Livescribe's latest addition to its smart pen range, the Livescribe 3, ties in tightly to the iOS platform. Here's what we like and what we don't like about it.
I've been a keen user of the Livescribe ever since the initial launch — being able to take notes and record simultaneously, and then tap your notes and hear the recording at exactly that point, is incredibly handy for a journalist. As such, I was happy to check out a preview of the Livescribe 3 recently ahead of its official launch today.
The new Livescribe 3 works in close conjunction with a built-in iOS 7 app. While you still need a specially-printed "dot paper" notebook to take the notes, most of the recording process actually happens on your phone or tablet, rather than on the pen. To begin recording, you twist a ring on the phone.
That approach means the pen itself is lighter, but also means you have to carry around an iOS device as well as the pen and notepad if you want to do anything with the content. That said, huge numbers of people already do, and writing on paper is still much nicer than writing on a glass screen.
Two versions are going on sale: a basic model with a 50-sheet starter notebook for $199.95, and a Pro edition for $265 with a leather portfolio, a 100-page notebook, a 12-month Evernote Premium subscription and a charging cable. The 3 will be sold online through smartpen.com.au and via Apple stores.
Here's what I like and dislike about the product based on the preview.
Pro: Uses Bluetooth Smart to sync The previous generation Livescribe used Wi-Fi to sync. While widely supported, that was also a major drain on battery life. The 3 should do better in that regard.
Con: iOS only: If you're not already carrying around an iPhone or an iPad (and no, I'm not), this new Livescribe is effectively pointless. Livescribe says an Android version is being planned but hasn't committed to any firm timeframe.
Pro: Other versions remain on sale Both the Echo and the 4GB Wi-Fi pen will remain on sale, so you'll still have non-iOS choices.
Pro: Now useful for random notes Notes taken with the 3 can now be tagged and joined together, Evernote-style, making the Livescribe more useful for individual notes and snippets (rather than just long meeting or interview recordings).
Con: Playback relies on the on-screen recording Playback from the notebook will be offered "at a later date".
Pro: Syncs to more services Notes can be synced to Evernote, Dropbox and Box.
Con: iCloud is used as the transport layer iCloud doesn't have a great reputation for reliability, and a different method will be needed for other platforms.
We'll be testing the Livescribe 3 more thoroughly in the coming weeks. In the meantime, do you like the idea?