Evernote pushes users to upgrade with a free trial plan limited to just 50 notes

After making steep staff cuts earlier this year, Milan-based Evernote owner Bending Spoons is now experimenting with a new plan that will push more users to upgrade to paid versions of its service. The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it is running a small test that puts limits on the number of notes that free users can make, but said that the new plan is not yet finalized.

TechCrunch was alerted to the attempt by an Evernote user who logged in to a pop-up message informing them that unless they upgrade to a paid plan, they are now limited to 1 notebook and 50 notes. That change will dramatically limit the service for longtime Evernote users who have accumulated hundreds or thousands of notes over the years.

Despite seeing the messaging app itself, Evernote’s website pricing plan page doesn’t indicate that there’s such a limit on the free plans — which makes the pricing seem like a hidden fee change that Evernote doesn’t want to announce. However, its website explains that free users are limited to things like 60 MB of monthly uploads or 25 MB maximum note size. Other plans, including personal and professional plans, now discounted to $10.83 per month and $14.17 per month, respectively, offer support for larger notes and unlimited uploads and syncs devices, and other things.

Evernote said its website has not been updated with the new information because the change is not yet final. The company confirmed that it is running a test with less than 1% of its free users to determine whether to implement the new plan. If so, it will communicate the changes to “relevant customer touchpoints,” a company representative explained.

They also point out that the limit does not prevent free users from managing, editing, viewing, exporting, or deleting their existing notes, even if they have more than the limit. This will only limit the user’s ability to create new notes, unless they become a paying customer.

Still, that’s a dramatic change for longtime Evernote users who only use the app on one device for light writing purposes. Effectively, this will force most of Evernote’s regular users on free plans to either become paying users or simply stop using the app altogether.

The change, if it goes through, could also push more users to competing products like Microsoft OneNotethat starts at $6.99 per month with up to 1TB of cloud storage that syncs to up to 5 devices – better than Evernote’s Personal plan. Or it can push users to try thinkis a collaborative notes organizer that offers a free plan for individual users, as well.

Evernote, which used to be appreciated for nearly a billion dollars, struggled for years before it was acquired by Bending Spoons. The company lost top executives, including its CTO, CFO, CPO, and head of HR in 2018, after CEO Phil Libin was replaced a few years ago by former Google exec Chris O’ Neill. Under Libin, Evernote tried to expand into physical objects through partnerships with Moleskine and Pfeiffer and its own desk accessory line. Later in 2018, Evernote laid off 15% of its workforce. CEO Ian Small replaced O’Neill and the company was able to take in $100 million in recurring revenue. Unfortunately, the app still couldn’t keep up with newer competitors like Notion when it first came out.

Bending Spoons, which owns video editor Splice, photo editor Remini, and other apps, announced its acquisition of Evernote in late 2022 and then laid off 129 employees. Explaining the decision, a spokesman at the time said the company “has not been profitable for many years” and “the situation is not sustainable in the long term.”

Perhaps that will also apply to Evernote’s ability to offer a free plan, if these new changes go through.

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