We've long been fans of Livescribe's line of digital pens, because they capture real ink-on-paper but store your notes and audio digitally. However, with a slew of digital note-taking apps and stylus-enabled tablets like the Galaxy Note series and Microsoft Surface Pro, a standalone pen that stores data in local memory and syncs via USB cable just feels out-of-date. Perhaps that's why today the company is unveiling the Livescribe 3, a new version of its popular pen which maintains a persistent Bluetooth connection with your iPad, iPhone or iPod, sending your strokes straight to the screen.
Like earlier Livescribe pens, the Livescribe 3 requires that you write on Livescribe's special dot paper, which the company sells in close two dozen different notebook styles from a 3 x 5-inch, 60-sheet flip notepad for $12.95 to a 5.5 x 8.25-inch, 100-sheet journal for $24.95. As you write on the paper with the pen, it automatically syncs your input with the Livescribe+ iOS app, provided that you are Bluetooth connected with the device. In a brief demo, we noted that the delay between the time we wrote something on the paper and when it appeared on an iPad screen was just a few seconds, making it easy to work with our notes on the tablet almost as soon as we wrote them.
If you are not connected to an iOS device while you're writing, the Livescribe 3 will sync your notes to the device the next time you connect with it. With 2GB of local storage, the pen has enough memory to store thousands of pages of strokes. Since the notes aren't stored in the cloud, the pen will also use that local storage to sync with any other iOS devices you own when you pair it with them and install the app.
Unlike its predecessors, the Livescribe 3 lacks a built-in microphone, instead relying on your tablet or phone's own mic to do any audio recording. Unfortunately, this means that you must not only be connected to your device to grab audio, but that you must confirm the recording by tapping the screen. If you want to be discrete about the fact that you are recording while taking notes, this is not the device for you.
When you record audio and play back your note-taking session in the iOS app, you can not only hear the audio but see the strokes that you wrote appear green in sync with the sound. Since you see an outline of everything that just fills in green, you can tap another word or part of the drawing to jump ahead (or back) to the associated audio. This allows you to hear exactly what people around you such as your teacher were saying when you wrote a word down. You can store copies of both the text you wrote and associated audio in your choice of Cloud services, including Evernote and Dropbox.
Similar to Samsung's Action memos, Livescribe's software can interpret handwritten text and do a lot more than just convert it to ASCII characters. In our demo, we watched as a Livescribe rep wrote down a phone number and sent it to either the contract list or the dialer, wrote down appointment info and sent it to the calendar and wrote down an email address to mail.
The Livescribe 3 will be available from livescribe.com and major online retailers starting this week in two configurations. For $149.95, you get the pen with a 50-sheet starter notebook and a medium-tip ink cartridge. $199.95 gets you the pen with a 100-sheet notebook, a one-year subscription to Evernote Premium and an extra ink cartridge. Though Livescribe 3 only works on iOS devices at present, the company told us it plans to add Android aupport in the near future. We look forward to fully testing the pen in the near future.