Having one of the best note-taking apps on your smartphone is a no-brainer, precisely because inspiration can strike at any time. And when it does, why not turn to the device that's closest at hand to record your thoughts?
Yes, your smartphone likely has its own default note-taker on there. (And both Apple's Notes and Google's Keep certainly deserve to be mentioned among the best note-taking apps.) But you can find additional features in third-party apps that can bolster your productivity even more, whether you're looking for a way to jot down notes during a meeting or turn your ideas into a shareable outline.
It's more critical than ever to have a great note-taking app, especially as screens get larger — or in the case of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, foldable. Phone makers even offer devices with built-in styluses now, from the pricey Galaxy S22 Ultra to the cheaper Moto G Stylus (2022). Clearly, that's driven by people who want to turn their phone screen into a whiteboard or canvas for capturing ideas.
Whether you're taking shorthand, whipping a to-do list or just jotting down a reminder, there's an app out there that can meet your note-taking criteria. These are the best apps for note-taking that we've found for mobile devices.
Best note taking apps for Android and iOS
Evernote is one of the first apps that comes to mind when it comes to note taking, and for good reason. It provides a feature-rich note taking service that syncs across multiple devices and platforms, making sure that your notes, photos and other documents are always at your fingertips, whether you're on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop.
Tagged notebook organization, support for photos, videos, to-do lists and more make Evernote a versatile note taking solution, though it is more complex then minimalist solutions.
The free Basic plan has a limit of 60MB of new uploads each month with syncing limited to two devices. Upgrade to a personal account for $7.99/month, and you can upload 10GB each month and sync across unlimited devices; the $9.99 professional account ups the limit to 20GB.
Notes aren't always written down. Sometimes, you'll want to make verbal notations, whether it's recording your own thoughts, a lecture or a meeting. But what to do when it's time to turn that audio into words on a screen? Otter is here to help you out.
Otter not only records what's being said, but it transcribes the audio, too, giving you notes to mark up, study and share with others. Transcription can happen in real time, and you can also go back an annotate your notes. Transcribed text is searchable so you can jump anywhere in the recording and hear the key parts of what was said.
You get 600 minutes of free transcription each month. If you need more than that, you can opt for a $12.99/month subscription that features 6,000 minutes along with playback speed options and a skip silence feature, among other enhancements.
Microsoft's OneNote is another strong option among the best note taking apps, especially if you're looking for something that integrates closely with Office.
Users can type or dictate notes and checklists, attach photos or PDFs, send emails or clip web content. Once uploaded, you can sort your content through a notebooks system, with sections, tags and text search to help you easily keep track of your notes. Cloud syncing means that your content is automatically available on all your connected devices.
OneNote has tons of extras, including collaboration features, Android Wear and TouchID support, though that may be excessive if all you want is an app for jotting down notes.
Looking to get started with OneNote? Check out this beginner's guide to OneNote for tips and tricks on using Microsoft's note taking app.
Where many note keeping services focus on rich feature sets, Google Keep tries to do the opposite, aiming for a fairly simple cloud-based note taking app that still supports a wide variety of inputs such as text notes, checklists, audio and photos.
Google Keep displays your notes and to-dos in a card format reminiscent of sticky notes. Each note can be tagged, colored or set with a time or location-based reminder.
Notion aims to be your personal and team productivity hub. The app allows users to create customized private or shared workspaces where they can then add versatile "blocks" that act like text snippets, bookmarks, images, toggle links, files, code snippets, discussion sections, and more.
As a result, you can customize your workspace as you see fit, dragging and dropping blocks of content to where you want, without disrupting an entire document. Whether you're doing note-taking, spreadsheeting, or building a Kanban board, Notion's powerful building blocks make things a snap to set up.
The free version of Notion allows you to save and sync up to 1,000 blocks of content, while premium subscription plans remove that content limit and add admin tools, permission settings, and other features, depending on which tier you opt for.
iPhone users already have a pretty compelling note-taking option on their phone courtesy of Apple's Notes app. What you get from this built-in app is a clean, simple interface and a number of tools for creating notes with formatted text, dictation, drawings, images, web snippets and file attachments. Users can organize notes and attachments in a folder system and search for text
One of the most compelling reasons to use Notes — other than the fact that it's already there on your iPhone or iPad — is that all of your notes are synced across your iCloud devices. You can also password-protect your notes (or unlock them with TouchID). Other options allow you to share Notes with other people, with everyone able to make changes from their iPhone, iPad or Mac.
The sharing feature alone makes Notes a pretty compelling option, even for a built-in app on your iPhone. And in iOS 15, a new mentions feature notifies people when they're tagged in a shared note. iOS 15's tags feature also gives you a better way of organizing Notes, as you can see in our iOS 15 Notes hands-on.
Download Notes: iOS
A great many notes you’ll jot down are of a time-sensitive nature. To that end, Agenda wisely fuses note taking and scheduling. This ensures you don’t forget anything important. An overview tab enables you to dip into whatever’s on the agenda for today, but you can also browse timelines, providing structure and context to events and decisions.
The notes look great in Agenda, too. There’s clarity, even on the display of compact phones like the iPhone 12 mini. Additionally, you can insert imagery, attachments, tags and links to any of your notes, connect them to reminders, and add them to your calendar.
Available on iOS, Agenda has an interesting paid tier: pay once and you unlock existing premium features and those unveiled during the next year, forever. But even the slightly more limited free version is a unique, essential iPhone addition.
Download Agenda: iOS
If you prefer the physical feel of jotting down handwritten notes and you don't mind an iPad-only option, consider Evernote's Penultimate. A note taking and scribbling app with handwriting in mind, Penultimate features an expressive inking engine, a smart Drift feature that automatically moves the page to accommodate writing on your tablet screen.
In addition, Penultimate processes your notes, allowing you to search through them for snippets of text, and the app also integrates nicely with Evernote. In fact, the pricing structure is the same — a free tier, along with Premium ($7.99/month) and Plus ($3.99/ month) that allow for bigger uploads and unlock other features.
Download Penultimate: iOS
MyScript's Nebo is a feature-rich note-taking app built with handwriting and active stylus devices like the Apple Pencil and the Samsung S Pen for the Galaxy Note (and now the Galaxy S21 Ultra) in mind.
Using MyScript's Interactive Ink tech, Nebo parses your handwritten notes into text, while allowing you to easily format your notes, add extras like emphasis, underlining, bullet points, mathematical notations, and picture annotation. Users can write equations and calculate or export to LaTeX, export into Microsoft Office documents or text files, and search through your notes to find something you've scribbled down. If you're more about jotting down notes as opposed to typing them down, Nebo is an incredibly versatile note taking tool.
Originally an iPad exclusive, Nebo has since expanded to include other platforms (Windows 10 if you've got a Surface Pen, and Android devices that use active stylus peripherals). Download the app for free, with in-app purchases adding packs that expand your note-taking tools; a full pack costs $7.99.
Bear is a flexible writing and note-taking app for iOS users that works great for jotting down quick notes, doodles, poetry and prose or even snippets of code. A Focus mode lets you get right down to business, and a markup editor supports 20 different programming languages.
Inline image and photo support combined with Apple Pencil and hand sketching makes adding scribbles, doodles, and illustrations a simple task. Bear also includes cross-note links, and tag support for easy searching, completing a package of what many people consider one of the best note taking apps on the iPad.
A pro subscription — $1.49 per month or $14.99 annually — includes note syncing, export options for multiple file types and extra editing tools.
Download Bear: iOS
Born from Dropbox's acquisition of HackPad, Dropbox Paper is a note taking app built with collaboration and teamwork in mind. Users can create and edit shared documents and task lists, and then add comments and revisions, videos, links, images or audio, all in a shared workspace that comes with notifications and plays well with Dropbox's cloud storage organization.
Dropbox Paper provides the option for clean collaborative note taking and media-rich documents and workspaces, without having the clutter of a more robust mobile word processor. It's an interesting option to consider if you need simple note taking for a work group, especially for one that already uses Dropbox.
Noteshelf is another feature-rich note taking app for iOS devices that's about more than just tapping out text. The $9.99 app supports virtual keyboards, handwriting through a variety of active stylus brands, and includes an expressive ink engine and a variety of tools for things like highlighting, diagrams, photos and annotations, and recorded audio.
Users can sort their notes into virtual notebooks, write down their notes in a variety of paper formats, mark up and print their notes, or export them to Evernote, social media, and various cloud storage services.
That said, Noteshelf comes at a premium price compared to some of the other best note taking apps, so if you don't need all the advanced features, you may want to turn to a less expensive — or free — option.
Download Noteshelf: iOS
Standard Notes doesn’t have as many fancy features as the other best note taking apps on our list, but that’s not the main point of this mobile offering. Rather, Standard Notes focuses on security and encryption, with notes encrypted end-to-end with AES 256 encryption between your synced devices. Standard Notes also offers offline access, unlimited device syncing, and passcode and fingerprint lock support in addition to a basic tagging system.
The actual note editing in Standard Notes is fairly bare bones, unless you spring for the Standard Notes Extended subscription ($9.99/month). That package offers Markdown, code and spreadsheet support, themes, expanded backups and cloud storage support.
Zoho's Notebook app is a multipurpose note taking app that works great for jotting down notes, checklists, to-do lists, and and more detailed journal entries.
Your entries in Notebook can be simple text, or they can include images, checklists, and recorded audio. A variety of gesture commands and batch operations make it easy to sort and group notes together and organize them into notebooks. Multi-device syncing makes sure that your notes are on every device you own.
For something more feature-light and text-oriented than a lot of the best note taking apps, try out Simplenote, a cross-platform offering from Automattic.
Simplenote focuses on saving, formatting and sharing text notes, without any of the excess fluff of things like extra media file support or fancy editing. What you get is a clean text input system with some basic formatting, a tag-based organization, a simple collaboration and a history feature. The clean simplicity is the upside, making Simplenote easy to use, with cross platform syncing being a great plus.
Formerly known as Papyrus, Squid joins the ranks of the best note taking apps thanks to its focus on handwritten notes, drawings and diagrams. And as an Android exclusive, it gives Android user a note taking app to call their own.
Squid's vector-based rendering system means you can zoom in and out of your notes and drawings without quality loss, with support for using a passive stylus or active pen. Users can import images into their notes, and export the notes themselves as PDF, PNG or JPG files, and notes can be organized into notebooks so you can keep track of them.
A premium subscription unlocks nice extras like more paper styles, PDF import and annotation, and bulk export of notes to cloud services.
Download Squid: Android
How we pick the best note-taking apps
Our best note-taking apps selections are based on user reviews and research on app-recommendation sites. We then take a closer look at each app, reviewing its listed features and add-ons to see what each app provides and how it can improve upon the built-in note takers on your phone. (We include those built-in apps as well, given how Google and Apple have both improved their respective note-taking apps over the years.)
We want our picks to reflect a wide array of use cases, from apps designed to jot down quick thoughts to those that are intended to take notes during meetings and lectures. We look at whether apps offer formatting and organization tools, as well as the presence of cloud storage for backing up important notes. Our picks include a mix of free and paid options to meet the needs of different users; when possible, we note when free apps also include in-app purchases and what features those extra fees unlock.
If you're looking for more of the best productivity apps, we've rounded up the best contact apps as well as the best calendar apps for keeping track of your appointments. Recently, we tested the S Pen on the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 3, looking at which provides the better note-taking experience among other things.