Smartphones have the potential to be killer note-takers: they're always with you, constantly connected, have touchscreens and pack cameras. And with the right app, any Android or iOS device can put your Moleskine, legal pad or padlocked diary to shame.
GOLD MEDAL: Simplenote
This is an app built for the true note-taker, a scribbling, short-term archivist who just needs to put ideas, quotes and scraps of information somewhere, anywhere, then if possible, everywhere. It's a shockingly simple app with one killer feature: instant syncing with other Simplenote apps, be they the web interface on the company's website, or a desktop app such as Notational Velocity. I find myself using this combo not just for notes, but for general short writing. Free, iOS
SILVER MEDAL: Evernote
The best of the scrapbook-style iOS note apps, Evernote is a convenient catch-all for whatever media you produce or collect during the day. You can use it to add a bit of context to your camera roll, to make complex image/text notes, or just as a basic notepad. It also offers a note-syncing service, as well as a basic file-syncing service (available as an in-app purchase.) As a special bonus for iPad users, Evernote has a built-in voice recorder, filling that small but conspicuous gap in the iPad's basic functionality. Free, iOS.
BRONZE MEDAL: AudioNote
AudioNote has one trick, and it's a doozy. Aside from functioning as a basic note-taking app, AudioNote can make sound recordings at the same time and keep them synchronised, note by note, with the text. You can, in effect, relive a lecture or a meeting through sound and notes. $6, iOS.
OTHERS TESTED: • ColorNote: It's a fun note taking app that sorta recreates the post-it feel on your Android phone. Comes with a Sticky Note Widget and can add reminders to the status bar. • Soundnote: Similar to AudioNote, but a bit buggier and iPad-only. • Springpad: A worthy competitor to Evernote, edged out by a slightly more cumbersome UI and fewer platform options. • JotAgent: Sends new notes straight to Dropbox for posterity, but doesn't offer real syncing • iDiary: Built in the mould of Evernote and Springpad, but designed around a calendar interface. • Default notes app: Don't forget this thing! It's actually pretty great once you get Gmail syncing up and running. (It's in the settings.)
GOLD MEDAL: Note Everything Pro
Note Everything allows you to not only take down typical text and voice notes, but "paint" notes as well (which means what you draw on the screen becomes a note). Which could be useful for quick phone numbers! The standard version comes with home shortcuts and folders but if you spring for the Pro Add-On (~$4.22) you get photo notes, reminders, uber-useful checklists and the ability to stick notes in the status bar. Combined with NE GDocs, you can sync your notes to Google Docs which I assume is awesome all around for Android users. $4 might be a lot for a not- taking app, but it has every feature that all these other notes apps have and more. Free, Android. ~$4.22 Pro, Android
SILVER MEDAL: AK Notepad
There's plenty of note apps that throw in snazzier features but the beauty of AK Notepad is in its simplicity: it makes taking text notes super easy. It's a basic yellow pad and you just jot down what you need. If you want, you can tag your notes for quicker searching, pin notes to your home screen so you'll always see it and even set a reminder to a note to really get your attention. Free, Android.
BRONZE MEDAL: Evernote
Evernote is simply a powerhouse of a note-taking app because you can jot down notes, take pictures, record voice notes and upload files to remember. The interface is clean enough but since it doesn't store notes locally, it's a tad slower than I'd like. Free, Android.
OTHERS TESTED: • ColorNote: It's a fun note taking app that sorta recreates the post-it feel on your Android phone. Comes with a Sticky Note Widget and can add reminders to the status bar. • SpringPad: A strong contender with a lot of features. Plenty good but just not as good as Note Everything and Evernote. • Catch Notes: Formerly 3banana, Catch Notes allows you to save images, locations and notes in a pretty nice interface. Comes with a widget too. • GooMemo: Not the prettiest app but it syncs with GDocs. • GDocs: More of a Google Docs app than a note taking app • OI Notepad: Just a basic notepad along the lines of AK Notepad but with even less features