Remember the Freewrite, nee the Hemingwrite, the Alphasmart-wanna-be that promised to make the writing life simpler? As it turns out, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The Digital Reader is carrying writer K.S. Augustin’s review of the device in which she effectively defenestrates it from start to finish. Meanwhile, writer L. Penelope has posted the above video unboxing and review on YouTube, comparing it to her AlphaSmart.
The hardware part is nice, Augustin writes, but the software that comes with it is terrible. The good news is, it has an SDK that should make it possible for third parties to create more useful software for it, but for $500 it seems like the device should be more functional from the very beginning.
When you’re writing, there’s no way to go back to what you’ve previously typed and fix it. The Freewrite isn’t meant to be a word processor, it’s meant to be a digital typewriter. You can backspace, but you can’t jump up to the previous line or back to the beginning to retype a word.
The words appear on the screen with a slight delay. Freewrite nags you about connecting to WiFi if you’re not connected. Sync service is one-way—you can move documents off the Freewrite for further work, but you can’t put them back on it. There’s no way to differentiate between different versions of what you type. You can’t even delete a document you’ve started except by backspacing all the way through it. There’s not even an easy way to obtain the WiFi’s MAC address short of watching your router control panel to see what address pops up when you connect it.
Nate Hoffelder echoes Mashable’s preview of the device, calling it a pretentious “hipster typewriter,” and that seems about right to me. There’s no way I’d want to pay $500 for a device as crippled as the Freewrite turns out to be. Perhaps it might become more useful down the road once developers use the SDK to fix some of its shortcomings, but it seems unlikely. There are plenty of better, cheaper devices out there, such as the Alphasmart Penelope shows in her video. If I were going to want to write on such a device, I know which one I’d choose.