This is our fourth iPhone Bible app review. You can find our prior iPhone Bible apps reviews here: Blue Letter Bible, Bible + 1, and Bible.is. Our fourth review takes a look at Crossway’s ESV Bible app. The app is available in a free version, which includes only the ESV’s text, translation notes, and cross-references, and a paid version, which adds the full set of resources from the ESV Study Bible and an audio version of the Bible. We reviewed version 1.4.4 of the free app, which is available from the iTunes store here.
My ideal iPhone Bible app would:
- have NASB, ESV, HCSB, NKJV, NET, and NIV versions (preferred in that order)
- have all of the above available offline (without 3G, Wi-fi, etc.)
- allow split screen viewing for continuous translation comparison and/or study notes
- have awesome study notes for at least one of the better translations (ideally, these notes would be usable with all translations)
- allow me to bookmark/highlight verses (ideally with multiple different colors to indicate different concepts/subjects, and even better if it allows me to highlight specific text less than or more than a discrete verse)
- allow me to attach notes to each verse (ideally would allow me to attach rich text, html, and/or other media, and even better if it would allow me to attach a note to specific text less than or more than a discrete verse)
- allow me easily to email and post verses and a related note (e.g., on twitter)
- be free
How Crossway’s ESV Bible app stacks up
Crossway’s ESV Bible app:
- has only the ESV from my list of preferred translations (no other translations are available).
- has only the ESV translation available offline.
- does not allow split screen viewing.
- does offer a translation with a strong, unified set of study notes (paid version, $14.99).
- does allow me to highlight verses (but with only one color) and does allow me to bookmark (or “favorite”) a verse. It does allow me to copy, highlight or favorite a selection of multiple adjacent verses.
- does allow me to attach notes to each verse. It does allow me to add a note to a selection of multiple adjacent verses.
- does allow me easily to copy, email, or share (on facebook or twitter) a verse. It does allow me to do the same for a selection of multiple adjacent verses.
- is free.
The free version of Crossway’s ESV Bible is a nice one-translation app. The app has a simple but powerful interface. The text is clean, and the interface melts away when you start reading and scrolling. It is really a nice reading experience–it doesn’t feel cramped like some other apps. Unfortunately, only the text size is customizable. You are stuck with a bright white background in church, which can be distracting when things are dimly lit. That is my only criticism of the otherwise nice reading interface.
Touch a verse to view translation notes, cross references, and options to add your own content. The cross references are handled very well, with discrete blue buttons for each reference that are easy to press. You can highlight a verse in any color (so long as it’s yellow ;)), you can click the star icon to bookmark the verse as a favorite, you can add a note, or you can share the verse via facebook, twitter, or email.
The great part: When you touch and hold a verse, you can select a continuous range of verses, which you then can copy, share, or annotate with all the features noted above.
Some notes regarding the ESV Bible’s other features:
- The ESV Bible has a basic search feature, but that’s it.
- I don’t see any reading plans.
- It is very easy to review your reading history and favorite verses. However, you have to click the More option in the menu to access the menu to access your notes and highlighted verses. Requiring this extra press seems unnecessary.
- The book and verse selection window is slick, but it could be a little more efficient.
The Paid Version of the App
If you pay $14.99, the features increase significantly. You get an audio Bible. You get a full set of excellent study notes and additional study resources. However, you still do not get split-screen viewing. (Instead, you have buttons at the top of the screen that allow you to select between the text and the study notes.)
Like some other iPhone Bible apps we have reviewed, Crossway has an associated website where you can read the Bible online (here). The site has a very nice setup for Bible study (for example, clicking cross references brings up a pop-up window with the relevant verses’ text in context). Like the iPhone app, you must pay to access the ESV Study Bible content, but you can listen to the audio Bible for free. Although you can annotate as with the iPhone app, these annotations and your app annotations do not yet sync, although Crossway promises this in the future.
If ESV is your translation, Crossway’s app is a great choice, and it gives you a lot of flexibility in creating your own content.
If you are looking for a free app, the free version is a good choice. However, there are a number of other comparable apps that provide the ESV text online and offline for free (although without study notes and cross references) along with other translations. The ability to review other translations of challenging passages allows for a much deeper Bible study experience in my opinion.
If you are willing to pay $14.99, you get a much richer experience. Most notable, you get a great set of study resources and an audio Bible. And if you are dead set on getting an iPhone version of the ESV Study Bible, this is the best value–so long as you don’t need or want any other translation. The only other app I know of that offers the ESV Study Bible charges nearly $40 (although it offers the ability to compare multiple translations and allows for split-screen viewing).
I would love Crossway’s free ESV Bible app if:
- I wanted only the ESV translation AND
- I did not need or want a unified set of study notes AND
- I did not need split-screen viewing.
- I needed/wanted an audio Bible.
I would love Crossway’s paid ($14.99) ESV Bible app if:
- I wanted only the ESV translation AND
- I did not want split-screen viewing of text and notes AND
- I wanted an audio version of the ESV within my primary Bible study app (recall from our Bible.is review that that app offers a free audio version of the ESV)
Feel free to share your opinions of–or questions about–Crossway’s ESV Bible app below.