Taking notes is serious business, and having the right note-taking app for your Android device can make a world of difference in your ability to stay organized. That’s because a good note-taking app doesn’t just help you take notes; it also makes it easy to find what you’ve saved later, regardless of where you are or what type of device you’re using at that point.

But figuring out which note-taking app makes the most sense for you isn’t always easy. The Google Play Store has an endless array of similar-seeming options, and what’s ideal for one person may not be optimal for another.

I’ve spent a ton of time exploring the most prominent contenders for note-taking on Android, and I’ve identified the apps that rise to the top in five core categories:

  1. A « best for most people » tier, with a happy-medium balance of features and usability.
  2. A « best fully featured » division, with a focus on apps that provide a more robust set of functions for those who need it.
  3. A « best flexible » recommendation, with an app that goes beyond basic note-taking and offers endless malleability.
  4. A « best for voice memos » classification that focuses on spoken memos and the use of AI to summarize your thoughts.
  5. And a « best no-frills » class, for those seeking the utmost in simplicity.

Here, section by section, are the best note-taking apps for Android.


The best Android note-taking app for most people

Google Keep (free)

Google’s note-taking app has come a long way since its awkward 2013 debut. These days, Keep is a well-rounded yet exceptionally intuitive offering with many compelling elements, particularly for anyone invested in the Google ecosystem (as many Android users tend to be).

Simplicity is a key part of Keep’s appeal — because the reality is that most folks don’t need a complex, multilayered note-taking tool with oodles of superfluous features. Most of us just want a simple and effective place to jot down thoughts, ideas, and lists in a way that’ll make them effortless to access at a moment’s notice.

And that’s precisely where Keep excels: Open the app and tap the plus icon in its lower-right corner — or set up Keep’s excellent Android widget on your home screen (by long-pressing any blank area of your home screen and selecting the « Widgets » option that appears) — and you’re off to the races. You can type using your onscreen keyboard, write using your finger or a stylus, speak (and then save both an audio file and a plain-text transcription of your ramblings), or snap a photo of a document or anything else and let Google pull the text out of the picture for you.

Keep’s main screen is a delightfully manageable collection of your most recent notes. Changing a note’s position is as easy as dragging and dropping it or tapping a pin icon to ensure it stays at the top. You can color-code notes, if you want, and give them labels for subject-specific browsing. And, of course, you can use the search box at the top to quickly find notes by keywords — both those included in your own text and those visible in any attached documents or images.

android note taking apps google keep note list JR Raphael / IDG

Google Keep is easy to manage — and easy on the eyes.

Everything within Keep syncs automatically, without any configuration or manual action required. And you can get to your notes from pretty much anywhere, since Google provides near-identical interfaces for Keep on iOS and on the web.

On that note, you can create a note-specific reminder within Keep on any device and then have it pop up on your phone at a specific date and time or even when you venture into a particular geographical location. That latter part is particularly useful — and particularly significant, too, now that Google Assistant no longer supports location-based reminders for Android.

android note taking apps google keep reminders JR Raphael / IDG

Keep’s time- and location-based reminders make sure you never forget an important note.

And Keep works hand in hand with Google Docs as well: With a couple quick taps, you can send any note from Keep to Docs for more involved editing. The Docs website, meanwhile, lets you pull up your notes in its sidebar and send content in either direction.

Factor in Keep’s multiuser collaboration feature, which lets you share notes with others so they can edit them, and this simple-seeming app is actually chock-full of functionality. It may not have all the bells and whistles other products offer, but as long as it has everything you actually need in a note-taking app, its lack of clutter and complication can be a critical productivity feature.

The best fully-featured Android note-taking app

Microsoft OneNote (free)

For some people, a note-taking app is more than just a searchable virtual notepad; it’s a finely organized system with mountains of features and intricate options. Well, if you’re someone who needs a little extra oomph in your note-taking hub, Microsoft OneNote is the Android note-taking app for you.

OneNote does almost everything Keep can do and then some. In addition to the above-mentioned basics, the app features a notebook-based system for categorizing and organizing your memos. It lets you easily export any note as a PDF or plain text file so you can share it with someone else without requiring them to sign into the service. And it makes it easy to add both emails and web pages into your notebooks via a unique address for forwarding messages and a desktop-based browser Web Clipper extension for capturing content on your computer.

Speaking of content, in addition to providing an account-wide search function, OneNote allows you to search within individual notes as you’re editing them. And it has a bevy of advanced text-formatting tools for making your notes look any way your structure-loving heart desires. You can even combine regular typed-in text with finger- or stylus-made writing and markups in practically any arrangement imaginable.

android note taking apps onenote canvas JR Raphael / IDG

OneNote uses an unusual « canvas » system that lets you add bits of text and other visual elements into a note and then move them all around in any way you like.

If you want something simpler, OneNote also allows you to create quick Post-It-like Sticky Notes within its main Home tab. These notes are as simple as can be, without any frills or complications, and they almost feel like a miniature, scaled-down version of the Keep experience within the OneNote framework. But they boast an advanced, if all-too-easy-to-overlook productivity power: Your Sticky Notes in the OneNote Android app are automatically synced with the Microsoft Sticky Notes app — which allows you to view and edit the same notes on any Windows computer and even stick ’em to your computer’s desktop.

android note taking apps onenote sticky notes JR Raphael / IDG

OneNote’s Sticky Notes show up in the app’s Home tab and quietly sync with the Sticky Notes app for Windows.

OneNote is fully capable of working offline, and in addition to that purpose-specific bit of Sticky Notes syncing, everything you do in the app automatically syncs with OneNote on the web, on iOS, or in the dedicated Windows or Mac apps. And all of those apps, of course, integrate nicely with the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem — a major plus if you’re already invested in that universe.

For all of its positives, the OneNote Android app does have some noteworthy downsides. First, given the service’s complexity, it’s just not as intuitive as Keep. Navigating through the app’s layers of menus can get rather confusing, and its « canvas » system for formatting notes — which lets you place text and other elements in individual, moveable boxes all throughout the screen — can be a little overwhelming to wrap your head around.

The phone app, rather surprisingly, also lacks some basic-seeming elements — such as a built-in reminders system and, perhaps most vexing of all, access to OneNote’s multiuser collaboration system and note-tagging system (both of which are available in OneNote’s other editions).

Still, if you can live with those compromises and want the extra bells and whistles Keep doesn’t provide, OneNote offers an exceptional set of features and a polished experience along with a level of ecosystem integration you won’t find in any other fully featured Android note-taking app. Most other serious contenders have even more compromises along with weaker ecosystems and a fair amount of clutter-creating and efficiency-reducing bloat — and they often come at a not-insignificant cost, too, compared to OneNote’s completely free nature.

The best flexible Android note-taking app

Notion (free with limitations)

It’s tough to know if it’s technically a « note-taking app » or something else entirely, but our next entry absolutely deserves a spot in this list — even if it does largely defy traditional categorization.

The app in question is Notion, which is best described as an all-purpose organization, collaboration, and info-storing service. Notion essentially gives you a blank canvas in which you can create or import all sorts of information both simple and rich, and it has the potential to become an indispensable home for notes both personal and company-connected.

Notion allows you to create an infinite number of pages, which are essentially starting points for storing any manner of information. With notes, specifically, you can think of each page as a malleable notebook that can morph into virtually any form imaginable — a simple text list, a document-like collection of paragraphs, or even a column-based Kanban board with a series of cards (each of which is then its own page that can hold its own series of lists or native documents).

android note taking apps notion notes JR Raphael / IDG

Notion gives you powerful tools for both organizing and formatting notes and other information.

You can create columns, insert collapsible headers, and format info in a dizzying variety of ways. You can even embed other types of online content, including PDFs, external documents, and entire web pages — which Notion can import and then allow you to mark up and edit as if they were your own personal copies.

android note taking apps notion web page saving JR Raphael / IDG

Notion lets you import entire web pages into your notes and then annotate them in any way you want.

Notion also makes it remarkably easy to create subpages and link existing pages together, which opens the door to a whole other level of note organization opportunities. Factor in the service’s spectacular collaboration and sharing capabilities, and you’ve got a fascinating recipe for an advanced Android note experience like no other.

The one catch is really just the complication: Because of its flexibility, Notion can be incredibly overwhelming to wrap your head around and figure out where to begin. If you take the time to think through how exactly it can work for you, though — and you’re okay with an unconventional approach to cross-platform note organization — it can be a refreshingly powerful way to stay on top of things with your Android phone as well as any other devices you’re using.

(Notion’s free plan is purely for individuals, by the way, and with some noteworthy restrictions in tow. If you’re working within a team setup — or just want the fully featured offering, without any limitations — you’ll likely be looking at a $96 per user per year price or possibly more for a bigger business environment.)

The best Android note-taking app for AI-enhanced voice memos

AudioPen (free with limitations)

Like Notion, our next Android note-taking app falls into slightly murky terrain — but for a very different reason: This one is a dedicated note-taking service, through and through; it just isn’t an app you’ll find in the Google Play Store, like most native Android offerings.

That’s because AudioPen is built as a progressive web app, which is a type of app that’s browser-based and able to run on any device or platform. It looks and acts just like any other app, once you install it. And it absolutely works well on Android. It just isn’t specific to Android. But that doesn’t make it any less effective.

The way AudioPen works is simple: The service records your spoken thoughts, then cleans up your rambling reflections and distills ’em down into neatly presented text summaries. All you do is talk, and AudioPen handles the rest.

android note taking apps audiopen JR Raphael / IDG

AudioPen records your spoken thoughts and then gives you organized summaries of everything you’ve said.

The service will transform any meandering musings into a short, organized note for you — up to three minutes per note for free users and 15 minutes for paying subscribers. You can always view the full text transcription, too, but it’s the AI-powered summarization that sets AudioPen apart and makes it an exceptional part of any Android note-taking setup.

YouTube video

The word « part » in that sentence is key: With its free version, you’ll almost certainly end up using AudioPen alongside one of the other services in this list and relying on it mostly for its on-demand speech-to-text summarizing superpower — letting AudioPen sum up your spoken thoughts, in other words, and then copying that info over into another app for future reference and discovery.

If you want to go all in with AudioPen, though, the service offers a feature-packed $75-a-year (or $120 for two years) Prime subscription that gives you unlimited note storage, searching, and advanced organizational features like folders and tags. You’ll get a bunch of other extras, too, such as the option to change the style in which your notes are written and to combine multiple notes into a single « SuperSummary. »

Whether you spring for that full package or simply lean on AudioPen for its summarizing smarts, it’s well worth adding onto your home screen and keeping handy for the next time an out-loud-thinking note-capturing need arises.

The best no-frills Android note-taking app

Simplenote (free)

The last official recommendation in our list is for anyone who wants a clean and minimalist space to take notes without any extras or unnecessary distractions. Simplenote lives up to its name and offers a refreshingly pared-down environment for writing and thought collection.

The app, made by Automattic, the same company behind WordPress, presents you with a sparse list of text-based notes and a blank page for editing them — no image or audio attaching, no formatting, no fuss whatsoever.

android note taking apps simplenote JR Raphael / IDG

From viewing notes to editing, Simplenote is as simple as it gets.

Simplenote does have a handful of features beyond the absolute basics, including a simple system for tagging notes; an option for publishing notes to shareable URLs; and a slider for viewing a note’s history and restoring old versions. And the app keeps your data synced and accessible across multiple platforms and devices, with versions available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, and the web.

Other than that, though, there’s really not much to say about Simplenote — and that, notably, is kinda the point.

This story was originally published in December 2017 and most recently updated in March 2024.

Copyright © 2024 IDG Communications, Inc.

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