This New $680 Gadget Will Save Your Paper Scribbles in Your Phone
- Key Details: leather booklet, paper, Starwalker pen, three refills (with tweezers for exchanging), USB cable charger, and Montblanc Hub app, available on iOS and Android
- Competitors: Moleskine Smart Writing Set, $199; Bamboo Spark, $160; Livescribe Smartpen 3, $149.
- Price: $680
- Why It's Worth It: A digital upgrade for Montblanc connoisseurs and the luxe leather-bound note-taking set
If you've ever felt like those MC Escher-like doodles you made during the meeting deserved a larger audience, then Montblanc's new Augmented Paper notebook will blow your mind.
But first things first: The name is a bit misleading. The real innovation here is in the revamped Starwalker pen that comes with the set, which uses a technology known as electromagnetic resonance to transfer your notes from paper to screen. You write with the smartpen, and together with a tablet hidden inside the leather booklet, it will remember your pen strokes. It's similar to the technology used by Wacom, the company that for years has sold its pens and tablets to illustrators so their digital files could retain a hand-drawn quality. How that affects people who write, though, has been a decidedly niche proposition. For the Augmented Paper set, Montblanc partnered with Wacom to make a modified version of the Starwalker pen that would replicate the technology but on paper instead of a tablet.
Taken individually, everything works magnificently. The technology allows written notes and sketches to be transferred from paper onto a mobile device with the press of a button. Once on the device, your handwriting can be edited, colored, highlighted, erased, or translated directly into a digital text and shared.
The Montblanc Hub app is a breeze to set up. The pen doesn't require powering up or registering online like Moleskine's version, and it's the same exact size as a nonsmart Starwalker pen, so it doesn't feel like a bulky piece of technology, as with the Livescribe Smartpen series. Its battery will get eight hours of life on a 4-hour charge, and there are 100 pages of internal memory.
You'll be encouraged to buy Montblanc's own paper, but there's nothing special about it—the pen works with pretty much any type of paper. But you need to be writing in the booklet. There's a thumb-size button on the right side that syncs your scribbles to the cloud. Press it, and a replica of your page shows up in the app you download on your phone. It can also convert your handwriting to plain text and has one of the best accuracy rates on the market, but if you've got doctor-style handwriting like me, there's a lot lost in translation.
If you're a person who is conditioned to scribble notes on paper in meetings or on the go, it has utility. But the "smart writing" trend has always seemed like a solution in search of a problem. And though the current technology certainly may feel like a novelty act, the simple act of transferring from notebook to phone still feels a little bit like magic.