If you have an iPhone and you’re a Christian, there’s a high likelihood that you have LifeChurch.tv’s YouVersion Bible app installed on your phone. Not only was the YouVersion Bible app one of the first available iPhone Bible apps, it has remained one of the very best as updates continue to bring new features. Plus, it’s price is hard to beat — free. Though there are other fine Bible iPhone apps out there, YouVersion’s has been at the top of the list.
When I heard that Crossway teamed up with Subsplash (creators of the Mars Hill Church & Saddleback Church apps) to release a new Bible app, my first thought was, “Why? The YouVersion Bible app already does everything I want in a Bible app. What else could you add to make me want to switch?” But, seeing as I am the type of person who always wants to try the latest and greatest, I gave it a download. Much to my surprise, I’ve now replaced YouVersion Bible with the new ESV Bible.
The first difference you will notice about the ESV Bible is the navigation interface. At first, everything looks like your standard iPhone app, but once you tap “Books” in the upper left, you get a gorgeous white-on-black list of all the books of the Bible. With a flick or two you find the book you want and tap to get a list of chapters — the whole thing is silky smooth and extremely responsive. Once you tap the chapter you want, it loads behind the menu and you can read immediately.
It’s hard to describe why the scrolling interface works so well. It’s really not much simpler than other interfaces, but there’s something so smooth about it. Users feel as though they can instantly navigate anywhere in the Bible in seconds. It has an intangible factor — it just feels right.
The second thing you will notice, once you’ve instantly loaded up a verse, is the innovative use of scrolling to control the interface. Once you start to scroll the text (which scrolls indefinitely in both directions with no noticeable slowdown or load time), the menu interface instantly disappears, leaving you with gorgeous full screen text.
There’s an even cooler scroll feature: if you are scrolling quickly, the app detects this and starts to display a small “Book — Chapter” header to help you easily place where you are while scrolling. It’s another simple feature, but one that I have not seen elsewhere. It allows you to easily flick a few chapters ahead, something that requires a slow “tap-load, tap-load” when trying to do the same thing in YouVersion Bible.
One of the great advantages of ESV Bible is local storage that does not require an Internet connection to load verses. This is just one more factor which helps give this app its lightning fast responsiveness. YouVersion Bible also allows you to download some translations of the Bible, but it appears ESV Bible is the only one which has the ability to save the ESV translation (my preferred version) locally.
That, combined with the super intuitive and simplified interface, make for a smooth experience. I never felt as though the app was thinking; whatever I wanted to do within the app was instant.
There’s a lot to love in this new app, but there are a few missing features that I think could make this a no-brainer replacement app for me.
• Low-Light Mode — Some churches have pretty dark lighting which causes a bright white screen from an iPhone to be quite distracting. Just a simple toggle to reverse the text to white-on-black would help fix this.
• My Notes & Highlights Sync/Backup — ESV Bible has a cool ability to add notes and highlight any verse or series of verses. However, since there is no way to export that data or even sync it as a backup anywhere, I’m hesitant to use these features for fear of having the data easily lost.
ESV Bible is the only Bible app since the release of the App Store that has made me even consider replacing YouVersion Bible. Though there are a few features that are holding me back from completely removing YouVersion Bible from my iPhone, it has definitely become my new go to Bible reading app, and I highly recommend giving it a try.
What have you got to lose – it’s free.
Jesse J. Anderson is a designer/producer who lives in Washington with his wife (and soon-to-be daughter). He is the Executive Creative of Echo Faith Design (www.echofaith.com), a creative media and design studio that specializes in web, print, and motion design for churches. He is also the founder of New Worship Media (www.newworshipmedia.com), a media producer that provides worship media for churches.