Evernote 5 (iOS) review

Evernote has been available on multiple platforms (including iOS) for some time now, but the service has recently received a significant overhaul. As part of this overhaul, the mobile app has been updated to version 5.0, giving it a significantly different feel to its precursors as well as adding new functionality. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store.

Evernote 5 for iOS features a somewhat skeuomorphic design by basing its main interface around the look and feel of a filing cabinet. On the main screen, the user is presented with several card catalog-type “tabs” that they can pull up and examine, allowing for the app to focus on all stored notes, individual notebooks, tags and geotags. There is also a tab with information on Evernote’s Premium service, which provides users with access to notes offline, PIN lock functionality for the mobile app, larger uploads, version history, notebook sharing and searchable PDF scans of documents rather than the plain images free users get.

From the main screen, three “quick note” buttons allow for easy creation of text, photo or scanned document notes. These may then be filed in a specific notebook, tagged or shared via iMessage/SMS, Twitter, Facebook. Notes may also be printed, copied or mailed. Sharing a note creates a public “sharing” URL for the note which can be revoked at any time.

The new version of Evernote automatically geotags new notes by default, meaning that notes can now be organized by location. The Places tab of the new app’s interface allows users to view their notes on a map, and creating a new note automatically adds location information to the title — though if creating a note indoors, the specific address listed is sometimes slightly off. It’s possible to turn off this “suggested note titles” feature in the app’s settings menu if it proves to be bothersome or persistently inaccurate.

Evernote’s new interface takes a little adjusting to for users of the original app, but it works well for the most part. There are a couple of concerns, however. Firstly, certain elements of the interface occasionally appeared to become unresponsive — once during testing, the “search notes” function became impossible to tap on, even though the rest of the app appeared to be working correctly. The issue was resolved by closing the app from the iOS multitasking bar and reopening.

A larger concern, however, is the fact that some notes that I know are in my account are simply not appearing in the new app. At the time of writing, four old notes were visible on the Evernote Web interface, and only one of them was coming up in the app. Modifying one of these notes via the Web caused it to suddenly appear at the top of the list on the iOS version, suggesting that there is some sort of “cut-off date” for how far back the mobile app will display old notes, and this is arranged by the date the note was last modified. This is an issue that should probably be addressed, as there are likely plenty of users out there who have old notes stored in Evernote that are still relevant, and to suddenly have them inaccessible (or indeed apparently nonexistent so far as the app is concerned) will cause considerable worry.

This issue aside, Evernote 5 is a solid, quality note-taking app that provides strong, useful and easy-to-use functionality for free users, and it becomes even better for those willing to pay up for the premium version. It’s questionable as to whether or not the new skeuomorphic interface is an improvement over previous versions — particularly as many commentators and analysts suggest recent shakeups at Apple HQ may mean a move away from skeuomorphic interfaces across iOS — but it certainly looks good and, for the most part, works well. After an update or two to fix the current issues that are apparent with the app, it will likely regain its place as the premier cloud-based notebook solution on mobile platforms.