On the same day it revealed it would kill Google Reader, the search giant quietly slipped out Google Keep for Android, a free mobile app for taking, saving and sharing digital notes.
Simple and easy to use, but with mixed results for voice notes
After opening the app, you are asked if you would like to establish a new Google email address or if you’d like to link Google Keep to an existing Gmail account.
After completing this phase, you are taken to a smart if simplistic home-screen, which frankly looks similar to Evernote’s UI for its mobile apps. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
At the top of the page there are icons for adding a quick note, followed by thumbnail images for creating a note, a to-do list, a voice note and an image note. Tapping on the option bar in the top right hand corner allows you to dig into settings, archived notes and set the notes to appear in a single-column view (notes are automatically uploaded in a landscape orientation).
Creating and saving notes is pain-free, particularly so given the app automatically saves your work as you go along.
To create a note you simply need to hit one of the note icons and edit the fields for title and note. The virtual keyboard instantly appears when you try to edit these fields, and you can easily change the note color at the top right.
Pushing these notes into the archive simply requires you to hold down and send to archive, while notes can also be sent to Facebook, Gmail, Picasa, Google Drive and other document editing apps. Notes can be viewed on Google Drive at drive.google.com/keep, where notes are displayed as a vertical list.
Searching for notes was excellent, as you would expect given Google’s Instant Search technology, but submitting voice notes proved to be inconsistent. As just one amusing example, a search for ‘I am going to the park to pick up my son’ resulted in ‘I am going to hard boil an egg’.
It is worth noting that this may be due to the fact I tested Keep on a lowend tablet mic; other reviewers have said that they were able to write notes and instruct these to be sent to their Gmail account, or push to-do tasks straight to their Google Calendar without many recognition issues.
That's not to say the app is faultless. If you want to change email accounts anytime soon, then doing this on Google Keep can cause complexities relating to syncing the latest notes. Google's promise to view all Google Keep notes across multiple devices is hardly helped by the fact the app is only available on Android.
How it compares with Evernote
Judging Google Keep against Evernote at this early stage is perhaps unfair. Evernote, after all, is already available on web, iOS, Android and Windows.
Nonetheless, measuring Keep and Evernote against each other for Android also proves why Evernote is now used by over 34 million users (at last count in July last year).
Evernote is more intuitive and has more features. You can create notebooks, tags and upgrade to the premium version all while in-app, while there are more options for adding notes to the home-screen, setting shortcuts and sorting your notebooks by date and title.
Add to this Evernote’s dominance on the Web, the fact that it now also caters for business as well as its countless number of third-party apps and extensions with other apps (Pocket – former Read It Later being just one) and you can see that Google Keep has a long way to go.