SAB vs YouVersion

I’m a SAB newbie and when talking to people about the possibilities of creating your own Scripture Apps with SAB, I often get asked the question: why don’t you just use the YouVersion platform to get your translated scripture into an App instead of building your own Apps? Honestly, that’s a question that I asked myself and others before, but never got a satisfactory answer yet. So I’m turning to you as the experts now, looking for input on this question.

A great question, and I’m guessing you’re going to get a whole host of answers. But one of the things that I have encouraged teams to think about and invest time in is building a QUALITY App with SAB that is customized to the needs of the (often offline) community of users. There’s a spreadsheet here to get people to start thinking along those lines, but here are the categories of things that they need to consider as they build an App:

Scripture Text Content
A: How much content
B: Clickable references
B: Multilingual/multi-script
C: Red letter (words of Jesus) option
Supplementary materials
A: Glossary
B: Illustrations
C: Topical index (How to…)
D: Daily reading plan
E: Study Bible material (e.g. GM, TWR, Emmaus Course)
A: Audio
B: Style of audio
C: Synchronized highlighting of verses with audio
D: Video
User experience (enhanced features)
A: Menu navigation
B: Keyboard for searching and typing notes
C: Contents menu for books/sections/languages
D: Customized graphics (splash screen, drawer, icon)
E: Appropriate options available on menus
F: Appropriate adjustments to Styles to improve app
G: Appropriate changes made to underlying text
H: Appropriate information in About… box copyright, etc.
I: About box information in vernacular language (not just English)
Engagement with users
Analytics being monitored
Text editable for feedback by email
Link for further information
Contact details for follow-up (phone, email or website)
Deep Linking
App Accessibility (how it is shared)
Shareable one-to-one
Available on SD cards locally
Available directly through other websites/links
Published on Google PlayStore
PlayStore presence (“find-ability” & attractiveness of listing)
Helpful description of App and good range of searchable key words
Localized description in LWC
Localised description in vernacular
Phone screenshots
Tablet screenshots
Enhanced/edited screenshots (highlighting usage/features)
Demo video in PlayStore (how to use features within App)
Thinking Beyond just Scripture App Builder
Text also available through web site (HTML export from SAB)
Text in DBL - and available for other Paratext users
Text available in YouVersion app

At the end of the day, I suppose you are want to build a custom-App for the people with a highly customized user-interface in their own language, and yet keep it small enough to be passed on to others (along with the content) via Bluetooth or WiFi sharing.

I hope this helps…


Hi Gerben - welcome to SAB, I hope you have a great time using it and making apps if you figure it’s right for your context!

I can reply to your question just for our situation - I started out trying to get our language’s scripture in YouVersion and only got started with SAB when that failed - the leadership at the agency that is doing the translation for the people we’re working with is not my group, and they only have a few such projects and have been very slow to decide whether or not they want their translations in the Digital Bible Library (where YouVersion and others get the texts).

So just to get started and be able to offer a wider distribution and ease of use of the translation for our language group, I got started with SAB - thinking at the time, ‘if only we’d gotten on YouVersion’, and ‘if we ever do I can stop doing this myself’. Now several years later, I am glad that it providentially worked out that way for a few reasons, and if we were now able to get our scripture on YouVersion (which I would love to have still) I would continue to get our scripture out via SAB for a few reasons.

  • YouVersion’s site, menus, PR materials, icons, graphics, etc are all steeped in a specific religious background - people of other faith backgrounds who are just getting started reading the Bible will not find it as welcoming as someone who fits in with YouVersion’s intended audience.
  • YouVersion’s site, menus, PR materials, icons, graphics, etc are all steeped in a specific Western cultural background - people of other cultures and ethnicities will not find it as welcoming as someone represented by YouVersion’s cultural background.
  • This is not to put down YV! I use it a lot. But in apps created with SAB, not just the text but the menus, graphics, advertising, store presence, borders, colors, etc are all customizable and can be specifically tuned to be welcoming to a person of a certain language and culture group.
  • Once you get started making apps…you can make apps of all kinds. I started out with just a Bible app; then made an Arabic-script local-language Bible app; then a chronological presentation app with Roman script, Arabic script, and audio; then a songbook app with downloadable mp3 recordings of the songs. Then I got started making apps for Mac and Windows with the html output from SAB.

So I think if you are already in YouVersion and your audience would be well-served by it - not much point. But if not on either count - SAB could be a good option for your work.


SAB takes a different approach than YouVersion. YouVersion separates the data from the app and requires internet. YouVersion gets it data from the DBL. SAB incorporates the data into the app and can run without internet. SAB gets its data from DBL or from another source like a Paratext project.

There are pros and cons for both situations. Some of the advantages of SAB approach are as follows.

  1. It has a native Android app feel.
  2. It can be customized for a specific context ( colors, fonts, icon, splash screen, etc)
  3. It does not required Internet access, It can be share via SD cards.
  4. It can be found in app stores when people search for apps in their languages
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To me the key difference is Security.

SAB can be made secure. It can be built in such a way that no one outside the operator of the phone can tell it is installed (without physically possession of the phone that is).

YouVersion while very useful in a free and open society is not designed for the safety of its users in places that are not so. It phones home and leaves a trail that can be followed to the users device.

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Thank you for taking the time to give me input on my question, I really appreciate that! I am aware that SAB and YV are two different approaches. The advantage I see for YV is that it is a familiar platform with all the bells and whistles and that you only have to provide the content. I don’t know how much time and effort it takes to get content into DBL, but I guess this outweighs the time and effort it takes to create and maintain your own App. But after reading your input, I also understand that some bells and whistles can be an obstacle to acceptance by users and can even be a danger in closed countries, if this makes it easier to trace users. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of that yet. As far as the online/offline aspect is concerned : my estimation (but that is strongly coloured by what I see in my context) is that people who have a smartphone often do have access to the internet, albeit much more limited. So I’m not sure if the (one-time) downloading of YV and content for offline use is a big obstacle, that requires some more research. I don’t know if YV lends itself for offline sharing via ShareIt or Xender, in that case multiple devices would use the same account. The fact is that offline sharing Apps made by SAB is very easy. I find the parallel approach that @Corey_Garrett has ‘chosen’ an interesting one, where you work on making the content available for YV as well as through your own build Apps.

We try to do both because both have pros for different people.

A lot of our users, while they have smart phones, are not very technologically literate, and it’s easier for them to use an App that only has their language.
(Making an SAB android app and putting it on the Play Store is really quite easy. And you can add more books and update the text at any time.)

On the other hand, those that already use YouVersion (younger people, sometimes a particular community, ministry workers) find it easier to look at another version of the Bible in the app they already know.
(And we haven’t got to making SAB iPhone apps yet, so for them YouVersion is the only way to access our translations.)

We also like the SAB feature of highlighting sentences as it plays a recording as this helps with people’s literacy.


To continue on Kathy’s comment, you can’t assume that someone with a smartphone is technologically literate. YouVersion assumes this literacy which is fine for the typical western audience. Unless this has changed, right off the bat if a user downloads YouVersion they will be required to register the app with an email address in order to change the language from KJV. When someone doesn’t have an email address or know how to get one this creates a barrier for use right off the bat.

Then you have the issue that the YV interface language will likely not be in their language. YV probably picks up the language of the phone but that may not be a language the user is able to really understand or they may see that language as an oppressive. Of course YV allows you to change the interface language to many different languages but you have to be tech savvy enough to know how to change the language. Then the user needs to find their language. A Western audience can quickly understand the icons to find the translation they want but others get confused by this and are not able to find their language from the thousands of languages available to them.

These and many others are barriers that we are able to remove for people by creating customized SAB apps for people to use and share among their communities.