While these apps won’t instantly transform you into Christ-like perfection (there’s not an “app for that”), having these apps on your smartphone or tablet is a great way to transform what could otherwise be a stumblingblock to your relationship with Christ into a powerful weapon against the enemy. I like to think of these apps as my phone’s “sword” and “shield.” Some of these will protect you from attack by the trash in our culture, while others will help you hone your spiritual “sword” and add weapons to your armory against the devil. Hope you like them!
Pros: Installed on more than 60 million devices worldwide and with a 4.5+ out of 5.0 star rating, YouVersion is hands-down the most popular Bible app of them all. It’s easy to use and comes with hundreds of different translations–all of them free! Want to read the Bible in Korean? No problem. Prefer the original Greek or Hebrew? Got that, too. Or, you could be a normal human being and read any of the more popular modern translations, including the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT, and so on. Almost all the modern English translations are available for downloading for offline use, also. By far the coolest feature on YouVersion, however, is the audio Bibles. That’s right–as long as you have an internet (WiFi or 3g) connection, you can stream most of your favorite versions of the Bible for FREE. So, now you have no excuse for not reading your Bible–you can listen on your way to work! (Just watch out for those data charges from your wireless provider!) Also, YouVersion comes with a plethora of Bible Reading plans to choose from. YouVersion also can sync with your Blue Letter Bible (BLB) reading plans. Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows 8, HP/Palm, Java, Symbian, Mobile Web, Kindle Fire, and online through any web browser.
Cons: Not many. But, compared to some other Bible apps, like Glo Bible and BLB, YouVersion is lacking in supplemental study materials. It’s great for use on the go or for the audio features, but it won’t replace your study Bible or commentaries.
2. Glo Bible
Price: Free (or $35 for the Premium version)
Pros: This is an awesome app for serious Bible study and lesson preparation. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, the free version comes with the KJV and NIV available for offline use. Plus, Glo Bible comes with all kinds of study aids, like interactive maps, historical contextual information, photos, videos, and even some animated tours of famous Bible locations, like the first century Temple or Mosaic Tabernacle! It’s like study Bible meets IMAX theater. Also, your YouVersion notes will sync with Glo Bible.
Cons: Unless you purchase the in app upgrades, you’re pretty limited on what you can do with this app. All of the “good stuff” is locked for premium users only. For instance, you can take a tour of the tabernacle with the free version, but only the premium version grants you the high priestly privilege of peeking into the Holy of Holies. (Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to go in there anyways, but if you’re like me, the curiosity is just too much!) $35 is a hefty chunk of cash for an app, and I imagine that there are few who will pay it, but–in my opinion–it’s totally worth it if you’re a teacher or really enjoy in-depth Bible study. That $35 opens up a couple more translations (ESV, NIV 84, and The Message) as well as the NIV study notes (like a study Bible would have) and over 3500 additional media options, including more maps, more videos, and expanded virtual tours. Your premium upgrade gives you access to the premium material on your Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone. Currently, the number of available translations is limited, even for premium users, but I imagine they will be posting more translations with time. Lastly, because Glo Bible has much more content to it than does YouVersion, it’s not quite as user friendly or intuitive to navigate.
Pros: BLB is another great Bible study app designed for iPhone, iPad, and online web browser use. It comes with quite a few translations to choose from, including the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and many others, including the Greek and Hebrew. BLB also allows you to perform a range of functions on any verse in the Bible, such as viewing it in other translations, referencing each word in the verse with its Strong’s Concordance reference number, and viewing the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Commentaries associated with that verse or passage. BLB’s search function is also much better than either YouVersion or Glo Bible’s search functions, making BLB best suited for those who prefer an in-depth word-study approach to Bible study or frequently reference commentaries. BLB also has several daily Bible reading plans to choose from.
Cons: There isn’t much negative about the features that this app has, though some might complain for lack of features. BLB doesn’t have the fancy media of the Glo Bible, and it doesn’t have the plethora of translations or audio versions of YouVersion, but what BLB does have–in depth word study resources–it does quite well. This won’t be an app you use every day, but it’s great to have handy when you need it.
4. Desiring God
Pros: This is, simply put, my favorite Christian app–aside from the Bible, of course–for iPhone and iPad. Desiring God is the ministry of John Piper, one of my favorite preachers. This app gives you access to literally thousands of sermons, articles, books, conference messages, poems, biographies, etc. Piper has almost all, if not all, of his sermons of his available for downloading or streaming dating all the way back to 1980, and even one sermon from 1971! In addition, Piper has posted free PDF versions of 79 of the books he has authored or co-authored. That’s right…79 books…completely FREE. I don’t know of any other author–Christian or not–who has done that. When I’m driving to work or school, I’ll pull up a sermon or message from Desiring God and listen to on the way. Piper has tons of knowledge and wisdom to impart from his many years of ministry, all there for the taking.
Cons: Frequent app crashes are the only problem with this app.
Pros: This is a great app to help you memorize scripture. It comes preloaded with several sets of verses, each set being enough to last you for a year. Or, you can simply add in your own desired memory verses. There’s even a set of memory verses specifically suited for children, with symbols to aid in memorization. To help you memorize your memory verses, Fighter Verses gives you quizzes: fill in the blank, recite aloud, multiple choice, etc.
Cons: The only obvious con is the cost. But, $3 is a small price to pay for the help in memorizing scripture to grow closer to Christ.
6. K9 Browser
Pros: Let’s face it–in today’s society, it’s difficult to avoid all the images and junk that the internet throws at you. But, with K9 Browser you can filter out most of the junk. It’s a great way to keep yourself or your children safe on the internet. There are other filtered browsers that you can download, but man of the others are so limited in their functionality that they hardly even serve as web browsers. While K9 Browser has its own search engine and will not play videos, its filtering is much more efficient than most other filters/browsers and it looks and operates almost just like Safari.
Cons: Of course, with any internet filter or filtered browser there are sacrifices. K9 Browser will not play videos of any kind–even those which aren’t inappropriate. So, YouTube will not work on K9. Also, many of the features native to Safari browser are not on K9, most notably the “open in” feature which allows files to be opened in other apps. Lastly, since K9 is a separate browser (there is no filter “add-on” for the native Safari browser), Safari must be disabled in the Restrictions section of the Settings in order for it to serve its purpose.
Pros: Very similar to the Desiring God app, this app is a great resource on a wide variety of topics that concern Christians. It has blogs from various pastors or Christian writers, book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews, articles on contemporary events, and articles on various topics of interest. The authors are mostly well published and esteemed Christian authors, such as John Piper, Russell Moore, R.C. Sproul, and others.
Cons: There are better apps (see below) for media reviews. There is no audio component to this app (unlike Desiring God). But, otherwise, this is a great app.
Pros: PURE is an app to facilitate your accountability with your accountability partner. Having an accountability partner (someone who will regularly ask you the tough questions about your walk with Christ and “keep you honest”) is invaluable in your growth in holiness. Even the great Billy Graham has an accountability partner, because he realizes the wisdom of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” PURE helps you do that by allowing you to input your accountability questions (“Have I read my Bible daily?” “Have I shared the gospel this week?” etc.) and then, through an on screen notification, reminding you to answer your questions every day/week/month (depending on your desired frequency). It then generates an email to send to any email address you want. It’s a simple and effective way to facilitate accountability.
Cons: The biggest downside is simply that your answers must be either “Yes” or “No,” so you must phrase your questions accordingly. However, PURE overcomes this limitation partially by allowing you the option to edit the email report before its sent, so you can add in an explanation if necessary. Also, there’s no in-app security feature, so your personal questions are not secure if someone has access to your phone. Of course, you can always work around that by simply using your iPhone’s built in security–just set a lock screen password in your settings. Lastly, downloading this app won’t get you an accountability partner, of course! 🙂 You’ll still have to find one on your own. Overall, though, it’s a great app which I plan to keep on my phone until I can find a suitable accountability partner. lol
Pros: “Wait a minute, Audible isn’t a ‘Christian’ app!” No, it’s not, but it is an app that every Christian ought to have. Why? Because with audiobooks there’s no longer an excuse for not reading good Christian books! Audible makes it possible for even the busiest soccer mom to get in some reading. Listen while you’re driving, doing dishes, mowing the yard, etc. Just make sure you pick good books! Audilbe allows you to change the playback speed, place “bookmarks,” and even track your book reading stats and earn badges.
Cons: Aside from the obvious–books aren’t free–there is currently no way to search for or purchase new books in the Audible app. The app is simply a player–you’ll have to browse for and purchase your books online, then download them into the app. It’s a little clumsy, and I’m not sure why Audible hasn’t figured out a way of doing all of that in the app, but so far, no luck. Still, it’s a great audiobook player.
10. FamilyLife Audio
Pros: Family Life is a ministry based out of Little Rock, AR which seeks to minister to–you guessed it!–families. (Not to be confused with “Focus on the Family” or “American Family Radio (AFR).”) With a plethora of biblically sound teaching and advice on marriage and parenting, FamilyLife Audio is a great resource for any spouse or parent.
Cons: None that I have discovered yet.
Pros: This is a must have for the movie goer. There are other good apps for movie reviews (such as Movie Guide Lite), but the special features on the Plugged-In app make it the winner in my book. Plugged-in not only gives you a Christian perspective on the movies you might want to watch, but also reviews music, DVDs, and video games based on their spiritual, violent, sexual, language, and other content. It also gives you an “average user rating.” It provides detailed explanations of the ratings in every category, including specific information on what types of language, violent, or sexual content viewers may find offensive. You can view the video review for many of the movies or the theatrical trailer as well. Also, if you’d like to purchase tickets, Plugged-In provides a link to the websites of nearby theaters for purchasing tickets.
Cons: Unlike Movie Guide Lite, Plugged-In does not give content ratings for each individual category (i.e., violence, sexual content, etc.) and does not provide a rating for the quality of the film. The only ratings given are simply for “Family Friendliness” and “Average User Rating.” Also, many users–myself included–may find Plugged-In’s reviews to be overly critical of content. Typically, very few movies which have a high “Family Friendliness” rating also have a high “Average User Rating.” In other words, most of the movies which get a high rating from Plugged-In are, well, a little cheesy. But, on the other hand, Plugged-In does an excellent job of providing a full description of the movies’ content, so the user ought to be able to make an informed decision with or without reliable ratings. Lastly, the links to view showtimes and purchase tickets are unreliable, and work through Safari. So, that particular feature won’t work if you’ve disabled Safari to use K9 Browser. But, you can always use another app like Fandango to purchase tickets. Personally, I recommend downloading both Movie Guide Lite and Plugged-In so you get the best of both.
Price: Free (But each song costs $1.99)
Pros: Since this is not an app that “every Christian should have,” I’ve made it a Bonus app. Not everyone will have use for this little app, but if you do–it’s the best at what it does. This app allows you to lead a small group worship or worship at a small church from your iPhone or iPad. It’s also great if you like to pretend you are your favorite Christian artist rocking out in your living room…but I wouldn’t know anything about that… All of the songs ($2 each) on iSingWorship are formatted in such a way that allows you to customize the arrangement of each song. Want to repeat the chorus? Want to skip the chorus between the first and second verse? Want to mute the drums, guitar, or vocals? Would you prefer a scenic mountain vista, or abstract art for the background to the lyrics? Would you like to have a soft music interlude during the invitation so the preacher can speak? Do you want your iPad or iPhone to display the guitar chords for you to play along? The options are (almost) unlimited. iSingWorship allows you to customize the arrangement of an individual song, and then arrange several songs together into a playlist–perfect for Sunday morning worship or family worship at home.
Cons: The app itself is free, but each song costs $2. Compared to the price of buying the same song on iTunes (usually $1-$1.29), $2 is a steal considering what you get in iSingWorship. But yes, it can add up after a while. Also, currently there are only 45 songs available, so you’re limited on your worship selection. However, when I got the app, there were only 22 songs, so they are making progress and adding new songs all the time. The biggest drawback, however, is that in order to display the songs on an external monitor, you’ll need a CCLI license number. Most churches will have one of those, but if you are just wanting it for in-home use, that could be an issue.