Equil JOT smartpen goes head to head with Livescribe, lets you use any paper for digital notes

While Livescribe's offerings might be popular among those who wish to marry their pen and paper habits with the digital world, the eponymous smartpen does require users to scribble their notes on Livescribe-approved dot paper. If you'd rather use your own precious Moleskines or all you have on hand is a water-stained cocktail napkin, you'd be out of luck. Equil has a solution to that, however, in the form of the JOT smartpen, which lets you use any paper you want.

The JOT system comprises two components: A Bluetooth receiver and the pen itself. Equil even provides a handy pen carrying case that houses both items together in a special magnetic smart cover similar to the one Apple sells for the iPad. Using a combination of "infrared rays and ultrasonic waves," the receiver is able to triangulate the position of the pen as long as it remains within line of sight. Don't worry about the sort of paper you use either, as you can easily calibrate it to fit any size surface with either the Equil Note or Equil Sketch app, both of which are free from the App Store. We should note that the Equil JOT only works with Apple devices with Bluetooth LE support, which includes hardware that runs iOS 5 and up plus OS X Lion or above.

Equil JOT hands-on

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To get started, you'll have to download one of the aforementioned apps. Then you'll have to detach the receiver from the case, and turn it on so that the blue lights are blinking, indicating that it's in pairing mode. Connect it with your device, and then launch the app. The default size for the receiver is A4 paper, but you can calibrate it by going through a tutorial that instructs you to tap opposite sides of the writing surface. After that, you can go ahead and scribble as normal, though the app will flash red around the sides if you go beyond the prescribed limit. You can even map clockwise and and anti-clockwise gestures to specific actions within each app. Equil promises that each receiver has its own unique device ID so there's never a worry about interference from other JOT users in the same room.

During our hands-on, it took us a little while before we learned to write in the confined space, though we did get used to it eventually. Also, we were a little disappointed by how tiny the text looked on the app compared to how it appeared in real life, but that's a bit of a nitpick. We were impressed at how quickly the text was synced up, which Equil ascribes to the receiver's ability to perform 80 transmissions per second. The pen is pretty lightweight -- especially when compared to a Livescribe -- and the ballpoint nib flows well on regular notepaper. There's an LED light at the top that indicates its power status, and if you don't feel like carrying the case around, you can just pop on the included pen cap and use it like a regular writing utensil.

A smartpen to rival Livescribe the $150 Equil JOT that lets you use any paper

As for the apps themselves, they're fairly self-explanatory. The Equil Note app lets you create and manage your written notes while the Equil Sketch app is for drawing or creative doodles. The latter lets you customize pen input with different utensils and brushes and even supports layering much like Photoshop. Both apps auto saves files to iCloud folders and you can sync them to Dropbox as well. If you feel like sharing them with your pals, you can do that via email, Facebook or Twitter. We should note that there's no handwriting recognition support for either app, so if you need searchable text, that could be an issue. Additionally, the JOT doesn't have audio recording capabilities like the Livescribes.

The Equil JOT is available today for $149.99 from Equil's site, and will be available in Amazon and Apple's online and retail stores in the coming weeks. If Livescribe still hasn't won you over and you're looking for a smartpen alternative, check out the video and gallery above as well as the PR below to see if the JOT belongs in your book bag.

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Equil JOT smartpen makes sure you never miss that million dollar idea
JOT works with any type of paper to capture written notes and drawings digitally

Core news facts:
• The Equil JOT makes it easier than ever to create, capture, and share written ideas.
• Compatible with any type of paper, Equil JOT sets a new standard of simplicity by seamlessly transforming anything you write or draw into a digital format. You aren't required to purchase a specific brand of paper or to print a template from home – you can even grab a cocktail napkin to capture that big idea.
• Using a Bluetooth receiver, Equil JOT instantly syncs with any Apple device (iOS 5 or higher or Mac OS 10.7 lion or above), so you can see your creation appear in real-time on your screen.
• Equil is also releasing two free apps for use with Equil JOT:
- Equil Note lets you create, edit, and store written notes. Using folders, text-editing tools, and tags, Equil Note lets you easily organize and access all of your notes from any device.
- Equil Sketch allows you to get creative and capture your vision digitally without losing the pen-to-paper element of the drawing process. You can build each sketch in layers, allowing you to easily morph your vision immediately and in the future.
• With the Equil Note and Equil Sketch apps, any Equil JOT creation can be quickly shared using Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, or email and accessed from anywhere using Dropbox or iCloud.

How it works:
• Equil JOT's technology is based on more than 30 patents. It uses a combination of infrared rays and ultrasonic waves to determine the position of the pen in real-time, sending information via Bluetooth to the paired iOS device at a rate of 80 transmissions per second.
• With a sleek, triangular design, the JOT's tilt-unaffected pen-tip sensor technology promises a seamless experience whether you are right or left-handed.
• Your pen is personalized and your receiver has its own unique device ID – so you never need to worry about interference from others using a JOT in the same room and you can replace just the ink cartridge as needed.
• Download our free apps – Equil Note and Equil Sketch – in the Apple App Store or learn more at www.myequil.com.

Quotes:

Attributed to Greg Appelhof – Equil President, Americas
"Digital has in many ways eradicated the need for handwritten content, but we all know that the best ideas often start on paper. Whether it's your vision for the new app you are building on a water-ringed cocktail napkin or the notes you took during a key interview in your notebook, the creative process isn't solely digital. With Equil JOT, you don't have to lose that tactile writing experience – and you'll never need to dig through stacks of old notebooks to find that lost gem again."

Where to buy:
• Equil JOT retails for $149.99 and is available for purchase starting today at www.myequil.com
• Equil JOT will be available at a variety of stores internationally as follows:
- Wednesday, 10/30 – available to order online in Europe at www.apple.com
- Friday, 11/1 – available on Amazon.com
- Wednesday, 11/6 – available at Apple Stores in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia Australia and New Zealand

About Equil:
The Equil JOT smartpen lets you create, capture, and share your ideas seamlessly from paper to digital – imply write or draw on any paper and watch your creation appear on your Apple device.

Equil JOT works with both of Equil's free apps, Note and Sketch. Equil Note is your place to create and store written notes, enhance them with additional content and highlights, and tag them so you can always find them later. Equil Sketch is an artist or designer's dream – you can capture your vision in stages so you can quickly add or remove individual layers of your creation as you work and in the future.

The Equil JOT works with any Apple device (iOS 5 or higher or Mac OS 10.7 Lion or above) and is available for $149.99 online at www.myequil.com.

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A smartpen to rival Livescribe: the $150 Equil JOT that lets you use any paper