The YouVersion Bible app was updated today to version 4.0 with a much better interface and retina iPad support. The iPad version now supports parallel reading and the iPhone supports a full screen reading mode. I think that YouVersion is overall the best Bible app on the platform, but it is still missing some features that a power user would need.
That being said, I don’t think that YouVersion is looking for that user. With the way it is now, it is a great, simple app with a ton of different translations that they give away for free to anyone who wants it. It has great sync features that work across all their platforms (including the web). You can have a set of notes in the cloud and it offers daily readying and devotional plans. YouVersion seems to me like it is more focused on getting the Gospel to as many people as possible with a clean interface and with features that encourage them to actually read it. Which is great!
I think any Bible app that is trying to compete with YouVersion on those grounds is wasting their time. YouVersion has the casual Bible app market locked up and I don’t think they will be giving it up anytime soon (especially since they still seem to be actively working on new features and ideas, as shown by the 4.0 update).
However, I do still think there is a hole in the Bible app market that needs to be filled. I see the Bible app space to be a lot like the Twitter app space. For casual tweeters, there is a pretty good free app that is developed by Twitter. It does everything that they need it to do, which is mainly just checking their timeline and replies. It even throws in push notifications for measure.
However for someone who uses Twitter a little more heavily will find the standard Twitter apps a little lacking. So there is a market for these more powerful apps that the third party has done a great job of filling. My favorite example is Tweetbot. It delivers the standard Twitter experience, but it adds things like TweetMarker, better list support, more notification options, and a ton of other things. After using Tweetbot for the last year or so, I could not imagine going back to the standard app.
I think there is a market opportunity for an app that offers a basic Bible reading interface like YouVersion, but also offers features to expand on it. Thinks like Strong’s references, greek tools, and commentaries that flow alongside the text you are reading can give the reader a much better understand of the context of the original text.
There are apps that are attempting to fill that hole now (currently I am using Accordance). While there are apps that do a good job of offering the specific features that I would want in a Bible app, none of them are designed well enough to be as enjoyable to use as YouVersion is.
Lately, the App Store market has shown that is it not always the idea behind an app that makes it successful, but instead the implementation of that idea. The best examples are Clear and Paper. They both took simple ideas (a to-do list and a notebook) and implemented them in a creative way that people enjoy using.
I think that there is a large market for an app that takes the good design of YouVersion and integrates some of the powerful features from an app like Accordance. If another developer does not figure this out and build it relatively soon, this may become my next project after graduation.