Livescribe launches sleek new Bluetooth-enabled smartpen


November 1, 2013

Handwriting can be displayed instantly on an iOS device using the Livescribe 3 and a companion app

Handwriting can be displayed instantly on an iOS device using the Livescribe 3 and a companion app

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Since the launch of the Pulse in 2008, Livescribe has continued to improve upon its paper-based smartpen technology in subsequent models. The Echo in 2010 brought a rounder shape and micro-USB connectivity and Wi-Fi connectivity was incorporated in the Sky in 2012. The latest addition to the line is the Livescribe 3, which boasts Bluetooth connectivity and iOS device support through a companion app.

The first thing you notice about the Livescribe 3 is that, more so than the previous models, the "smarts" are extremely well camouflaged so that is looks very much like a sleek, high-quality ballpoint pen.

Like all Livescribe smartpens, the Livescribe 3 works in combination with special dot paper to capture everything written via an integrated infrared camera. Through a Bluetooth connection to an iOS device running the Livescribe+ mobile app, the Livescribe 3 allows everything written to be instantly transferred to a connected iOS device's display. If not connected to an iOS device at the time of writing, notes will be stored in the pen's flash memory and transferred to the app when it is opened.

Once transferred to the iOS device, the handwritten notes can be transformed into tasks, reminders, calendar events, new contacts, etc. Images and text notes can also be added, while audio captured from the iOS device's microphone can be used to create "pencasts" that synchronize recorded audio with the handwritten notes within the app. PDFs of the notes can be shared through Airdrop, Mail, Messages, Evernote and Dropbox.

In keeping with the tablet and smartphone compatibility, the Livescribe 3 pen also features a capacitive stylus cap for touchscreen interaction. It connects to compatible iOS devices via Bluetooth Smart technology, which helps reduce energy consumption and gives the pen 14 hours of continuous writing between charges of the lithium-ion battery.

Recharging is via the included micro USB charging cable, with the standard black and chrome Livescribe 3 pen also coming bundled with a 50-sheet starter book of dot paper and a black tungsten carbide medium-tip ink cartridge. The black and dark chrome Pro Edition smartpen comes with a leather smartpen folio, 100-sheet hardbound dot paper journal, an additional ink cartridge and a one-year subscription to Evernote Premium.

The Livescribe 3 is priced at US$149.95, while the Pro Edition sells for $199.95. The Livescribe+ mobile app is available as a free download from the App Store. The smartpen is compatible with iPhone 4S or later, third-generation or later iPad, iPad Mini, and the fifth-generation iPod touch or newer.

Product page: Livescribe

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Lose the dotted paper There are several other ways of doing this As long as I am hostage to having to buy their proprietary paper I have no desire to use this

Also ... Android?


I think that is really cool. It would be nice if they had one for non-iPhone devices. It would broaden its appeal.


@Nicov8 - I agree with Android but how do you propose they get rid of the dot paper and not give up any functionality? Let me start by saying that I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I would say that the livescribe pen is the first tool that digitizes notes in a way that: a) does exactly what the company says it does; and b) what the tool does is exactly what I need the tool to do. It is my experience that both of these statements are rarely true with similar gadgets (see below for details).

I have been using the livescribe system for the last 4+ years and have filled 8, 200 page spiral ringed notebooks to date (for a total cost of about $45 CAD). If I would be writing on any other paper system (without all the obvious advantages of the livescribe system) I would have spent perhaps half that amount. I have spent about twice that amount on pen refills in the same time. Prior to discovering livescribe, I had spent the previous 15 years experimenting unsuccessfully with different systems to digitize my notes (let alone have them time-sync audio with my notes). In total, I had given the ol' college try (6 to 12 months per experiment) to 4 discrete systems as follows: a) attempting to OCR my handwritten notes (major fail); b) attempting to use stylus and PDA (circa 1996); c) second stylus/PDA attempt (circa 2001) - both PDA attempts provided frustratingly small interfaces and sketches/diagrams were particularly hard to create; and d) Crosspad (a digitizer clipboard that you used with standard paper and a special battery-operated pen but had to remember to press a button to "forward" the virtual pages when you started a new physical page and you could only use a maximum of 100 pages without losing pen sensitivity. (circa 2007) - major, major, major frustrating FAIL whenever I would forget to forward a virtual page.

As I alluded above, my primary beef with the system is (and I just ran into it again today) the pen refills run out without any warning and they cost ~$2 per refill that lasts for about 20 to 30 pages depending on the density of my notes. If the refills were larger / held more ink / were designed to decrease intensity (like a typical pen) or hold a slightly different color of ink that would give you another page or so of notes then that would be great. I have tried "rolling my own" refills but the results are sub-optimal so far. My other beef with the system is the non-replaceable, rechargeable battery.

Overall, if we all want livescribe to be successful and continue to develop new, useful tools (and I certainly want them to do so) then they must make a profit. If they make a small profit via a recurring revenue stream from their paper (which is essential to their technology) then I am glad to pay for the paper from them rather than some other paper producing conglomerate. I am on my second pen (my 2GB PULSE version finally lost battery life to around 4 hrs per charge last spring) and will probably get another one once my 8GB Echo pen ultimately loses battery life.


I would really like a similar app that would work both with Android and with Windows 8.1 / Surface Pro 2.

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