Pens and wallets were once the staples of gift giving. In this column I check out today’s up-to-date versions of each, particularly the pens used for digital note-taking and wallets that are designed to accommodate the increased use of credit cards.
Jot Script from Evernote: Evernote, the maker of the popular note-taking and note-collecting app has entered the hardware business with the introduction of its Jot Script electronic pen ($75). It’s designed for use with tablets and intended as an improvement over the mushy and imprecise silicon-tipped pens. The Jot connects to an iPad using Bluetooth and looks much like an ordinary pen, but is designed to work only with apps that have the appropriate drivers, such as Evernote’s own app, Penultimate. The Jot has a fine point about the size of a ballpoint tip, and is supposed to be much more pen-like for note taking and drawing. I tried it with Penultimate on a third-generation iPad.
I really wanted to like it, because it’s certainly something needed, but my results were disappointing. As I wrote, the ink was randomly offset from the tip by as much as 3mm, and there were occasional dropouts in which some letters disappeared from the screen. Even though the app was set to ignore my palm, some random bits of ink appeared when my palm touched the screen while writing.
Evernote sent a replacement pen, but it was no better. Based on my tests, the Jot is a severely flawed product and fails to come close to performing as described on Evernote’s website. Wait for improvements. (evernote.com)
Equil Jot: The Equil Jot is a new take on an old idea. The system consists of a pen, receiver and cradle that all fit together, much like a Chinese puzzle. The receiver clips to the top of a piece of paper or notebook page and tracks the movement of the pen using its infrared sensors. The strokes then appear on an iPhone, iPad or computer, running either of Equil’s two apps, one for drawing and one for note taking.
Both the pen and receiver need to be charged, the pen by snapping into the module, and the module by using a USB charger. The pen lasts about eight hours on a single charge. The advantage of the Equil Jot is that it writes on any paper. The disadvantage is that it requires some effort to set up and use, and you have two batteries to keep charged.
What’s most noticeable about the product is the clever industrial design that allows all of the parts to be carried in a compact Toblerone-shaped package. But from my experience using devices such as this, I think you really need to be motivated to clip it and align it on each page of paper; if you’re not, the effort will cause you to tire of it quickly. $150, (myequil.com)
Livescribe 3: The Livescribe 3 ($150) is the latest version of the company’s electronic pen; it works using the company’s notebooks preprinted with tiny, almost invisible dots. As you write in the notebook, your notes appear on an iPhone or iPad display running iOS7 (via Bluetooth) in real time using the Livescribe app. You can also write without your phone or iPad nearby; thousands of pages of notes can be stored in the pen and downloaded when they are connected later on. Like earlier models, the pen records audio and syncs it with the written notes. Unlike earlier models, there is no display; instead you use the app.
I found the product to perform well and preferred writing on paper, as it had a much better feel than trying to write on a glass screen. When you use the notebook, the pen and app recognize which page you are on, and even after writing pages of notes, the online notebook is an exact replica of the physical notebook.
The pen is large, almost the size of a cigar, but was still comfortable to use. The tiny cap to cover the point found on previous models has been replaced with a retractable point, and the quality of the ink has been improved. While you need to use dot-paper notebooks, their cost is modest (about $3.50 each). Highly recommended. (Livescribe.com)
These wallets all try to provide a solution for the overstuffed wallet that’s become inefficient for carrying many credit cards. And one of them protects those credit cards that contain an electronic chip from prying eyes, although it’s questionable if this is real problem we have to worry about.
Slim Sleeve from Bellroy: Bellroy of Australia makes a line of thin leather wallets designed to hold lots of credit cards. This model is small enough to fit in a side pocket, yet can hold up to about a dozen credit cards. It has two quick-access card slots that can each hold two cards, and a pocket with a pull-tab for six to eight less frequently accessed cards. It also has a currency pocket and two additional card slots. The company offers free shipping to the United States. The company has a very informative website. $80, bellroy.com. Overall, some of the best designed compact wallets with multiple compartments.
Victor Wallet from Waterfield: WaterField Designs’ latest wallet is its new dime-thin leather Victor Wallet. It has space for bills and slots for cards, all held securely in place with a Moleskine-like nylon strap. Made in the United States and available in black and brown. $29. (Sfbags.com). Inexpensive but appears much more costly.
Architect’s Wallet from formfunctionform: The Architect's Wallet is a minimalistic approach to carrying a stack of credit cards and some bills. It eliminates the many slots of paper-thin leather dividers of typical wallets, making room for more than a dozen cards. I managed to carry 18, but without room for bills. It also includes a pocket to hold a Fisher Space Pen and a take-anywhere, extra-small Moleskine Volant notebook. It’s well-constructed of thick saddle-stitched leather that looks like it will last for a long time. ($98, formfunctionform.com). Less structured than the other wallets and more like a large card pocket. Handmade in the U.S.
Zippo stainless steel wallet: Zippo, the same company that’s sold over 500 million lighters, has introduced a wallet made out of their iconic brushed-stainless steel and elastomer. It’s a large (4½ inches by 3 inches) flat design with a rubber-like hinge designed to carry bills and a half dozen cards. While it’s not the smallest or lightest, and its capacity is limited, the stainless shell is designed to suppress the signals sent from a credit card’s Radio Frequency ID chip, protecting against credit card theft. $50, zippo.com. While it’s unique in many ways, its capacity is limited and it takes some effort to remove and insert the cards.
Previously reviewed: The best solution (other than a rubber band) that I’ve found for carrying a stack of credit cards and bills is the M-Clip MoneyClip. The extra-large version can hold more than 20 cards as well as bills. The clips are precision machined with slide-out wings to easily open the clip. From $100 (m-clip.com). Available in dozens of finishes and materials. Probably the best money clip available for holding so many cards.
Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer," published by Financial Times Press. Send comments to email@example.com. Comments may be published online or as Letters to the Editor.
The Livescribe 3 electronic pen it works using notebooks preprinted with tiny dots. As you write, your notes appear on an iPhone or iPad display.
Bellroy of Australia makes a line of thin leather wallets designed to hold about a dozen credit cards. It also has a pocket for change.