BibleXpress: the iPhone Bible

BibleXpress

BibleXpress

A while ago I wrote about the possibility of Bible apps on the iPhone/iPod Touch, and now they’re becoming a reality.  While I haven’t had a chance to check them all out (plus, I don’t think I have that much money), the one right now that seems to rise to the top is BibleXpress.

While the price point seems steep ($29.99) with so few versions available (4 in 1.01, 2 additional versions are in Spanish), it’s actually not that bad of a price.  First of all, whenever new versions are added they will be pushed to existing users at no cost.  Until at least 80% of the net price is being paid as royalties the app will be updated.

Second, as of today there is only 1 free Bible app and it’s in Chinese.  The other apps range from $2.99 for the KJV to $17.99 for the ESV.  BibleXpress not only offers more versions than others, but the price per version (including the Spanish ones) is only $4.99.  In the future, it’ll probably be lower.

While I count vouch for all of the features, BibleXpress seems to be the best Bible app in the first round.  I’m sure more are to come, including ones that’ll be better, but BibleXpress is going to stick around in my phone for a while.

Edit: No word yet on a Greek text for the iPhone, but it can’t too far away.

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iPhone SDK and Bible Software

After Apple announced the iPhone SDK, the wheels in my head started whirling. While there are some pretty good Bible web apps for the iPhone (like the ESV, NAB and NET Bibles), a dedicated app that you could take with you anywhere would be pretty cool. As it is, anyone with a Touch outside of a wi-fi network or an iPhone somewhere that prevents a signal can’t access these apps. What if you want to read the Bible on your iPhone (or iPod Touch, but let’s just assume I mean both) on a plane? You would either have to use another reader like a laptop or, heaven forbid, actually read off of paper. Unacceptable in my mind.

So, with the SDK some enterprising programmer could make a slick Bible app, giving all of us access to a digital Bible. I’m going to go out on a limb and say there will be about a thousand such apps, many of them even being free (especially if they use the KJV). But, given the limitations of iPhone app distribution, it’s going to be awfully hard to make something that’s going to please everyone. Here are some problems I’ve come up with (but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with the overall app distribution, because it does make sense).

Price. Ideally, what you’ll want is one app that can handle multiple translations. The problem here is is that each modern translation is going to charge the developer, which will be passed onto you; the more translations, the more money it will cost. For comparison’s sake, Accordance (Mac software) charges $30 per Bible and Olive Tree (mobile software) charges between $16 and $25 per Bible. Take Greek/Hebrew into account and you’re looking at a chunk of change. An app with one translation might be reasonable (although I’m convinced the “sweet spot” for apps will be between $8.99 and $14.99), anything more is going to get pretty expensive.

Add-ons. Is there any indication we will be able to add onto an app once we’ve downloaded it? In other words, can you buy a basic Bible app with one or two translations and then add to it over time? Or, will you have to buy one loaded app for a lot of money (see above)? I don’t really want to have ten apps, one for each translation; this will seriously harsh my workflow. But, since an ebook reader seems like a no-brainer for the iPhone, wouldn’t a Bible app be essentially the same thing?

Trials. This is going to be a small problem for all iPhone apps, not just Bible ones. Since Try Before You Buy is a Mac standard by now, it makes sense for this to make its way onto the iPhone. Suppose you’re on a website that advertises a Bible app that looks pretty shiny, but costs $30 (or whatever). If you have to pony up the cash before trying it, you might be less inclined to buy it. I’m not convinced this will be a major problem, but it could be a nuisance.

As I said, it’s going to be hard to please everyone, especially me. I have a list of requirements for an iPhone Bible app, which means I’ll probably have to write it myself. I’ll leave that post for later.

Technolust: the underlying issue

Technolust is a word I have appropriated to describe my insatiable need to buy gadgets.  As I said in the previous post, I love technology; all of it.  Anything and everything with a chip, wires or LEDs, I have to buy.  Of course, this presents a serious problem because very few people can afford everything they want.  I, fortunately (well, it depends on how you look at it), am not one of the very few.

For me, then, this does not result in overconsumption or serious debt, but an attitude of coveting.  Or, to put in Pauline terms, idolatry.

But the underlying problem in that is not the idolatry itself, rather an issue of contentment.  All of us, to one degree or another, or unhappy with something.  We don’t like our job, our house, our vehicle, our computer, our phone, etc.  There is something, or many things, that we are unhappy with and want a change. 

There is nothing wrong with not being satisfied with a product or service.  For a while I had a T-Mobile phone that had horrible coverage in my house.  When I took it out of my neighborhood, it worked great.  I was dissatisfied with that service, so I got rid of it.  (Also, I realized a phone is just a wireless leash.)

The problem comes in when I link my unhappiness with my phone (or computer, et al) to my entire life.  So I convince myself that I am not happy now, but if I get that iPhone, if I only pony up the $600 and however much a month, then my life will be complete and I will be happy.  True happiness will come when I get what I want.

The makers of technology, being good at what they do, work hard to create this unhappiness in us.  Apple especially is great at making me feel like my life is a miserable mess because I don’t have their latest thing.  (Microsoft, on the other hand, is the complete opposite.  They create virtually no desire in me, and most consumers, to buy their products.  In fact, I feel as if my life is somehow better because I don’t have a Zune or Vista.)

We as a culture (to say nothing of me as an individual) have so linked what we have with what we are that it is almost impossible to distinguish the two.  This is the biggest lie of the Boomer generation: riches equal happiness.  This is why people nearly cripple themselves to buy the biggest house, the biggest SUV, the best gaming system or the 100″ plasma.  If we have the best stuff, our lives will be complete.

But it’s a myth.  It’s the fruit being offered us while the serpent promises eternal happiness.  It’s the golden calf we’ve fashioned while standing at the base of the mountain.  It’s a lie exchanged for the truth.

There are a lot of passages out of the Scriptures that I could list, but I will only mention two.  The first is from the Sermon on the Mount:

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  (Matthew 6:24-25 ESV)

There are actually a number of things to say about this passage, but I don’t want to get sidetracked.  Jesus is saying that money (and by extension, food, drink and clothing) cannot rule us.  This does not mean we should live only for today, in the sense that we should not have some preparation.  If this were so, Israel’s agrarian economy would have quickly fallen apart.  What we should not do is allow these concerns for the future rule over us, becoming higher priorities than God himself.  Again, that is idolatry.

Here is a passage from Paul:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:10-13)

If you’ve ever read Burrough’s great book “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment“, then this passage will be very familiar to you.  In fact, this may be one of the most “famous” passages in all the Scriptures (of course, most of the time you hear it, it is used wildly out of context).

For Paul, contentment, or happiness, does not come from material possessions, but from Christ.  Whatever his current situation happened to be, and he had a lot of bad times in his ministry, he was still content.  This contentment that comes from Christ is just as much for you as it was for him.

I need to read that to myself every day.  I need to pray for that all of the time.  My technolust would have me believe I am unhappy because I don’t have the best stuff, but Christ tells me otherwise.  I have Him, and therein lies my contentment.

Safari

Apple just released the Safari browser for Windows (in beta) and I’ve been using it all day. I really like this browser, although I’ve been using Firefox for so long that it’s hard to use anything different.

The font engine is great and actually reminds me of IE7; it looks a lot better than Firefox. The UI is good (it looks like iTunes) and it’s standards compliant.

The downside for me is that I’ve yet to find the option to force links to open in a new tab instead of a window. Also, when you click in a text box it doesn’t highlight all text. This is a minor yet annoying.

At least we have another browser option and a new way to stick it to Microsoft. Of course, we could just get rid of our Windows machines, but I don’t believe in getting rid of computers.

Update: Okay, a new gripe: it removed all formatting from my posts. There better be a way to fix this or I’m going to stop using it right away.

Update 2: They claim it’s a lot faster than IE or Firefox; I haven’t seen that yet.