Olive Tree BibleReader review: The best Bible app for iPhone and iPad

The Bible is the most read book in the world, and tiny Bibles with microscopic text have always been popular because of their portability. But, now, today, thanks to ultra-portable devices like the iPhone and iPad with their awesome Retina displays, and apps like Olive Tree's BibleReader, the Bible is more portable and easier to read than ever.

If you search for Bible in the App Store, you will be flooded with an overwhelming amount of app choices, from good to bad to just plain different. There are so many that it's almost impossible to figure out which one to get. So I went on the hunt for the perfect Bible app. It had to gorgeously rendered, packed with features, highly customizable, and run perfectly smooth. And I kept coming back to Olive Tree's BibleReader for iPhone and iPad.

Olive Tree BibleReader is a universal app for the iPhone and iPad, but I will be using screenshots of the iPad for this review. The iPhone version has the exact same features as the iPad version.

The integrated in-app store

Included in all of the Olive Tree Bible apps is an integrated store where you can buy more books including other version of the Bible, commentary, reference materials, devotionals, and more.

All books that you purchase will be synced to your Olive Tree account so that you can download them to another device at no additional cost or re-download them if you accidentally delete them or need to restore your iPhone or iPad.

Split screen UI

One of the really neat features of BibleReader is that you can split your screen into two panels. If you're using BibleReader in portrait, the screen will split horizontally, and when in landscape, it will split vertically. In each panel, you can have any of the books you have in your Olive Tree Library.

Here's a few different situations that one may find the split screen to be useful:

  • While at church, your pastor has one main passage that he's covering, but also references other verses. You can use one panel for the main passage, and the other to browse to the other verses.
  • You want to compare two different versions of the Bible side-by-side -- basically converting BibleReader into a parallel Bible.
  • You want to read another book, like a devotional, while having your Bible open to reference at the same time. Or maybe the Bible is the main book you want open, and you want to have easy access to a reference book.

If you don't want the split screen, you can simply slide the one you don't want off the the screen. This is also nice in case you want the split screen, but not the entire time. You can keep your secondary book open in the second panel, but keep it hidden until the moments you need it.

You also have control of where on the screen you want the split to take place -- it doesn't have to be directly down the middle.


It's no secret that Bibles are huge and that people don't typically read them from front to back like other books. Often times, someone is looking for a specific book, chapter, or even verse in the giant book, so having a good navigational system is extremely important for a Bible app -- and Olive Tree has nailed it with BibleReader.

The "Go To" button at the upper-left of the screen is how you navigate to a specific section of the Bible. Tapping it will pop up a menu that lists all the books of the Bible in chronological order. You can also pull it down to discover a search field that allows you to type in the verse. It does recognize abbreviations, so, for example, "1 Cor 13:4" will take you to 1 Corinthians 13:4. You can also choose to see the books of the Bible displayed as a grid with their abbreviations.

Another trait that most Bible's have are superscripts that reference other relevant verses. In a printed version, you would check the bottom of the page to check the reference, then flip to the verse. With BibleReader, you simply tap the superscript and a list of all the verses associated with the nearby superscripts will appear. Tapping on one of the verse references will navigate to that verse right inside of the popup. It's very cool. You can then either read it in the popup, or choose to have it opened in the main or split window.

Highlights, underlines, and notes

People love marking up their Bible with highlighters, underlinings, and notes -- BibleReader lets you do all these things.

To select a verse, you simply tap on the verse number. Or if you want more or less than one verse, tap your finger on a word to select it, then drag the handles to extend your selection. You then see a popup of choices: copy, highlight, note, bookmark, or share. These choices are pretty self explanatory.

Highlights in BibleReader are so much cooler than with physical highlighters. You can choose for your highlights to have a traditional look, or you can customize the intensity, color, and highlighter style. For underlining, you can have the underline look like it was made with either a thin highlighter or with a pen. You can do this every time you add a highlight, or you can create your favorite looks and save them for quick access.

When you create a note, a little note icon will be placed in front of your selection as an indicator of there being a note present. Tapping the icon will popup the note.


One of the great features of Olive Tree's BibleReader is that its look is very customizable. The default look is very traditional and easy to read, but if you want to change the font type, size, color, or background, you can. Want the words of Jesus to be in something fun like pink or green? Not a problem!

You can set different customizations for each of the three different window types: main screen, split screen, and popup.

Which version?

Olive Tree has many different Bible versions available in the App Store and making a decision on which one to buy can be a big overwhelming if you don't know which version you want, or if you're interested in more than one version. The good news is that since each app allows you to sync your Olive Tree library, it ultimately doesn't matter which one you choose.

If you are only interested in a specific version, I recommend just buying that one as it will be the quickest way to get it on your iPhone or iPad.

The most confusing part of the available apps is that it isn't clear what the difference is between the free Bible+ version and $0.99 BibleReader version. BibleReader includes the ASV, KJV, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, and Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown Commentary. Bible+ comes with ASV and KJV and the Matthew Henry’s concise commentary is available for free in the integrated store. The Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown Commentary is also available, but not free. So, to sum it up, the main difference is that BibleReader comes with The Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown Commentary.

The other difference is, of course, what it will be named on your Home screen. For example, since I purchased NIV BibleReader, the icon on my Home screen is called NIV BR.

The fact that there are so many apps is confusing and overwhelming. If you're at a loss, I recommend just downloading the free version and browsing the in-app store for what you want to purchase.

The Good

  • Content is stored locally to your iPhone or iPad, so an internet connection is not required
  • Highly customizable
  • Lots of highlighter and underlining options
  • Two pane UI is very convenient.
  • Keep notes and customizations synced between devices
  • Universal for iPhone and iPad

The Bad

  • Too many apps to choose from. Would be less confusing for users if there was only one app.

The bottom line

Olive Tree's BibleReader is a fantastic Bible for your iPhone and iPad. The Bible has always been one of those books that I wanted to continue to read in print because of how much marking-up I like to do and I always thought it felt more personal. Since discovering BibleReader, it's the only Bible I ever read. I even bring my iPad to church and make notes and highlights into the app while my pastor gives his sermon. And not to brag or anything, but I can also navigate to verses faster than anyone else with BibleReader on my iPad.

Bible+, Free - [Download Now](http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bible?at=10l3Vy&ct=UUimUdUnU14065 /id332615624?mt=8&at=10l3Vy&ct=d_im)

BibleReader, $0.99 - Download Now

NIV BibleReader, $9.99 - Download Now

All Olive Tree Bible Apps - App Store dev page

Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

  • Awesome thanks for the review!!!! :D
  • Great bible program but very slow. I am constantly tapping several times before the programs open. I've had it for years.
  • Thank you for highlighting a great looking app for reading God's Word. This looks like a great app for in-depth study. However, I would argue that the free Bible app from Youversion.com and lifechurch.tv is better for everyday use and overall use for the Christian lifestyle. It has a lot to offer beyond just the Bible like devotionals, reading plans, and even a place for pastors to post sermon notes. Also, all of what you note and highlight is available on Youversion.com. Lastly, it's free.
  • I also agree that YouVersion is a better app for the reading plans, and it is the app I use to be sure I get through the Bible at least once a year cover to cover (although, I like the Chronological plans). However, due to the navigation and customizability, I have to agree with Leanna on Olive Tree for general use.
  • I dig several of those features but am a huge YouVersion fan.
  • I had to delete from my iPad when I got my "New iPad" because app looked terrible since it didn't have retina display. I assume it has gotten the update since (otherwise you would have mentioned in bad).
    Thank you for covering apps like these. I love the diversity I find here on iMore. Keep at it. Good job.
  • Yep! It supports Retina display now! Was actually waiting for the update to write review :)
  • Thanks for the review. I, like others mentioned, have always used the youversion "Bible" app since it first came out. I'm glad to see that there is another app that looks good to give youversion some competition. The bonus that I like about Youversion is that you can download the translations you want to your device and don't have to worry about internet. Thanks for your review, and look forward to more like this.
  • The Bibles are downloaded to the device with Olive Tree. One thing I like about YouVersion is that you don't have to download to the device.
  • The LifeChurch.tv/YouVersion is a great app, I've just found it to be less stable. It crashes a lot, especially in offline mode. The performance of BibleReader has been better in my experience.
  • I'd agree there. I use it for my reading plan and it does tend to crash more than it should. But, the reading plans are so good and well implemented, that I stick with it. I'll have to check out Olive Tree again to see if they've improved their reading plans since I last checked that out.
  • Thank you! I can definitely appreciate the highlight function!
  • One of the other cool things with BibleReader is that you can keep your bookmarks, notes, and highlights in sync between your iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, and Android. Just go to My Stuff and tap on the sync button.
  • This is an excellent review. Thank you. I have not used Olive Tree, but have enjoyed YouVersion and Glo-Bible (Bible+). I have also bought the ESV Study Bible and often will read from it. Just to support having reviews like this, though, I will download the Olive Tree Bible Reader app and give it a try. Thank you.
  • Thanks for the review of one of my favorite iPad apps. I use Olive Tree BibleReader on a daily basis. It's great for everything from daily reading to in depth study. They offer many different versions, study tools, christian books and other resources. Free resources are available to get you started and they have sales (web site only) fairly often.
    Just a few things that we not mentioned. First, the team at Olive Tree is very engaged with their users. They host regular webinars to demo various aspects of the app, respond to users need and they are constantly releasing new versions. There are versions of Olive Tree for Mac, PC, iPhone/iPad, Android, Kindle Fire and Noon. Most purchases are available on most platforms, and your highlights, notes, etc. sync between the various platforms.
  • Dude, if you work for Olive Tree just say so. It's so obvious by your canned comments.
  • I work at Olive Tree, and we dont have anyone who works here named 'Mike'... but thanks for the kind, right on comments Mike! We love our app and customers, and also love to see the great diversity and quality of Bible apps out there. :-)
  • I have been using OliveTree Bibles since my Palm Pilot days and have built quite a library. It is FANTASTIC software with great customer support. I love that my notes sync with Evernote as well.
  • What do you sync with evernote and olive tree and how does that work? I use both every day.
  • I like Tecarta Bible App. It has a nice variety to choose from. I can create folders and name them based on the topic I choose and save as many verses within any folder. I can make notes and highlight verses in different colors and I can sync across any iDevise.
  • Should take a look at the most recent version of YouVersion Bible, it's free and has 10x the features with none of the confusion. Looks great too.
  • I wouldn't say YouVersion has 10x the features. I love OliveTree's Note syncing and the appearance of the pages is just easier to read on OliveTree compared to Youversion. But I love YouVersion's free reading plans. I use both apps. YouVersion for my morning Bible study/reading and Olive Tree for Sunday at Church and Thursday at Bible Study Class.
  • i use this and the youversion and like Rodney love the free reading plans and the new splash screen i will agree it is more buggy but love the sharing as a youth pastor will sometimes put my notes on their site and get comments and likes and can link it to others. i put olive tree with notes and everything on my ipad 2 and love that as offline mode is superior to what anyone else has. So i put youversion on my phone and olivetree on my ipad makes a good combo.
  • Yep, same here. And then I'd add that there is another tier of using Accordance for serious study (zillions of texts and original languages, advanced search, etc.).
  • Great review but I totally prefer Accordance. It has many similar features and syncs with the bibles and tools on Accordance for Mac. I mean...I have fully searchable Anchor Bible Dictionary and Word Biblical commentary on my iPhone, plus several versions of the Bible in English, Greek, and Hebrew.
  • OliveTree is good but I prefer PocketBible from Laridian. It is available as a free version with an in-app store also. I have used it since the days of the palm devices because it has great usability any an incredible number to translations and commentaries
  • Oh nice! Been a YouVersion user for a longtime but am definitely going to check this one out as well. Thanks for the review.
  • I really miss Bible With You by GMPSoft, but they did not make an iOS version. Worked great on the Palm. I am not sure if they even exist now. I got the Olive Tree Bible reader, and was impressed. They really worked on the iPhone, iPad platform. They have free books, as well as paid. One thing I like is the interface with Evernote for Bible notes you take. I agree, there are too many apps. Seems it would be better to just have the one Bible reader with a free Bible, then you can add Bibles, and study books later.
  • i must agree; the Olive Tree Bible Reader is the best Bible app i've ever used.
    it has customizable gestures facilitating everything from traversing a detailed reading history to skipping through search queries (Olive Tree has awesome search features, btw) to opening the "resource guide" at full height.
    speaking of which, the resource guide is amazing.
    it is a function that polls all installed books in Olive Tree and compares them to the exact position of the user's progress in any other resource, Bibles included of course! for example, if one is reading one of Jesus' parables, the resource guide will show all related tags, Biblical maps, downloaded sermons, dictionaries, notes, bookmarks, commentaries and more. this allows for profound degrees of cross-reference -- all invoked by disproportionately easy gesture. or tap. or swipe. it's all quite customizable. and since Olive Tree keeps a detailed reading history, it's easy to go back with a simple swipe.
    the tags are quite powerful. one can tag bookmarks, notes, etc. with one of Olive Tree's built in and extremely detailed tags, filtered while one types. conversely, one may create a custom tag. once an bookmark, note, highlight, etc is associated with a tag, it will appear in the resource guide as if it were an official entry. it has to be seen in action.
    also, bookmarks, notes, etc. may be placed into custom folder.
    as mentioned, highlights can be customized quite well. the REALLY cool thing about highlights is that any highlight made in any version of the Bible will appear in every other version of the Bible in Olive Tree. it's really convenient. and individual highlights can be given arbitrary labels.
    note taking in Olive Tree sets a new standard as well. typing a scriptural reference into any note will cause Olive Tree to treat it as a link, tapping it taking one directly to that scripture in the Bible. so useful. note types, icons, icon color, and of course tags and folders may be specified, further exemplifying the breadth of options afforded the user.
    Olive Tree has many books from which to choose including devotionals, reading plans, sermons, contemporary Christian books, rebuttals, religion comparisons, indexed Biblical maps, commentaries, biographies of Christian forefathers and a lot more. all indexed, all linked to each other. it's mind blowing.
    (oh yes, and if possible, please PLEASE get a Bible with "Strong's Numbers" so that you may see the words of the Bible in their original language with examples and brief clarifications. many misunderstandings of Biblical teachings could be resolved if people would just check out the Strong's Numbers. it's quite frustrating to hear people debate over all the "contradictions" and the like whose existence owe to people's not having seen the original language and context.)
    if all that weren't enough, as was mentioned earlier, there are Mac and PC versions with all of these features and so much more. the desktop versions give the free eSword quite the run, but i haven't used Logos or Accordance for any length of time, so i cannot be sure.
    continuing, since the desktop apps can be associated with your Olive Tree account, ALL of your PURCHASED BOOKS, notes, highlights, tags, etc. can be synced with them. so one can do the thorough Biblical research/study/whatever which can only be accommodated by a (rather handsome) "desktop class" app THEN sync ALL of those notes, highlights, etc. to the portable version for on the go access with the tap of a button; that said, the clever design choices made by Olive Tree imbue the portable versions with a refreshing amount of versatility, certainly enough for thorough study in their own right. so personal preference will play a role, i suppose.
    also, the books are displayed on a bookshelf with drag and drop reordering!! it's quite pleasing to the eye.
    anyway, i didn't like youversion because it forced me to sign up for an account even to make offline bookmarks. i realize how trivial doing so would be in terms of cost and time expenditures, but on principle it really turned me off. several other "free" Bibles are online only, so i didn't like that. some list all of the wonderful books one may use, but in order to do so a facebook account must be linked or something like that, blegh.
    Give it a chance, Olive Tree sets an entirely new standard. it can be kinda intimidating, but once you get used to it, you'll love it.
    (oh yeah, one thing i don't like is that many of the books can be fairly expensive, but sales are run all the time. and many are "worth it" to support a company as devoted to its users as Olive Tree.)
    i've typed too much, sorry guys. i just really, really like this app and wanted to share. thanks for the article Leanna and iMore. this is my favorite applesite.
  • Accordance is kind of another tier up in capability and available material... but it comes at a price. While the app is free, the content is not. But, it does sync with the OSX version, so you have all that power and information available on iOS. However, IMO, it has some catching up to do in the UI dept with Olive Tree.
  • Thanks riverdale for your review of Olive Tree software. It makes me want to take the leap and buy some in-app resources. In fact I'm going to go buy a NKJV with Strong's Numbers right now for it! I've looked at a few other software packages and most of the ones *that are affordable* don't even have the NKJV with Strong's. Plus the options and usability of Olive Tree seems to be top-of-the-game, especially when doing price comparisons with other software. The only other one I'm tempted to get is Biblesoft, which is about the only other one I could afford to be frank. They also have monthly subscriptions. I'd like to add that customer service at Olive Tree, from my experience so far, has been very responsive and helpful in guiding me in my purchase decisions before I've even tried out the software. I'm sold.
  • YouVerion has 300,000+ ratings/reviews. Olive Tree has 17,000+. YouVersion is the standard when it comes to Bible Apps. Not sure how this one got chosen as the "best".
    Either way, any app that spreads the Good News is a positive thing.
  • Yea, 'best' is a bit tricky until you define what you're looking for and trying to do. But, in the way Leanna defined it, I'd have to agree with her choice. For reading plans, I use YouVersion, but otherwise I don't feel the app is on the level of Olive Tree. Now, if by best you mean the most advanced, then Accordance would be my choice as YouVersion and Olive Tree aren't even in the ball-park, capability wise.
  • Most popular doesn't necessarily mean best :)
  • This is a great review. Being a new iPad user (new to using iPad, even though I am using the new iPad), I find this review and the comments useful. I downloaded The Glo Bible, but find it a bit overwhelming. I wanted a powerful Bible tool, but needed the user experience to remain simple. My wife has many Bible apps on her iPad and listed YouVersion, Glo and Olive Tree among them. I will definitely give Olive Tree a closer look now.
  • I have both and also the iOS version of Logos (no Accordance since I use a PC at work). As a pastor, I really like what YouVersion has done, but I prefer OliveTree because it gives me simple access to Greek and Hebrew and my notes.. Logos does too, but it is more wifi dependent and doesn't handle the split screens well (and I've been an Olive Tree user since my Palm). I use Logos to study when I don't have my laptop, but OliveTree for my own reading. I just wish it launched a bit faster.
    However, I tend to recommend YouVersion or the free ESV to others because of the simplicity (and price).
  • Let's not forget AcroBible
  • Great review. I really enjoy YouVersion as well but i think ill give this a go
  • Thanks for the great review. It is my favourite Bible app as well. I had the Quickverse Platinum and used the QV on the Pocked PC. When I went to the iPhone I looked at many Bibles and finally settled on Olive Tree. Now I use it on the Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad. I still have QV for the references whenever I am doing research but for daily use cannot go past Olive tree.
  • I have both the Olive Tree NIV Bible app and YouVersion. Glo Bible is also great if you are looking for pictures, timelines and videos! If you are looking for a Daily way to engage in the bible with text, videos animations then try Wordlive from Scripture Union
  • Ive used this app for years....I love it!
  • i found the customer service unhelpful and a little rude on my one encounter with them.
    I purchased the ESV bible on my iPhone and couldn't sink it to my iPad so I called customer service. They said I didn't buy it and so I couldn't have it on my iPHone. I emailed them the payment info but they still insisted I didn't buy the bible. I finally gave up
    The ESV (that I don't have according to Olive tree) is still sitting on my iPhone and I use it regularly. IT still won't sink and doesn't show up on my account at Olive Tree.
    Oh Well. B+ software / C- customer service.
  • Hi 'PST'-
    Can you send an E-mail to 'webinars@olivetree.com' and I'll look into this for you? If you purchased that and sent in a receipt, it should have been easy to fix that for you.... perhaps an email was missed on our end? Either way, lets not leave it there!
  • I love OliveTree. At this point I've spent more on my OliveTree account then I have on my iPad. I actually upgraded to the new iPad for BibleReader. The Retina display is perfect for reading and studying the Bible. Back when I got my first iPad I tried all the Bible apps available at the time (there's really to many) and finally settled on BibleReader. I came to very much the same conclusion as the review. Several of my friends have purchased iPads due to my recommendation of BibleReader. But, like everything in our world, it's not perfect. My one major question is why does the reading plan not sync? That needs to be fixed ASAP. Also automatic syncing would be great. I have contacted support several times for all kinds of issues (via email) and have always had great timely experiences. Very friendly. I live not to far from their headquarters and would love to meet the people responsible for this software. It really has revolutionized my Bible reading and study.
  • I have used OliveTree since the Palm days, then Blackberry, and now iOS devices. By far the best I have used in the 10+ years I have been using Bible apps/programs. I have no complaints. In fact, the library's and books I bought for the Palm transferred to my iOS devices 10 years later with no upgrade fees or re-purchasing for a different OS. I also bought a book from the App Store and then synced it to my Olive Tree account and boom, there it was for all my other devices. I bought the Expository Collection back in the day and still have it several years later...a loyal fan for sure!
  • I agree. Since I have used this since the "Palm" days I have quite the library. I have used pretty much every other main bible app out there. I have a good library built on Laridian's app as well, but I actually use the OliveTree Bible reader. I also use YouVersion a lot for the audio bible and the reading plans, but notes and other books don't integrate nearly as well. It is by far the most used app on my iPhone and my iPad. I almost NEVER use a print Bible any more. Unless I am going to be reading for a long stretch of time, then I use my print bible, it offers less distraction to me.
  • Has anyone tried the new Bible Gateway App? I'm really liking it...
  • Personally i rock youversion and GLO have you tried GLO leanna? I won a pro account in an online contest but the one nice thing about it compared to youversion is that it has study notes. It is a bit slow however.
  • I am surprised no one has mentioned the NIV Bible app. Do not let the name fool you. It has options to open (buy) other bible translations and also has a split screen. When you are using the study notes in the split screen it syncs and scrolls where ever you navigate. I use this in my bible classes. I also use You version the most because the daily reading plans are awesome. I also use my Kindle App for my bibles over there. There are so many to choose from. I can highlight in all of them which is nice. Thanks for the review, I will have to try this one out and see how it compares. God bless.
  • This is hands down the best bible app out there. I use to use Olive Tree since the days of Treo 700w but then with less and less updates coming out I moved on. I recently have been a user of AcroBible which is really good but the one thing that stood out for me is that Olive Tree is like iBooks on steroids, I mean the fact that you can underline and highly single words is something that I have been looking for for a long time and finally it is here. Thank you for this review because truthfully speaking I would probably have not gone back to Olive Tree had it not been for this review. Also can't leave out that Olive Tree also has a desktop app which does not require internet to use it is only needed when syncing but besides that what you do on one device will appear on all .
  • I've used it daily for the last year and enjoy this app especially on the new retina display. Four weeks later it still amazes me. The font Cochin is really beautiful. Olive tree makes it really easy to follow a plan to read through in a year, this is the first time I've been able to stick with it mainly because it keeps my place for me and gives me a button to click at the end of the day's section. Nice!
  • I have been using mobile bible software for over 5 years. I have olive tree only because I moved to a Mac desktop and it was the only product with a Mac and iOS presence that synchronized with the mobile edition working without an Internet connection. I bought a full library from olive tree to replace my PocketBible collection. It looks beautiful but I have to say, it has nothing on PocketBible, which is a much more mature and functional app for windows and iOS (plus others). It has more features and more convenient navigation, more reliable synching and feels better - not as beautiful as olive tree - but that is a small sacrifice. if only PocketBible supported Mac...
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  • Great review. Use this every day reading the bible with my husband, who introduce me to it. Help:
    I just deleted a page of various highlights, and i wish there was an undo button for my mistake. Is there currently a way to do this? I've been searching all the possible buttons i can in the ipad olive tree and online forums. If not, it's a bummer but no huge deal. Thanks :)