Livescribe's new smartpen swaps tech for sex appeal

Latest Livescribe smartpen designed to be "high quality writing implement"

Livescribe's new smartpen aims to move away from being classified as a gadget type product in order to become more of a "high quality writing implement", the company says.

The Livescribe 3 smartpen.
The Livescribe 3 smartpen.

The Livescribe 3 smartpen was officially unveiled this week. It represents a revolutionary step for the vendor, ditching a built-in microphone, speaker, and internal storage to move to an app-centric model that relies on an iOS-based device for recording and playback.

Livescribe's general manager for Australia and New Zealand, Mark Parker, told Good Gear Guide that the company designed the latest smartpen more in line with a regular pen, and less as a tech gadget.

"One of the key pieces of research that we got from our customer base was that we needed to give the product a little bit more more sex appeal. So we've moved away from being a kind of gadget, to be more of a desirable, high quality writing implement."

"Obviously there is a very clear look and feel difference to it. We engaged a couple of industrial designers in the US behind pen technology. The big thing with the pen is that there is a few things missing, not least being the screen."

"It is quite a different pen. We have done a pretty major update in terms of the end user experience, so the whole out the box experience is also something we've focussed quite heavily on."

The company has sacrificed the LED screen found on its previous Sky wifi smartpen, opting for more discrete indicator lights on the Livescribe 3. The result is a slimmer, more slender pen, with no on-off switch. Instead, users twist the pen to turn it on.

Parker said while the Livescribe 3 lacks a screen and microphone, the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, instead of Wi-Fi, has allowed for a huge increase in battery life.

"This product communicates using Bluetooth Smart. It gives us a number of advantages, not least being from a low energy point of view. We've radically extended the battery life to about 14 hours off a single charge."

While the Livescribe 3 smartpen only works with iOS products for now, Parker says the company will look to support Google's Android platform from next year.

"Bluetooth Smart really presented too many advantages not to go with it, particularly when you look at the fact that Apple was probably the first vendor to say 'that's it from this point forward, that is our standard for Bluetooth'. That was certainly a key consideration."

"Going forward, we need to address the Android position in the market and this is on our road map. What we are doing is delivering the product to the market now, and then we will release Android options once this one is bedded down."

"Android is a development priority for us, post-launch, so once we actually launch the app, get it into the marketplace, the focus then switches to building out the Android option for users."

Parker says launching with Apple's new iOS 7 platform first was a decision based on Livescribe's "limited development resources".

The company's research also indicated that a large number of existing Livescribe users own and use iPhone and iPad devices.

"We aren't looking to say we're in this camp or that camp, going forward we will be platform agnostic. The advantage we have though is we have a pretty strong Apple user base, and a very good relationship with Apple."

"Being a small company with limited development resources, it actually made more sense for us to kick off with Apple as our release platform, and then tackle the other platforms as we go forward."

The Livescribe 3 smartpen is available now in Australia. The Standard Edition retails for $199, while a Pro Pack costs $265.

The latter includes a 12 month subscription to Evernote Premium and bundles a leather-bound notebook in the package.

The Livescribe 3 will only be available online and through Apple retail stores from launch, and is likely to stay that way until 2014.

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Tags AppleLivescribeApple iOSsmartpenLivescribe 3

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide
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