4 ways OneNote’s mobile app bests Evernote (and 4 ways it doesn't)

Microsoft OneNote and Evernote both have hordes of loyal users, and both mobile applications serve as key differentiators for people trying to choose between the two. Here are four reasons to pick OneNote's app over Evernote, as well as four ways Evernote's software outperforms Microsoft's app.

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Credit: Steve Traynor
Microsoft OneNote mobile app vs. Evernote's app

Is Evernote or Microsoft OneNote a better mobile application for taking and organizing notes? The question isn't easy to answer, because the two options have many similarities. Both apps work on and sync across multiple devices, for example, and both support voice input.

However, each option has strengths and weaknesses. Here are four reasons to use the OneNote mobile app instead of Evernote's app, as well as four ways in which Evernote on mobile outshines its OneNote counterpart.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and it is simply meant to provide a feel for how the two apps handle some typical (and a few atypical) tasks on mobile devices. It's also worth noting that other capable mobile apps can, more or less, match Evernote and OneNote task for task, including Centrallo, Apple Notes and Google Keep.

First up, four reasons to use OneNote's mobile app instead of Evernote.

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OneNote mobile app's superior stylus support

On Windows, Android, and iPad (especially the iPad Pro), OneNote's freeform canvas structure makes it well-suited for drawing annotations, including both text and images, with a stylus or other tool, anywhere in a note. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't work on iPhones or iPod touch devices. Evernote's mobile app supports stylus (and finger) input on a variety of devices, including, iPhone and iPod touch, but it only works on images, not text.

OneNote, Microsoft's Surface Pen stylus and its Surface devices work well together. A click of the Surface Pen's top button opens either OneNote (the app) or OneNote 2016 for Windows (the desktop application), even if the Surface tablet is locked. It's the ideal marriage between note-taking software, stylus and tablet.

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OneNote Android badge, widgets win over Evernote widgets

The Evernote app for Android offers three different "widgets," or dynamic icons that appear on the home screen: An action bar that features five customizable shortcut icons, a custom single action widget and a list of the three most recently viewed notes.

OneNote, however, provides five widgets: a three-shortcut toolbar; a list of recently viewed notes; and three individual shortcuts to create new audio, text and picture notes. OneNote also has an Android badge, which places a small OneNote icon on a corner of any Android screen — even from within Evernote. The badge icon makes it easy to quickly add a new note, and it's convenient. Evernote, as of this writing, doesn't have any sort of similar Android badge.

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OneNote shape recognition

Anyone who values precision and who wants to use a mobile device to draw perfectly formed boxes, squares, rectangles, circles and other shapes, should embrace OneNote's app over Evernote. OneNote shape recognition works well on Windows mobile devices and iPads; unfortunately, it does work on Android, or on iPhone or iPods. Evernote doesn't support shape recognition at all.

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OneNote Apple Watch extension is more efficient

Both the Evernote and OneNote Apple Watch extensions deserve praise. The two options make it easy to dictate new notes by tapping big "+" icons, and the apps transcribe dictations as text notes and sync them to OneNote or Evernote accounts.

Evernote's Apple Watch extension includes a search tool, OneNote's extension doesn't. However, despite multiple tries, I've had no luck with Evernote search on my Watch, and I'm not the only one who experienced problems. Without a working search tool, Evernote users can scroll through only five or so recently viewed or edited notes. OneNote's Watch extension provides a much longer list, and it's more useful. Until Evernote squashes this annoying bug, OneNote has the Apple Watch edge.

And now, here are four good reasons to use Evernote's mobile app instead of OneNote's software.

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Evernote app provides better experience on mobile Web

When it comes to saving online articles from a mobile browser to the cloud, Evernote almost always excels over OneNote. It captures articles from The Wall Street Journal, MacRumors and others, and they can be easily zoomed using the Evernote app, for more comfortable reading. Articles clipped from mobile browsers to OneNote don't always translate well, and some can't be magnified enough to be legible on smartphones or tablets.

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Evernote app offer more viewing options than OneNote

Unlike OneNote, Evernote on iOS displays notes as snippets or cards, which are sortable by the dates they were created or last updated, or by title. The snippets can include images and text, or these options can be disabled. The Android app supports images, tags, and text in snippets, but the Windows app (called Evernote Touch) does not offer any viewing options. OneNote doesn't provide any viewing alternatives at all, which is an obvious drawback, especially on smaller mobile screens.

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Evernote offers better support for Apple's 3D Touch

Both the Evernote and OneNote mobile apps support 3D Touch on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and they offer different features when you press on their icons. The 3D Touch "Pop" feature makes it quick and easy to create new notes or snap new pictures from the iOS home screen using both apps. However, Evernote's Pop feature also includes access to reminders and a search tool, while OneNote only offers the ability to view recent notes.

Inside the app, Evernote also has deeper 3D Touch integration, letting users "Peek" at notes and add them to shortcuts, set reminders, or share the notes. OneNote doesn't currently provide any Peek functionality.

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Evernote owns iOS 'Today' screen

The iOS Today screen provides a central dashboard for various pieces of information from apps that integrate with the feature, including upcoming calendar appointments or the latest stock prices. From the Today screen, Evernote lets users easily create new notes or reminders; add photos or lists; search for notes; or access the three most recently viewed notes.

OneNote provides options only to create notes, or add photos or lists from the Today screen. However, its Today widget displays the five most recently viewed notes, and if that's not enough, a “Show More” button adds additional recently viewed notes. Overall, Evernote gets the nod, but OneNote also does a respectable job.