The cloud-based note-taking app Evernote has been a staple of my mobile life since 2008. I’ve used it on six different mobile platforms and hundreds of devices ranging from desktop computers to smartphones to wearables. Evernote has been an indispensable component of my work and personal lives, a crucial sidekick for scheduling everything from editorials to theatre rehearsals.

And for the first time in seven years, I’m seriously considering a switch.

My problem with Evernote isn’t its awkward UI, its feature bloat, or its bizarre transition to a backpack-selling “lifestyle brand.” Those were distractions I could live with in exchange for the awesome convenience the service offered – namely, the ability to sync nearly any piece of text or graphical information across any mainstream mobile platform. What I can’t live with, I’m discovering, is being pestered to upgrade to Evernote’s new Premium service every other time I open it. And what I really can’t stand is being summoned to the Evernote app in my MacBook’s dock by a bouncing icon, thinking I’ve got a sync error, only to be presented with the commercial in the title image above. And earlier today I discovered I’m not alone.


The behavior referred to above is hardly unique to Evernote. Companies give you free software to hook you on its functionality, then try to convert you to a paying customer by rolling out new features (or locking existing features behind a paywall, which Evernote has also recently done). That’s the way “freemium” software works, and part of the contract has always been dealing with annoying “upgrade to unlock” notifications; I don’t have a problem with that. But when it gets too aggressive or too frequent, the company starts to look a little desperate. And the users start to get restless.  


To its credit, Evernote does seem to be actively addressing the complaints. The @evernotehelps Twitter account has been busily responding to users all day, often with an explanation that the frequent upgrade invitations are the result of a software bug, not a deliberately aggressive sales tactic. (We’ve reached out to Evernote for comment and will append it to this piece should the company respond.)


For my part, I sure hope the “technical difficulties” explanation turns out to be true. But given the company’s recent CEO swap and its enhanced focus on becoming an enterprise player, the timing seems fishy. And with similar apps like Microsoft’s OneNote now available on all three major mobile platforms, this is a “bug” that Evernote should squash quickly – no matter what side of the business it comes from.

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