This smart pen uses ChatGPT and your iPhone to turn your handwritten notes into almost anything you want it to

XNote app and notebook
(Image credit: XNote)

The iPhone is already a pretty great note-taking device with tons of apps and services available. The built-in Notes app has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years as well, with reliable iCloud syncing making it the default option for people all around the world. Those who want to take handwritten notes can of course use the iPad and an Apple Pencil or similar stylus, while that option also makes it easier than ever to draw and doodle on those notes.

Another note-taking option is to write on paper and then scan it using an iPhone or iPad. That's an option available in the Notes app as well as countless others that are available for download from the App Store. But it can be a fiddly affair and most suited to those with the best iPhones with the best cameras. What if there was a different solution that allowed people to enjoy the best of both worlds?

Turns out, there is. It's called XNote and it's available via a Kickstarter campaign today. A combination of an iPhone app and a smart pen that can write on normal paper, the system can convert handwritten notes into on-screen text if needed, and it tracks pen strokes in real-time as well. But the ability to get notes into an app isn't the whole story. Where XNotes takes things to a new level is its ChatGPT support which allows the app to offer information and answers based on what is written, something that has the potential to change the way people take notes. And you can't do that with a normal notebook.

Smarter writing

So how does XNote work? The system has three components beginning with the pen, but that's just the start. The XNote Indiegogo page explains that the notebook itself is part of the equation which means that you can't use any notebook you choose. This one "has special dots on the pages that let the pen know where it is," while the app is where all of the notes are saved and interacted with.

Once those notes are inside the XNote app the ChatGPT portion of the system comes into effect. Users can ask a variety of questions or issue commands including:

  • Pull up the action points from today's team meeting.
  • Where did I jot down that book recommendation?
  • Create a short quiz based on last week's lecture notes.
  • How much sugar do I add based on mom's pie recipe?
  • Remind me of the key points from the team meeting last month.
  • List all my book recommendations from summer.

"No need to sift through pages or set manual reminders. With XNote’s Smart Task Detection, your to-dos stand out. Just jot down a task, and let XNote handle the rest," the blurb explains. "Whether you scribble 'Homework due next week' or note a 'Meeting with Chris tomorrow at 8 am', our cutting-edge AI instantly recognizes and sets reminders for you. Your notes transform into proactive planners, ensuring you never miss a beat. Stay ahead effortlessly with XNote, where your tasks jump off the page and into your day."

That all sounds very impressive, but it won't run cheap. The XNote Early Bird price costs $199 and to get the best out of the whole thing you'll also need an XNote subscription — although those who back the project can pay an additional $59 for a lifetime membership.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.