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Microsoft OneNote on Android: nice but late to the party

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Microsoft added Android support for its OneNote mobile app, enabling smartphones and tablets running on Google’s(s goog) mobile platform to take notes from their device. The software syncs through Microsoft’s(s msft) Windows Live SkyDrive and to both OneNote for Microsoft Windows and the OneNote web app. OneNote for Android is free for the first 500 notes, and then costs a one-time fee of $4.99 for unlimited usage.

The price is certainly right to try OneNote if you’re an Android user: 500 notes will tell you for sure if the app meets your needs. And for many users, it likely will. I say that as a long-time user of OneNote when I used my first Microsoft Tablet PC in 2004. I found OneNote to be a powerful organization tool as I could create different notebooks for different contexts, such as work, personal, blogging ideas, and more.

The full software paired well with my tablet because it supported ink notes, which it would then index for search by using optical character┬árecognition. Such support isn’t available in OneNote for Android, unfortunately, but the mobile app is still quite capable. You can still have different notebooks, each of which can hold text, images, and bulleted lists. Missing however, is a OneNote widget, drawing notes and support for voice notes.

Still, current OneNote users on the PC that also have an Android handset will be happy with the new app. And they should be, because it extends the use of a tool that’s already part of their toolkit. But I don’t see Microsoft gaining many new OneNote customers out of this development. Evernote is widely considered the dominant player here; ironic because eight years ago, it was an up-and-comer against OneNote on tablet PCs.

Instead of embracing one of the fastest growing mobile platforms early on, Microsoft waited until now for Android support. In the company’s defense, it did deliver OneNote for iOS in January of last year. Evernote, and several other similar apps, brought wide-spread support for multiple mobile platforms far quicker and unless a specific app has a killer feature, I’ll opt for cross-platform support every time.

Maybe it’s just me though, since I use multiple devices on various platforms including iOS(s aapl), Windows Phone (which already has OneNote) and Android. Let me know if you’re ready to move from Evernote on Android, or a similar tool of choice, over to Microsoft OneNote for Android.

As I always say, use the right tool for your tasks; clearly there’s no “right” answer here that applies to everyone. I simply wish Microsoft would have delivered OneNote for Android sooner rather than later as my notes are generally locked up on another platform at this point.

11 Responses to “Microsoft OneNote on Android: nice but late to the party”

  1. I’ve never used either. I briefly toyed with EverNote a year or two ago, but the inability to sync with my work PC killed its functionality. I recently discovered OneNote on the PC (recently got Office 2010 installed) just as Microsoft was releasing their Android App. Perfect timing. I’m hooked!

  2. Thanks for this info. I use Onenote on both iPhone and iPad to take notes during meetings or while on-the-go, and find the SkyDrive syncing back to my office and home PCs to be incredible. I previously had a subscription to Evernote, but when my notes and their attachments started disappearing (with the Evernote support team telling me how they took data loss seriously yet were still unable to retrieve my data from a backup), I switched to Onenote and haven’t looked back. I’m anxiously waiting for the Verizon Galaxy Tab 7.7 and will definitely be loading Onenote there as well.

  3. No inking support in the Android version? What a waste.

    The HTC Flyer, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Note all have active pen digitizers of the sort you’d find in a Tablet PC. They probably won’t be the last Android devices to do so, either. There’s no reason NOT to make use of that…

    …unless it’s because they didn’t code it with ICS in mind. That iteration of Android could shake things up with the pen input APIs, which are hopefully hardware-agnostic (so they don’t have to worry about maintaining code for both N-trig on the HTC and Lenovo offerings and Wacom on the Samsung).

    As for Evernote, it’s a nice service, but the subscription-based model needed to practically use it puts me off. With OneNote, I own it, no future commitments. Cross-platform support is less of a concern to me since I generally keep my notes on my Tablet PC and have no need to share them.

  4. As a current Evernote free user, I agree that Microsoft is too late to the party. However, looking forward I believe we may see conversion from users looking to go premium. A one-time cost of $5 is better than a monthly subscription.

  5. Hi,

    I use onenote a lot! I would say the cross platform for apps which are not social is not multiple mobile platforms, but cross platform here is, i can use same app on my work desktop, personal mac, table and mobile and everything is synced!

    Cross-mobile-platform doesn’t even make sense in this type of apps, as how many people do really change between iOS and android on a weekly basis except for people like you in the review and tech commentary industry?

  6. Kevin, being an extensive one note user, I would rather prefer the cross platform app but cross platform in the sense that i can use the same app with same notes available on my work desktop, personal mac, and my mobile device.

    So when you say you opt for cross platform, how many do really switch their phone every few months with 2 year contracts in place? Its only the early adopters and geeks who are looking at cross mobile platforms specially for apps like tasks, checklists etc.

    • Sranzha, you raise a good point about us geeks. ;) I agree with you, but only to a degree. Why? Because more apps have sharing components for collaboration purposes. So it’s less about what platforms I use and more about what platforms my peers, friends and family use. I don’t want to use a tool that can only share to some of my contacts.

      A perfect example: my son doesn’t live with me, but with his mom. Together, all three of us collaborated on his choice of classes for his freshman year of high school, which is next year. But we all use different devices and platforms ranging from Windows, OS X, Android, WP and iOS. We did the whole “project” in Evernote and never had to worry about who was using what device. Hope that illustrates why broad cross-platform support is to me and why it will become more important to the non-geeks in the future. :)