¶ Bible App 5 | Review

The Bible can seem like a pretty daunting thing to get into. It's a rather large book1, and it comes in so many translations. Which should you choose? Dost thou goeth with ye olde King James? Or something a bit more modern like the NIV? The options are endless.

I happen to like to read a few different versions to get a better idea of what is being said. I find the different viewpoints to be helpful in forming a more complete picture. The problem here is that I don't really care for having a few copies of the same book sprawled out. And I certainly don't enjoy carrying around a large book.2

That is why I have been a longtime fan of YouVersion's Bible App. It collects a metric ton of different translations into one app on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or Android device. And my iPhone is a lot lighter than a book.

Today YouVersion introduced Bible App 5. It has a great new interface across the board, and even though the same interface is shared across iOS and Android, it looks right at home on iOS 7.

The best part is that the Bible App is taking the focus of the app from being solely on you and branching it out to being part of your own community of friends. The folks you add as friends can now comment and like on your notes, highlights, and bookmarks (you can choose to make any of those public or private). Here is what YouVersion says about the new focus of the app:

Up until now, the Bible App was designed mostly around you as an individual—you reading or listening to your Bible, adding your personal notes and your insights. While many people have told us that this kind of personal experience has helped them grow closer to God through His Word, we think there’s still more we can do—a lot more. The all-new Bible App 5 transforms the way you experience Scripture…from “me” to “we.”

Historically, people were only able to experience the Bible in community. Before the printing press, very few people had personal copies of the Bible. But movable type changed everything. For the first time in history, anyone who could read could experience God’s Word with their very own printed Bible. In more recent times, audio Bibles in several languages invite even more people to enjoy God’s Word by listening—even if they can’t read.

Bible App 5 was designed from the ground up to bring the best of all these things together again. It draws the Scriptures back into community, without sacrificing personalized access. You can keep enjoying your own Bible, just as you always have. But now, for the first time, you can also easily experience it within the context of close, trusted friendships.

No matter what your view on the Bible is, it is amazing that a text as old as it is has transcended so many mediums throughout history. From scrolls that were largely shared verbally and copied by scribes to the printing press and to the digital age.

Over the years I have found that the best part of my church is the community. Yes, the worship service and my pastor's sermons are important, but the real growth happens in small groups, with people coming together and sharing their views.

While likes & comments in an app is not a replacement for that in-person community, I think it is a great way to keep your small group connected between Sundays.

Bible App 5 is entirely free and available for iOS and Android.

  1. Well, it’s a collection of books, technically. I guess that’s what we call an Anthology?

  2. To say I am a fan of eBooks would be an understatement.

¶ Yummy Yummy Chat Heads

I have to admit, like my friend David Chartier, I am a rare breed of nerd who actually likes Facebook. David talked a lot about Facebook Home and its potential. I want to talk about the new iOS app, Facebook 6.0.

The 6.0 update to the Facebook app streamlines the interface for the better, and beefs up its messaging capabilities. One way it does this is through Stickers, which are fun little pictures you can sling around through private or group messages. They’re cute, because they were designed by the awesome David Lanham.

But the real news here is Chat Heads, which show the avatar of the friend(s) you are currently chatting with in a little circle off to the side of wherever you are inside Facebook’s app. You can simply tap the circle and a conversation expands as a layer on top of where you are at, you send a message, tap the circle again, and it collapses the conversation and you go right back to where you were.

It’s a really enjoyable and nice experience.

On Facebook Home for Android, Chat Heads can appear anywhere on your device, even when you are in another app. Right now, this only works within Facebook on iOS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it stayed that way.

But here is why I like the concept of Chat Heads, and where I’d like to see them go as a concept.

I like that they are not too intrusive during a conversation when you are doing something else. And I think they’d be the perfect interface for iMessage. Right now on iOS, it is kind of jarring to have an active back and forth with a friend over iMessage when you are also trying to look at or do something else. You switch fully from what you are doing to the conversation, then have to switch fully back.

Let’s say I am writing up a post like this on my iPad. I would much rather an iMessage come up off to the side as a little icon and wait for me to tend to it. I simply tap the icon, a conversation popover appears, I fire off a sentence, and tap back to what I am doing. It is a much less distracting way of giving a few seconds for a reply. Why?

Because even though it is a context switch, it is a very good illusion of a partial context switch (which doesn’t exist). It feels like you are only giving away attention peripherally, instead of having to be ripped from your focus of one app and dumped into another. Because you feel like you only give away quick aside of context, and you can see the task at hand right behind the conversation popover, it is easier to return to what you are doing.

Facebook and Apple seem to have a nice relationship, what with the deep integration with iOS and OS X last year. I hope that relationship could start a collaboration where maybe Apple can use the Chat Heads concept for iMessage and SMS, if they also allow Facebook Messages to be a global deal through it. I think I’d be okay with that, especially if there were a toggle.

Instapaper Gets an Awesome Feature for iOS and an Android Version

Instapaper is one of my most used apps on my iPhone and iPad, and it continually gets better and better.

A couple days ago, it was updated with a really great new feature, background update locations. The feature only works on iPhones and 3G/4G equipped iPads (because of those devices enhanced geolocation abilities). What it does is allow you to set up several geofences — say, home and work — and Instapaper will download any new articles when arriving and leaving those areas.

It’s useful for just about anyone, as your article list is pretty much always ready. I imagine train or bus commuters will really love this feature.

Already it makes me wish I had gone with the 3G/4G enabled iPad this last time (something I likely would have gotten had the carriers been seriously talking about shared data plans at the time).

But this isn’t the only news for Instapaper.

Instapaper for Android

Last night, The Verge published their exclusive on Instapaper for Android. Instapaper for Android is blessed by Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, but is developed by Mobelux. The two had a working relationship when Marco was at Tumblr, and with Marco focusing most of his time on iOS, I think it makes sense to contract out Instapaper for Android.

It looks like a solid 1.0 release, with a few shortcomings from the iOS version. I’d expect a lot of those will be resolved with time.

The Verge also has a little interview with Marco about the Android version. What I liked from that is that even though Instapaper’s roots are on the iPhone, Marco says his main focus is first on tablets, then smartphones. It’s also worth noting that Instapaper for Android does have separate UI’s for smartphones and tablets.

Instapaper for Android is $2.99 and is available on Google Play, and will be available soon on the Amazon Android Appstore and the NOOK market.

Fraser Speirs on Android

Fraser Speirs made some good points about Android on Twitter today.

This is primarily why I don’t care much at all for Android. Everyone involved — from Google, to manufacturers, to carriers, and even many users — seems fine with complacency.

'Open' to Infection

Sara Yin at PC Magazine:

Symantec has discovered a new Android botnet that is still thriving in the Android Market and has already been downloaded several million times this year.

The Trojan ‘Android.Counterclank’ was packaged in at least 13 free games published by three different publishers, making it harder to trace. Symantec notified Google on Thursday and at press time, 9 of the apps were still available in Google’s official app store.

My parents currently have Android phones because that is what they were given as a freebie when their carrier was gobbled up by AT&T. They run an antivirus app on them. It’s pretty ridiculous, if you ask me.

Android’s openness is totally awesome.

[via Sebastiaan de With]

Speaking of Android Software Updates

Vlad Savov:

Samsung has just distributed the worst news of this Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade cycle: the popular Galaxy S smartphone that sold 10 million units last year and the 7-inch Galaxy Tab tablet won't be upgraded to Android 4.0. The company's argument is that they lack sufficient RAM and ROM to run the new OS alongside TouchWiz and other "experience-enhancing" software. This will come as a massive blow to the great many users of the Galaxy S, who would have rightly expected the 1GHz Hummingbird processor and accompanying memory to be able to handle ICS — it's the same hardware as you'll find inside the Nexus S, and that phone is receiving Android 4.0 over the air right now.

The difference is the Nexus S runs pure Android, and the Galaxy S runs Samsung's own TouchWiz skin. Samsung (and other manufacturers who skin Android) always claim these skins enhance the experience. Those must be some wicked enhancements to forego the next generation of the OS.

A Good Smartphone Comes But Once a Year

Chris Ziegler writes an amazing editorial at The Verge about the effect of dozens of Android phones released each year compared to one great iPhone.

One of the greatest detriments is not being able to update those seemingly countless devices in a timely fashion (if ever).

This one’s just simple math: more SKUs means more firmwares, and more versions of those firmwares. Each of those versions needs the care and feeding of an engineering team, and there are only so many engineers to go around. If a particular model is unpopular — which is more likely when you’re releasing a countless array of them — long-term support becomes an even greater risk.

Compare that to the iPhone 3GS, 4, & 4S, which are all capable of running iOS 5. The 3GS was released two and a half years ago. Can any Android phone make that same claim?

Shawn Blanc Reviews the Galaxy Nexus

Shawn Blanc, who has used an iPhone for 4 years, used a Galaxy Nexus as his primary phone for the past week. Some of his findings didn’t really surprise me.

Regarding the screen that is so large you could serve a lunch on it:

This gives the Galaxy Nexus an aura that makes me wonder if it’s supposed to be a tablet that makes phone calls or a phone that you need two hands to use. I realize that’s a goofy and exaggerated statement, but I exaggerate it to make a point I am serious about: the phone is simply too big.

If this were my full-time phone, I’d be sad.

And 4G LTE’s effect on battery life:

Earlier this week I spent some time driving around Kansas City in order to field test the turn-by-turn navigation, the LTE network, and the battery life. At 11:30 AM I started out and the battery of the Nexus was at 43-percent. After 25 minutes the battery had drained down to 33-percent even though it was plugged into a car charger.

Think about that. If you’re on a road trip and want to use the 4G LTE network to provide you with driving directions, your drive had better be shorter than 4 hours because even when plugged into a car charger, the battery will not last.

Shawn poses a great question, which nerds should pick up on: Who is fighting for the users?

…the Galaxy Nexus seems more like a phone that its makers can brag about making rather than a device that its users would brag about owning. It has all sorts of features that seem great on posters and billboards and board meeting reports, but none of those features enhance the actual user experience.

And regarding the difference between Android and iOS:

Android has options for just about everything. But, in spite of all its options and ability to customize, I didn’t find Android to be more powerful than iOS. Of all the options and choices that I was given by Android, there was nothing in Android that I could not also accomplish on iOS. In fact, the options and choices usually got in my way.

Moreover, of the millions of users on Android, how many exercise this freedom of choice that is a part of the Android OS?

This has always seemed to be the crux of the whole Android/iOS debate to me. Android seems great for nerds who love to tinker, or who have a hard time ceding any control over anything. iOS is far more simplistic in that Apple tends to make the decision that will make most people happy, not just the vocal minority.

I’d even go so far as to say even iOS offers far more things than the average user will ever discover. But the absence of discovering these little features will not interfere with the normal usage of the device.

Android should be reserved for those who know what they are getting into. If someone I know needs a recommendation for what smart phone to get, I would not recommend Android to them.

To those who want to use Android, I say go for it. I don’t think that choice is wrong — there are many fine things about the Android OS and many things it does differently and better than iOS.


Moreover, there was nothing on Android that made me feel more empowered compared to using my iPhone.

Sure, there are bits of the Android OS that I like and appreciate, but never once was I wowed or delighted. Which is unfortunate, because those are important elements when you are using a device day in and day out every day of the year.

iOS and the devices it runs on often get teased for being described as “magical”. Guess what? Magic wows and delights. People enjoy magic. After years of using iOS, it still holds me in childlike wonderment.

Slow Down

In tune with the previous post, my local, friendly arch-nemesis of mobile operating systems, Ryan Minert, is also fed up with the overwhelming deluge of Android handsets:

Manufuacturers need to slow down and space out their launches to no more than 3 per year to give their current devices a chance to grab market hold.


People tend to buy what their friends/family already have, so if devices stayed as “new” for longer, carriers and manufacturers would make more money, rather than discounting the device mere weeks after launch.

This is why Apple limits choice, folks. Some may argue that Apple is too severe in their limits (Ryan makes that assertion), but it’s obvious that fewer choices are better in the long haul.