The old

We have been using the LiveScribe Smartpens at IPAT since they came out approximately 5 years ago.  I have to say that they are a game changer for many people who have difficulties with auditory comprehension, reading, writing, attention, memory loss, and more.  Tying recorded audio to written notes, shapes, or random marks on a page and syncing it with your computer to playback later and to share is just brilliant.  I can also understand why the Pen is a mainstream product and sold at Best Buy and Target.  It is because they are THAT good and helpful for anyone who has difficulty taking notes in school or at a meeting. I certainly wish I would’ve had one when I went to school!

The new

Despite my “love” for the earlier versions, I am not having the same experience with the latest LiveScribe product, the Sky™ Wi-Fi Smartpen.  This new Pen works in the same way as the current Echo SmartPen, as it syncs your written notes to the recorded audio, and you can play those recordings back by touching the words with the pen in the notebook.  However, this is where the similarity ends.  To start:

  • Broadband Wi-Fi is required to sync the Pen, and the Wi-Fi cannot require a browser sign-in such as in some hotels or restaurants;
  • You can no longer use LiveScribe Desktop Software to sync your notes via USB, you have to sync with Evernote over Wi-Fi, which is a mainstream software product and app that allows for note taking and archiving on many platforms to include Mac, PC, Android and iOS;
  • The playback of this pen’s recordings while interacting with the notes on any device besides the pen requires Broadband, no 3G or 4G; however, you can listen to the audio-only recording with 3G or 4G; and
  • Playback of the recordings on a computer will only work with Chrome or Safari, not Internet Explorer.

Therefore, if you are not a fan of Evernote, you just have to have Explorer, or your Wi-Fi is a little sketchy, you should stop here and continue with the Echo.  If you already use and love Evernote or you are game for something new, read on.

Once you have completed a recording, the Sky pen syncs it to your Evernote account whenever you are in Wi-Fi range, which was very easy to do with the Wi-Fi in our Center and really cool.  Where I had trouble was with the playback of the recordings.

I had a different experience with each of the 6 devices I tried.  The only devices I used that allowed for proper playback were a PC with Windows 7 with a Chrome browser and a Samsung Galaxy Note Phone, with Android Ice Cream Sandwich and the default browser.  An iPad 3, an iPad Mini, a Motorola Droid X, and an Asus Transformer TF300 either worked partially or not at all with their current operating systems. However, the iPad 3 did work perfectly until I upgraded it to the latest version of Evernote. I will spare you the details and chalk it up to a frustrating experience.  Livescribe Tech support is currently trying to figure out the issues


Once they have worked out the kinks with the mobile devices, the Sky™ Wi-Fi SmartPen could be very useful for some people.  If you lost your pen, notebook,  or forgot your device at home, you could always log in on another compatible device and still get your notes.  However, if you are not keen on having to use Broadband for playback or Wi-Fi for syncing, or the fact that you have to use Evernote, then the Echo Smartpen is probably your best choice.

About Author

Jeannie Krull is the Program Director for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.