The best notes apps for iPhone and iPad

in iPhone
Whether you need to jot down a phone number, figure out your shopping list, or capture crucial meeting details, a notes or note-taking app can keep you on track.

Apple Notes
Apple Notes

All of the apps listed here are more than good at the most important parts of the job. They let you start a new note extremely quickly, meaning you get that thought or that detail down while it's still fresh.

Then they're also all good at how there are really no practical limits to the number or even size of notes you can write. If need be, you could write a book in one note, and have one-line sentences in myriad other notes.

Where they tend to differ is in how good they are at helping you search for old notes. Some can also offer extra features, approaching basic To Do functions, too, and there are note-taking apps to suit every budget.

More than anything, however, the core difference between them all is the feel of them. Some just suit you more than others, but fortunately at least most feature a trial version so that you can see how you like them.

Apple Notes

You've already got Apple Notes and it is superb. Once a little bit of a joke, it is now so full-featured and powerful that it is one of the very best available.

It is simple and easy to use, making it great for those fast notes you need to get down. With iPadOS 15, that's got even faster with the new Quick Notes feature. That's so fast and handy that we can only hope Apple adds it to iOS some time.

Notes works across all your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and is completely free. You most likely already have the app installed on your devices, but if you deleted it, you can redownload it from the App Store for free.


For those who are looking for an exceptionally robust planning app, Agenda comes packed with tons of features. Agenda calls itself a "date-focused note taking app for both planning and documenting your projects."

So it's a note-taking app, yes, but it expects that notes are just part of your working life. Consequently, it's very strong on organization, and aims to be one place that gives you a snapshot of all your calendar commitments, too.

Agenda is available for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, and can be downloaded for free from the App Store. There are two in-app purchases that allow you to unlock premium features for iOS + iPadOS, or iOS + iPadOS + macOS at $19.99 and $39.99, respectively. Premium features are listed here.


Bear is a flexible note-taking app that allows users to encrypt notes, utilize nested tags, create to-do lists, and even write in portable Markup. In addition, users can export their notes in multiple file types, including HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG, and more.

Bear is free for both iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It even has a companion Apple Watch app that allows you to create new notes from your Apple Watch using your voice. Users can also purchase premium features for $14.99 a year, including the ability to lock and unlock notes using Face ID and Touch ID.


Evernote is another all-in-one note-taking app that allows users to create notes with images, to-do lists, and clip web pages and articles. It offers multiple "notebooks" for project development. In addition, it features a home page that shows recent and relevant content and the ability to quickly search existing notes.

Evernote is free to use for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The developers also offer a personal premium plan for $7.99 per month, allowing for more monthly uploads and additional widgets. A professional premium plan costs $9.99 per month allows users to utilize boolean terms to refine search results, doubles the upload limits over the personal premium plan, and offers integration with Slack, Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, and more.

Google Keep

Google Keep is Google's take on an all-in-one notes app. Like the others mentioned above, it allows you to quickly take notes, paste in images, create drawings, and create basic to-do lists. Users can also jot down notes hands-free with a built-in voice transcriber. Additionally, you can share notes with others the same way you share folders in Google Drive or documents in Google Docs.

Google Keep is entirely free and is considered part of the Google Suite line. It is available on iPhone and iPad, as well as through your browser on Mac.


Notion is a rich note-taking app that allows you to create notes that contain images, built-in to-do lists, code snippets, and more. Notes built within Notion can also be published as web pages. It syncs across iPhone and iPad apps and the in-browser client.

Notion is free for personal use, but users can purchase a premium subscription that unlocks collaborative features for multiple users.


OneNote is another digital notepad that allows you to create rich notes that feature images, drawings, to-do lists, graphs, and more. Notes are searchable and pinnable and can be secured with a password or a biometric lock.

Like most Microsoft apps, it is available for iPad, iPhone, and Mac. Microsoft OneNote is free but requires a Microsoft 365 subscription to unlock additional features such as Ink Replay, Researcher, and Math Assistant.


For those looking for a pared-down notepad, Simplenote is a great lightweight app for beginners. Users can create lists, tag notes, pin most used notes, and protect content with a passcode lock. Additionally, Simplenote supports markdown, and users can publish posts directly to WordPress sites using a account,

Simplenote is free to use and works on the iPhone, iPad, and in your browser at Simplenote's website.

Read on AppleInsider


  • Reply 1 of 9
    Wow AI! I know there are lots of decent note taking apps out there and those featured are excellent but NO MENTION of one of the only two note taking apps for iOS in Apple’s most popular paid apps of 2021 — Notability??? Get your act together!
  • Reply 2 of 9
    I also miss Craft from your list. After all, it was awarded the Mac app of the year a short time ago. I just started using it. It is efficient, impressive – and beautiful!
  • Reply 3 of 9
    Goodnotes for iDevices and Mac is great for people who want to do analog note taking in a digital world, if that’s your preferred way to organise your notes with an Apple Pencil. Mostly used by students, but should be ideal in company meetings too, if you need to jot down things and draw shapes or symbols next to your notes — and preserve the notes digitally. Given that it is a pandemic going on, those meetings are likely to be through videoconferencing.
    edited December 2021 watto_cobradewme
  • Reply 4 of 9
    I use Simplenote because it is, well, simple. All the bells and whistles of other note apps are absent, just barebones note taking. The only deficiency is it doesn't know a non-proportionally spaced font like Menlo. Otherwise it's perfect.
  • Reply 5 of 9
    Unfortunately AI, which is a GREAT site by the way, missed Upnote, the best note taking app on the planet.  Not only do they have a great product, but the customer service is outstanding, response, persistent, courteous, all a user can want from an app developer.  If you update the story, please include the best app for notes and their outstanding customer service.  
  • Reply 6 of 9
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,049member
    I use both Apple Notes and Simplenote extensively. In the past I was a big Microsoft OneNote user and still use it occasionally. Microsoft OneNote is still a very powerful and free note taking tool that far outpaces Apple Notes and Simplenote functionally, but I find it to be a bit too overweight for use on the iPhone. Some of this perception may be due to the fairly large collection of OneNote content that I created on desktop/laptop platforms feeling somewhat constrained and clumsy to navigate on smaller screens like the iPhone. I suppose if you created OneNote content on an iPhone/iPad it would be a different story. 

    While Notes has gotten significantly better since its inception I really wish Apple would include more and better outline numbering options like hierarchical and alphanumeric ordering of subtopics based on indentation levels.

    Simplenote's major claim to fame for me is its cross-platform support including macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Windows, Android, Linux, and web browser and the fact that it is very simple non-embellished text, as others have noted.

    I usually start off all my documents that are ultimately destined for Word or Pages (and even software architecture or source code in some cases) in a simple text editor because the words matter a lot more at this point than does the presentation. The only concession to organization or format at the early formulation of content/ideas stage is to use an outline format or a mind map.

    If I had to identify my two primary use cases for the tools that are the subject of this article I would say 1) formulation of content/ideas that will eventually find their way into more expansive tools (word processors, design tools, code editors, etc.) and 2) easy search and referral, i.e., information at my fingertips. This is why I'm drawn to tools that don't layer on too much "distraction" and have fast and intuitive search capabilities. Tools like Apple Notes and Simplenote fit the bill because they are a path to the destination, not the destination itself. More fully featured tools like Microsoft OneNote, Notability, and Evernote are excellent but more soup-to-nuts destinations where you can spend a lot of time collecting, organizing, and archiving your digital world. If I no longer need something at my fingertips I can always archive it from Simplenote or Notes into one of the destination apps like OneNote or Evernote.
    edited December 2021 _HMCB_
  • Reply 7 of 9
    I find myself crafting notes in BBEdit or even Visual Studio Code (I spend a lot of time front-end coding). I love plain text. I then copy and paste over to Craft if I’m sharing the text with a client. Craft has built-in public (no login required) sharing and their URL previews look awesome.
  • Reply 8 of 9
    What is the difference between Notes and Reminders? How do you separate their functions? 
  • Reply 9 of 9
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    _HMCB_ said:
    I find myself crafting notes in BBEdit or even Visual Studio Code (I spend a lot of time front-end coding). I love plain text. I then copy and paste over to Craft if I’m sharing the text with a client. Craft has built-in public (no login required) sharing and their URL previews look awesome.
    Not on iOS, you don't.
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