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Livescribe Smartpen 3 review

The first Livescribe smart pen, the Pulse introduced the connected pen to the world. The second turned it into a wire-free solution, integrating tightly with Evernote. Now, with the Smartpen 3, Livescribe is ditching the microphone / screen combination of past pens in favour of smartphone support. 

With a real pen look and feel, save for the flashing LED light up top and sizeable barrel, there’s very little about this gadget that gives away the fact that it’s a gadget. At the tip is the ballpoint component, as well as a camera. A central ring surrounds the barrel of the pen, twistable to eject the nib, while the upper portion houses a capacitive pen tool, underneath which sits a micro USB port for charging. 

The Livescribe+ app is the iOS component of the Smartpen 3. Downloadable for free it serves as a repository for your notes and as a smart portal, digitizing and connecting your handwritten memos to the wider world. It’s worth noting, the pen will only work with iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches with Bluetooth LE. 

Once connected, memos can be saved as handwriting or converted to text that can be copied out. If entered in a recognizable format, an address for exampe can activate a map link while a time, such as “10:30”, can prompt a new calendar entry.  

Notes can also be tagged and searched digitally, even if you they haven’t manually been converted to digital type, with preferred languages including English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. 

Naturally, no Livescribe Smartpen would be complete without mention of the voice recording-or ‘Pencasting’ capabilities. Shooting the first smart pen to fame, this feature synchronises handwritten memos with the audio recorded at the time of writing. 

Historically, while incredible useful, this resulted in scratchy, unclear audio, owing to the fact that the microphone doing the recording was positioned at the top of the pen. Now, all audio is recorded on the phone, utilising higher quality mics, more storage and a better positioned sound recording point.

Having used the pen for a weekend and the app in depth for a day, we’re already advocates of this new direction. Sure, the Smartpen 3 isn’t the standalone device its predecessor was, and that fact means there’s plenty of life left in the Wi-Fi and Echo Smartpens. That said, with the right kit (an iOS device), the Smartpen 3 is infinitely easier to integrate into your life. 

Moving onto price, it’s also cheaper than its predecessor, costing £129.99 for the standard package and £169.99 for the Pro Edition, which includes a leather folio, a hard bound journal, not to mention a year’s subscription to Evernote. 

The software has thrown one or two bugs our way, so public build number one definitely needs refinement, but it’s still incredibly usable, ideal for students, journalists, meeting minute-takers or hand-writers who want their scribes saved on their smartphones or tablets. 

Android and Windows Phone users should therefore feel very hard done by right about now. Not only is this one of the best accessories we’ve seen for iOS, it’s one of our favourite accessories of all time. While we haven’t heard any word of a Windows Phone app en route, an Android version is in the works, expected to land in 2014. 

If you like the idea of a Livescibe Smartpen 3, and let’s face it – why wouldn’t you? Head over to Amazon or the Apple Store where you can pick one up today. 

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