As Apple is set to roll out a major iOS update today, which makes digital distractions available on the iPhone’s lock screen without even having to unlock the device, Astrohaus’ distraction-free digital typewriters seem like even more of a must-have for those who write for a living. The latest model, the Alpha, shrinks the hardware, the screen, and the price tag.
For those not familiar with the Freewrite lineup, the devices can best be described as crosses between a laptop and a typewriter. They feature full QWERTY mechanical keyboards paired with (until now) monochromatic electronic paper displays optimized for one single purpose: writing. Although the devices do include wifi connectivity for syncing documents to other devices, the Freewrites are distraction free and can’t access email, surf the web, or connect to social networks of any kind.
The smallest model to date has been the Freewrite Traveler, featuring a folding ‘screen in the lid’ design similar to a laptop, but with a $500 price tag that can alternately get you a well equipped Chromebook. The Freewrite Traveler remains a niche product for devoted writers who struggle to stay focused. The new Freewrite Alpha, by comparison, may appeal to a wider audience.
Weighing in at under two pounds, the Freewrite Alpha can easily slip into the laptop compartment of bags and backpacks, with a design that’s quite a bit slimmer than previous models like the Smart Typewriter.
One big change on the Alpha is that the Smart Typewriter’s box brown switches have been replaced with Kailh’s chocV2 low profile switches for a keyboard that looks more like what you’d find on a laptop, although the keycaps can still be swapped out as needed if you prefer typing on something less flat.
The big trade-off is that the larger E Ink screens used on older Freewrite models are now replaced by a long and narrow “Reflective monochromatic FSTN LCD” display, which should be easier on your battery. But it might also have some glare issues depending on where you use the Freewrite Alpha, even with adjustable feet on the underside that can change the viewing angle. The display is also limited to showing just six lines of text with a 15pt font, or four lines when those of us with aging eyes choose to bump it up to a 26pt font size.
A 4200 mAh, USB-C rechargeable battery promises up to 100 hours of writing time on a single charge, and while the built-in memory can hold one million pages of text, the Freewrite Alpha also supports wifi connectivity to external storage services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, which makes getting documents onto other devices much easier.
At $500, the Freewrite Traveler was previously the cheapest option available, but the Freewrite Alpha manages to get down to a $349 price point, presumably made possible with the switch to a basic LCD display. You can’t buy it just yet, but you can reserve one for just $1 ahead of an upcoming crowdfunding campaign.