One of the most important functions of a smartphone, for me, is note-taking. I don’t want anything clunky or heavy-handed to do it with either. The app has to sync and it has to work across multiple devices. So while I like Evernote and it fulfills most of those goals for me, particularly if I want to extensively organize my notes, it’s also too cumbersome just for simple little things like lists or brainstorming.
On my iOS devices and my Mac, I’ve been using Simplenote for years. One of the worst things about my Android toys, for me, is that Simplenote wasn’t an option. There is one app called Glance Note, but it’s slow and unwieldy and therefore defeats the purpose. That’s why I was extremely excited to see Simplenote show up for Android devices this month.
What Simplenote Is
Simplenote is an extremely barebones note-taking app. There are no photos or Markdown support. This is just for plain text.
I already know what you’re asking me: So what? Quite simply, Simplenote has an incredibly fast and reliable sync feature. It feels magical. It’s more instantaneous for me than Dropbox, Google Docs, or iCloud, and it’s so stunningly easy.
The app is also spartan. There’s no extraneous design. There’s nothing that needs to be removed from the app, and it has the utmost respect for the user. There are very few things I can do with my smartphone that are as fast as making a note in Simplenote.
With the release of the Android app, the folks at Simperium (who are owned by WordPress) are playing catch up with the iOS version. Unlike Glance Note and other Simplenote alternatives, the official app is quick and painless. There’s no Sync button — it’s just a very reliable backend.
The app also looks really good. It’s using standard fonts across the board, so typography mostly renders well, and its simple design really helps keep things obvious. I like it on both my Nexus 4 and 2012 Nexus 7, but it’s worth noting that resolution does greatly impact your experience. Again, this is one of the times when simple typography doesn’t always render immaculately well on displays with lower pixel density.
Organizing Your Notes
If Simplenote only allowed you to write a quick note and never had any other features, this review would already be over. Thankfully, that’s not all there is to it. The app does have some basic organizational tools.
Tags are supported and are very easy to add. Although you can separate them just by hitting the space bar, the app also adds a handy Next button to the keyboard when adding tags. I like how explicitly clear it is.
Tags are organized in a pane accessible with the navigation button. Alternatively, you can swipe to the right from the left side of the screen when looking at your list of notes.
If tags aren’t enough for you, you can also pin important notes to the top of the app. That way, your most recently updated notes always appear beneath the pinned notes. I use the feature for billing purposes, so I can keep track of how much each client pays for work. It’s a handy little reference sheet.
What It’s Missing
The app still has some catching up to do with its iOS brethren. Notably, there are no publishing features with the Android app and there’s no collaboration option. There’s also no way to view a history of changes made to any of the notes. That being said, these are all recent additions to the iOS app and I look forward to their Android implementations. I also see no option to protect the app with a passcode.
The missing features are notable and regrettable, but I certainly wouldn’t let them hold me back from getting the app. The Automattic team is clearly an example of an “iOS first” developer, but thanks to the WordPress acquisition, I expect them to become faster to move to Android.
What Simplenote brings now is exactly what the doctor ordered for my Android devices: Fast sync, great search, and quick plain-text note-taking. Despite the missing features, Simplenote comes highly recommended from me and I think it’s going to become a must-have on the platform.