May 18, 2015
Admittedly, using a smartpen is something I mostly considered a novelty. Till recently, I never really found a place for them in my workflow. After a lengthy stint with one, I have changed tune drastically; now, I’d much rather have one than not.
When it comes to smart writing tools, Livescribe is a household name, and it is mostly justified. It’s Livescribe 3 Smartpen is its latest and greatest, and the great news is that companion app Livescribe+ now makes the pen completely compatible with Android devices.
Better yet, we got one to try out.
The review unit that Livescribe sent us shows the piece in its retail glory: the unit, charging materials, a Livescribe Dot Starter Notebook and documentation. In hand, the pen clearly shares some aesthetic design cues with its cousin Wi-Fi pen, and that’s not a bad thing. Again, it somewhat resembles a fountain pen, mostly bathed in black with chrome end accents, with a cylinder that’s wider than most, but not unwieldy. The main body is split by a turn piece at roughly the middle, which works to unveil or hide the pen tip, as well as toggling the unit on or off. The writing end of the pen is interesting; it doesn’t taper as one would expect, but has a wide opening that envelopes the aperture from which the ink tube projects. This houses a nifty camera which makes up a big part of the pen’s functionality. The clip houses an LED light, and the top nub doubles as a removable cover for the charging port.
The newly minted, aforementioned Livescribe+ app serves as the hub. Firing up the app along with bluetooth allows the phone to pair to the charged up powered on smartpen, and then the fun officially begins. Along with the supplied notebook, the separate units amalgate to become a pretty formidable note-taking solution.
As one writes in the notebook, the text appears in the app exactly as written. If the connection is live, the text isn’t exactly immediate, but it does appear pretty quickly thereafter. If disconnected, it does load up in the app afterwards. Diagrams and the like are reflected just as well.
Notes and such can be shared to a host of supported apps; of special concern to me is Evernote, and I was able to get PDFs of my Livescribe-hosted notes right into Evernote. Again, pretty easy going. It holds a charge for a respectable amount of time, though I did turn it off when not in use.
My biggest complaint is based on my earlier experience with the Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen; that system has tighter, more natural integration with my beloved Evernote. The Android Livescribe+ version trails the iOS version a bit in features currently, and to use the Livescribe+ Android app, one must also download another app: Livescribe Link.
In a few words, I did come to like it. A lot. It can be used in several scenarios, and it redefines hand-created data. At $174.99 for the basic package on Amazon, it isn’t too hefty of an investment.