of whom say wildly contradictory things.
Checkout the table at the bottom for which Bible apps carry which translations.
The People’s Choice: Bible
If someone says they have “the Bible app” on their iPhone, they almost certainly mean they have Bible by YouVersion/LifeChurch.tv. It has a lot of translations, all of which are free, many of which are available to download for offline use. There are no ads, it’s well updated, and it runs on anything that can run iOS 6.
The downsides to this app are that it really pushes its reading plans, and that you need an account to download Bibles for offline reading. Sometimes those downloads require you to share your email address with the publisher, so the publisher might annoy you (although I’ve not noticed this happening). I have a different reading plan, WordLive via RSS, so I’m not keen on the push toward reading plans, since I mainly use a Bible app for quick lookups.
The Lightweight: Bible Reader
If storage is a premium, but reception and data aren’t, then you might want to look here. Bible Reader from the American Bible Society is less than 15MB (some Bible apps come in at over 200MB), and has a decent selection of translations for free. It’s easy to use and light on the eyes, but it doesn’t have any note taking or highlighting features, so it’s strictly for reading.
The Indie: Holy Bible
Holy Bible is made by a missionary, Paul Avery, in his spare time. That a side project can compete with the big names in Bibles says a lot about how much care Paul has put into this Bible app. While this only has translations with liberal copyright (or out of copyright), it is very easy to use. Holy Bible lets you view up to five sources (Bibles or notes) side-by-side. You can also buy some study guides in the app, and for a very modest sum you can also get the NET notes (without which I think the NET is not complete).
I have encountered a very few minor issues, but this app is much slicker, more customizable, and easy to use than YouVersion. Unlike Bible Reader it has offline support and note-taking. If NET and WEB (and ESV online) are enough modern translations for you, then consider supporting the little guy (and buying an IAP).
The Study Bible Collection: Tecarta Bible
At first glance, you might think that Tecarta’s offering is a slightly nicer YouVersion where you have to pay for the Bible translations, but Tecarta have quite a selection of Study and Devotional Bibles that you might remember from a book shop. These Study Bibles are mostly NIV and NKJV Bibles and cost less than $20 (unlike some other app’s Study Bibles) but if you want some notes from Max Lucado, then this might be the place for you.
The Integrated System: Bible! and Faithlife Study Bible
I’m pretty sure that Bible! used to be known as Logos Bible. It’s also almost the same as the Faithlife Study Bible, but it appears that Bible! has more available translations, and Faithlife has no option to skip making an account. Bible! doesn’t make you have an account, but the store will appear empty if you aren’t logged in. This Bible app can be used to sync your reading with your church sermon, if they use the Proclaim presentation software. It also has a built-in social network, where you can have a private group like a Bible study where you can share notes.
Logos are a long-running and well-known provider of digital Bibles. As such, in addition to quite a range of translations they have a lot of really serious study tools, like all 26 volumes of Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments. However be prepared to pay close to what you’d pay for a paper copy, even for the King James Bible.
Why you might like it: Has a lot of academic resources, lets you view two Bibles side-by-side.
Why you might not like it: Not very nice to use, Bibles are priced the same (or more expensive) than the paper versions.
These two are 100% identical.
Why you might like it: Nice looking, good range of translations.
Why you might not like it: Some translations can’t be ‘trialled’, no free offline translations (not even KJV).
Why you might like it: Has dramatic readings of all available translations, which can be downloaded and used offline in addition to the text.
Why you might not like it: A bit clunky to use, heavily focused on audio Bibles.
Why you might like it: All bibles are free, some available offline, can sync with your Bible Gateway account, some audio Bibles.
Why you might not like it: Buttons are very small, has ads.
Why you might like it: Has one of the widest ranges of Bibles, including Greek interlinears and other specialty Bibles.
Why you might not like it: Has an odd fake-book look, and can be a bit fiddly to navigate. The specialty Bibles are very expensive, but that’s true of the paper version too.
Why you might like it: Works on iOS 4.3 and later, so runs on older devices like the 2nd generation iPod Touch or the iPhone 3G. Possibly the only source of the ‘84 NIV (I haven’t paid to check, but the copyright suggests it might be the old one).
Why you might not like it: Seriously visually outdated, doesn’t have retina graphics (looks jaggy), Bibles are paperback price.
Why you might like it: Tries to look like the old iBooks, has a small range of okay priced Bibles.
Why you might not like it: Tries to look like the old iBooks.
Why you might like it: Good taster for the ESV Study Bible (if you like the ESV), easy to use.
Why you might not like it: Only has the ESV, look and feel is a bit of a mixed bag.
Glo Bible (Bible ⊹ for iPhone)
Why you might like it: Has a good selection of maps, videos and other resources, and the upgrade is a bundle. Very powerful multiple ‘sessions’ where you can have different passages or resources open and cross-check them. Includes the NIV.
Why you might not like it: Is a bit tricky to use, not the prettiest if you don’t like black. I couldn’t find out how to subscribe.
Why you might like it: You like the icon.
Why you might not like it: It’s not that pretty, it has ads, limited selection of older Bibles.
Why you might like it: You can side-load Bibles in the Sword format.
Why you might not like it: Visually outdated.
Why you might like it: If you think all translations since the KJV are rubbish and don’t want to even have the option of downloading them. It’s easy to use.
Why you might not like it: You like a more modern translation, you like something that looks nicer.
Why you might like it: If you like the HCSB, and it has a selection of non-Bible Christian books.
Why you might not like it: If you don’t love the HCSB, and the store is very tricky to navigate.
There is one major option I’ve not covered here, and that’s getting an eBook of your favourite translation from the iBooks store. I’ve left it until now for a few reasons. The first is that not that many translations are on the iBooks store (for example, it doesn’t have the CEV), and even when they are the quality can be quite poor2. They can also be a lot more expensive than the in-app Bibles. The NRSV ranges from $6.50 to $50 as in IAP, but $14-$18 in the iBooks Store. The NIV is between Free and $50 in app, and from around $10 to $30 (for study Bibles) in the iBooks store.
In addition, ePubs of Bibles can be quite unwieldy. I do have an ePub of the NET with notes, and as originally delivered (a single book) it was incredibly slow to turn pages and find chapters. It was so slow to go to any of the footnotes and back as to be completely unusable. I then broke it into individual books and fixed a lot of typesetting errors, which makes it fast enough that I can get to a reference before the end of the reading. This was quite hard and involved building a special program to do it. Thankfully I didn’t buy the ePub through the iBooks store, where some books have DRM which would prevent this kind of fix. There’s no way to tell which books in the iBooks store have DRM, it’s buy and hope.
In favour of the eBooks is that this can be the cheapest (or only) way to get some study Bibles electronically. If you really want your “NIV Stewardship Study Bible” or “Spirit-Filled Life Bible For Women” on your phone, this may be your only choice. Before shelling out though, get a sample and make sure it’s an okay eBook conversion.
Feature Check-box Table
This table is huge, please scroll sideways for more.
|Name||Installed Name||Company||Version Reviewed||Installed & Setup Size (MB)||Multiple Translations||Works Offline||Dark Mode||Adjustable Font Size||Adjustable Font||Adjustable Spacing||Footnotes||Verse Formatting||Daily Devotions||Personal Notes||Note Export Sync||Sharing||Audio|
|Bible Study with Accordance||Accordance||OakTree Software Inc.||1.7.5||280||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Verse-per-line, paragraphs||✔︎||Dropbox, Account sync||✘||✘|
|Bible (YouVersion)||Bible||LifeChurch.tv||5.3||22.2 (45 with 1 offline bible)||✔︎||With Account||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Paragraphs||With Account||✔︎||Account sync||✔︎||✔︎|
|Tecarta Bible||Bible||Tecarta, Inc.||4.1||70.9||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Verse-per-line, paragraphs (depends on translation)||Paid||✔︎||Account sync||✔︎||✔︎|
|Bible * & Bible+1||Bible* & Bible +1||Just1Word Inc.||3.0.6||38.8||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Paragraphs||Yes||✔︎||Sync||✔︎||✘|
|Bible.is||Bible.is||Faith Comes by Hearing||2.5.2||28.2||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✘||✘||✘||Paragraphs||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎|
|Bible Gateway||Bible Gateway||Nelson Media Inc||27||65||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||✘||Paragraphs||Verse of the day, reading plans||✔︎||Sync||✔︎||✔︎|
|Bible Reader - bibles.org||Bible Reader||American Bible Society||1.1.1||13.3||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||✘||Paragraphs||✘||✘||✘|
|Bible+||Bible Study||Nelson Media Inc||5.9.9||149||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Paragraphs||Reading plans||✔︎||✔︎||✘|
|Mantis Bible Study||Bible Study||Mantis Bible Company||4.9.21||29.7||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||Paragraphs||Reading plans||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎|
|eBible from eBible.com …||eBible||Ospirit Inc.||2.7||125||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✘||✘||✘||Paragraphs||✔︎||?||✔︎||✘|
|ESV Bible||ESV Bible||Crossway||2.5.2||27.7||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||✔︎||Paragraphs||✔︎||Account sync||✔︎||✘|
|Bible + for iPhone||Glo Bible||Information Humanities Inc||1.4.11||153||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||Paragraphs||Reading plans||✔︎||Account sync||✔︎||✘|
|Holy Bible Free*||Holy Bible||Teofilo Vizcaino||2.1.1||39.4||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||Verse-per-line||✘||✘||✘|
|Holy Bible||Holy Bible||Paul Avery||8.2||23.3||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||Verse-per-line, giant blob||Reading plans||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎|
|Bible!||Logos Bible||Logos Bible Software||4.3.4||103||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✘||Paragraphs||Study guides||✔︎||✔︎||✘|
|PocketSword||PocketSword||Nic Carter||1.4.5||36.1||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✘||Giant blob||✘||✘||✘|
|Simple Bible||Simple Bible||Jolon Faichney||1.0.2||11.9||✘||✔︎||✘||✘||✘||✘||✘||Verse-per-line||✘||✘||✘|
|Faithlife Study Bible||Study Bible||Logos Bible Software||4.3.4||377||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||✔︎||Paragraphs||✔︎||✔︎||✘|
|WORDSearch Bible||WORDSearch||LifeWay Christian Resources||2.4.2139||161||✘||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✔︎||✘||✔︎||Verse-per-line, paragraphs||Available for purchase?||✔︎||✘||✘|
(English) Bible Translation Availability
The prices in this table are in AUD at the time of publication. They’re all likely to change a bit, but they should give you a rough idea of what to expect to pay or have available in these apps.
Some Bibles contain translations not in this table, especially translations which are out of copyright. I’ve tried to include the major translations, but if there’s one in particular you feel I’ve missed feel free to drop me a line.
Note that ESV, Simple Bible, and WORDSearch Bible listed above both only have one translation, ESV, KJV and HCSB respectively, and so are excluded from the table below.
This table is big, please scroll sideways for more.
|Name||AMP||BBE||CEV||CEV UK||ESV||GNV||GW||GNT||HCSB||KJV||MSG||NASB||NET||NIRV||NIV 84||NIV 2011||NIV UK||NKJV||NLT||NRSV||RSV||TEV||WEB||Young’s Literal|
|Bible Study with Accordance||$24.99||$24.99||$0.00||$12.99||$24.99||$49.99||$24.99||$24.99||$49.99||$49.99||$24.99||$49.99||$24.99||$24.99||$0.00||$12.99|
|Bible */Bible +1||$7.49||$8.99||$8.99||$8.99||$4.99||$1.29||$6.49||$7.49||$8.99||$8.99||$8.99||$7.49||$7.49||$8.99||$7.49|
|Bible.is||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00 (NT)||$0.00 (NT)|
|Bible Reader - bibles.org||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Mantis Bible Study||$24.99||$6.49||$22.99||$6.49||$22.99||$0.00||$22.99||$6.49||$24.99||$24.99||$22.99||$22.99||$24.99||$18.99||$1.29||$6.49|
|eBible from eBible.com …||$0.00||$12.99||$0.00||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99||$16.99||$1.29|
|Bible + for iPhone||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00||$0.00|
|Faithlife Study Bible||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99||$12.99|