Ever since I abandoned the 4-Volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours for mobile app versions I am still always on the prowl for newer apps and updates. The original entry in this field was iBreviary by Fr. Padrini. While good enough I was never happy with the daily update mechanism and the app itself has not been updated for a year and a half.
I had been interested in the Universalis app, but at almost $30 dollars at the time I stuck with iBreviary. This changed when I got the first iPad and Universalis was the only Liturgy of the Hours iPad app at the time. So for some years I have been fairly happy with Universalis as no daily text update is required. It was also superior since instead of just scrolling the text you turned pages which was much more convenient. It also had options such as what translation of the Psalms to use. My only annoyance with the app is that the text used is not the same text as in the official 4-Volume set and the selection of hymns is repetitive. On the plus side the app has been continually updated with changes made on phone software updates to match the user interface. Very well designed with some attention to detail. At $13.99 now it is still a solid choice and is available on iOS and Android.
During my year using an Android phone I start looking at apps again and at the time the Divine Office app was semi-affordable and so I bought it. It was much like iBreviary as it used scrolling text and also used the official text. The daily experience was rather seamless where you are not concerned about downloading the texts for the day. It has a very unique feature in that in addition it has audio versions for all the hours. I mainly used this feature at times when driving and it was nice to hear a community of people singing the psalms along with professional recordings of the hymns. Still mainly I used Universalis for my daily reading and switching off to the Divine Office app for a change of pace or during octaves when Universalis got repetitive.
The main reason I am writing this post is that recently they have released a new version of the app Divine Office 2. It is now a much better app and one that I will probably now use daily as they have really added some nice new features.
The user interface is familiar as it follows the skeuomorphic design pattern of mimicking a physical book along with giving a patina of an old book. I think the design is a little overblown as I am preferring the more flat design pattern as in iOS7/8. What I like most is that on the iPad you now have regular pages that you turn instead of the continual scroll. I am not sure why they didn’t do this before since Apple has APIs to fairly easily access the same libraries as used in their iBooks app. Regardless it make the app easier to use. Unfortunately the iPhone version still scrolls the page. It has also been updated to fit the new larger iPhones.
Playing back the audio versions of the various hours has been totally revamped. For example now you can change the playback speed along with skipping forward and back easily. While I did enjoy the audio versions the length of them could be quite lengthy at times. Adjusting the playback speed corrects this for me. Since this audio must be downloaded there is a setting for how many days you want downloaded at a time. A default of seven days which can be decreased or increased up to 21 days. This is important if you are on travel when you less likely to have access to a reliable WiFi connection. You can also select to have this download on WiFi only. Unfortunately it defaults to using both your cellular connection and WiFi. WiFi only should be the default and since this is buried in a setting some people might get a nasty surprise regarding their cellular download cap. Oh and just because I am rather picky app-wise I was also annoyed that the title of the apps as it appears on iOS is the same icon and title as the previous version.
There are some other features for the Divine Office app that are more interesting than really useful. It has a status telling you how many people are praying the Divine Office using this app. Along with a turning globe that can be viewed showing around the world who is using this app. There is also a liturgical calendar. Still I would have preferred having the daily Mass readings like Universalis instead of the spinning globe. They also have sharing capabilities but it is rather crippled. Instead of using the iOS 8 share sheet it has a custom one that will only send a link to and About Today page via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. Just not very useful. Plus there is no way to copy or highlight text displayed. I especially find that the Office of Readings sometimes contains something I want to copy for future reference. Universalis allows you to copy a column on a page, but not much else.
For those who bought the original version there is an upgrade package where you can buy the new version for $4.99. Otherwise their pricing is currently five dollars off at $14.99. So overall I found this to be worthwhile upgrade and it is finely nice to have page turns with the official text. If you ever pray the Divine Office with others this is quite important.
No doubt I will still be switching back and forth at times between Divine Office 2 and Universalis, but I just like the change off. I am still waiting for the perfect Liturgy of the Hours app, well perfect for my use. Until then still we have some good choices.
I don’t know what the status is for an Android version of Divine Office 2 since there is no new information on their page and the original app does not include the new changes. The Android version for the tablet like many Android tablet apps is just scaled up without putting the larger form factor to use.