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The Livescribe 3 smartpen finally works with Android devices

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Livescribe has been in the business of merging physical content you generate — things like hand-written notes and voice recordings — with the digital world for years now. The Livescribe 3 "smartpen," which launched in the fall of 2013, was certainly its most successful attempt to date. The combo of the Livescribe 3 pen alongside specially designed notebooks meant that you could take traditional notes, make drawings, do calculations, or anything else you do with a pen and paper and have them synced to your phone, tablet, or computer. That’s assuming you were an iOS user, of course — the Livescribe 3 only supported Apple’s mobile devices.

That all changes today — Livescribe for Android is moving out of beta and into a "preview" mode for users in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. A final, global rollout is planned for sometime in the next month or so. It’ll work with any Android device running Android 4.4.2 KitKat — it requires that version for the specific Bluetooth LE protocols implemented in it to connect with the pen. So while not every Android device will work with the Livescribe 3, most devices that’ve been released in the last year and a half should be compatible.

Android users have been asking for this update for a long time

Livescribe VP Bryan Rodrigues told me that his company has been fielding requests for Android support ever since the Livescribe 3 launched, and he also stressed that the Android app is at feature parity with iOS. Indeed, the Livescribe+ app for Android works just the same as its iOS counterpart. It’s a simplistic app that shows you each of the physical, Livescribe-enabled notebooks tied to your pen. The most recent page you’ve scribbled on is on the far left, while the rest of the notebook unspools chronologically from left to right. You can either look at those pages in full, as they look in your notebook, or see a chronological "feed" of whatever you’ve written with your pen, regardless of what notebook you wrote in.

Livescribe Android screenshot

The Android app is essentially indistinguishable from the iOS app — fortunately, it looks and feels native to Android, regardless of whether you’re using KitKat or Lollipop as the OS on your device. Menu items are moved from the bottom navigation area, where they are commonly stored in iOS, to the side and top, to better fit Android. But other than these few slight visual changes, the experience is nearly identical. Right now, iOS still exclusively has the option to automatically share to OneNote or Evernote. And the ability to tag, flag, and favorite snippets of text as you write isn’t available for Android yet, but Livescribe says all these features will arrive on Android soon.

But the most important and advanced features, like quick-activated voice recordings that sync up with what you’re writing and the option to turn your handwriting into text you can copy and paste, are all preserved here, and those are the kinds of options that really make Livescribe intriguing. It’s one thing to be able to easily digitize anything you write down and take it on your phone or tablet, but being able to search your written notes or associate them with voice recordings are pretty powerful features. That said, the price of entry remains a high $149.95 — but if you’re the kind of person who loves writing things down and wants to integrate those scribbles into a digital workflow, Livescribe 3 remains a compelling option — particularly now that millions of Android users can give it a shot.