Where Livescribe’s SmartPen fails

My Livescribe Pulse SmartPen changes the way I cover formal conferences and seminars. Rather than frantically concentrating on my awful shorthand and handwriting I jot down the odd note letting the SmartPen do the rest.

I’m a freelance journalist. I use it to check quickly scribbled quotes against an audio recording to verify what people say.

The Livescribe Pulse is brilliant.

Up to a point. I’ve found four areas which could be improved.

First, the smartpen is hard to use standing up at impromptu press conferences. The pen’s record, pause, stop and bookmark commands – printed only on every second page of the special dot paper notebooks – are easy to use when sitting. They are difficult to find and tap when standing.

Microphone woes

Second, the microphone isn’t great outdoors – I’m in New Zealand where there is often a lot of wind. Things are worse in a café or restaurant with hard floors. The pen gets every echo and clatter but not every word.

In theory the extra microphone on the headphones should help. In practice it doesn’t. And wearing the headset is not a good look.

Third, I’ve come back from jobs and found there’s no audio. Tapping the record command on the paper pages isn’t guaranteed to work.

Recording failures

I accept this is partly a user error and I should check to see the pen is recording – although this isn’t always easy in the heat of the moment.

Finally, I’ve come racing back from a press conference needing to file a story fast. I’ve plugged in my phone only to find the LiveScribe software wants to embark on a long download and upgrade. This is even more annoying if I’m on the move and I’m using my laptop and mobile broadband.