If you check the Senstone Kickstarter comment page as well as backer #1090 Tiffany Cheng’s comment below, it quickly becomes apparent that there are quite a few backers who never received their product. Even worse, for those of us who actually did receive a device, there are some other issues inherent with the Senstone product. After a little over a year of off and on use, the battery on my Senstone swelled to the point that the product’s casing burst open exposing the swollen battery. My device is now effectively useless, and the swollen battery is potentially dangerous. For those reasons, I can not recommend Senstone.
- Small and discreet
- Battery lasts for 3 – 4 days or up to 3 continuous hours of recording
- You can use it without your phone nearby and still record up to 2 hours of voice notes
- Up to 3 minutes transcribed nearly immediately on your phone
- 150 recordings and transcriptions per month for free
- It’s expensive
- Many backers on Kickstarter never received their product, which is not a good recommendation for the company’s business practices
- After a little over a year of use, the battery on mine has expanded to the point that the casing has popped open and the swollen battery is exposed — a potentially dangerous condition that rendered the Senstone useless #FAIL
Senstone began life as a Kickstarter project; in fact, Dan was an early backer. I missed that window but then received one for review. It’s an impressive voice recorder that goes anywhere and quickly delivers accurate transcriptions that are available on your phone. Senstone can be worn clipped to your clothes or with the optional pendant.
You might wonder why someone would want or need a separate portable voice assistant. After all, our phones and tablets all have apps to record voice notes. Moreover, voice assistants have taken up residence in our homes and on our mobile devices. Who needs a voice assistant when you can say, “Hey Google, take a note…” and start speaking? And since Senstone needs to be paired to a phone or tablet, it really isn’t a standalone device.
Well, after using Senstone for a while, I can give a definitive answer. Who needs such a device? Me. The reason is simple – the Senstone offers speed, convenience, and voice-to-text transcriptions on the go. But don’t take my (or Dan’s, for that matter) word for it. As we dig into this review, I suspect the device will make the case for itself.
Included in the box are the Sentone portable voice assistant, a USB-powered charging cradle, a sticker, warranty information, and a manual.
Senstone is a small, oddly shaped device. The smooth surface hides a number of indicator lights. When the Senstone is searching for a smartphone, a blue LED will glow in the center; when the Senstone is recording, a green LED will glow in the center, and when the Senstone is charging, this happens …
Senstone charges on the included charging dock in just three hours; a fully charged device should provide up to four days of battery life. Senstone measures 1.2″ tall by 1.2″ wide by 0.5″ thick, and it weighs 0.4 ounces. At the bottom, you’ll find the Senstone name.
On the right side (when the device is facing you) there is a small, rectangular button. Pressing this button initiates or ends each voice recording. Pressing and holding the button for 4 seconds will cause a factory reset.
On top of the Senstone device, there is a microphone.
On the back, there is a small contact that connects to the included charger. Surrounding the contacts is a locking mechanism into which you can connect either a pendant or clip attachment. Swapping from one to the other is as easy as twisting the attachment a quarter turn and removing it. Replacing that attachment or the other is as simple as repeating the process is reversed.
The company describes Senstone this way:
Senstone is a portable voice assistant. It employs a digital recorder and the app, it syncs together to process voice input. It is then pushed to the Cloud and transformed into coherent text. The text is organized by the backend AI, and the end result gets stored in the Cloud where you can access it through your account whenever you want.
It recognizes multiple (12) languages, so users all around the globe do not necessarily need to speak English for it to work correctly. All in all, Senstone is designed around the principles of productivity, efficiency, and freedom.
Senstone is screenfree and small, which makes it perfect for active and mobile people. You can be as flexible as you want, you can go anywhere. Senstone doesn’t need a case or a pocket. Are you at the wheel? Are you in front of your computer? Are you taking a walk? Senstone is just as efficient in the office as it is on a street. You can fasten it to your jacket. You can wear it as a pendant. Truly portable, it never restricts your movement and freedom of expression.
Once the device is charged, the Senstone app is downloaded, and the device is paired with your phone, you are ready to go. Push the button on the side of the device and start speaking. It captures your voice and quickly transcribes it.
You don’t need to have your phone or tablet with you to use the device, however, since the Senstone has enough internal storage to capture up to two hours of recordings.
The built-in short-range microphone is designed to capture your voice from 10 to 20 cm away. That makes using Senstone a personal experience, and it explains why the included collar clip or the optional pendant are ideal accessories — each places the device in close proximity to your mouth.
Some people might worry about recording personal information on Senstone. The good news is that all notes are not only encrypted on the device, but they remain encrypted when transferred to your phone or tablet. The app will show you how many notes you have left on your plan, allow you to select your language, and it will allow you to select a light or dark theme.
Unless you have a Pixel smartphone, the main thing that distinguishes Senstone from the voice memo app on your phone is the device’s ability to not only record but to also transcribe those recordings within seconds of their creation. Each recording can be up to 3 minutes long, and the app saves both the original recording and the transcribed text. Three minutes may not sound like much, but try speaking for three minutes straight, and you will quickly realize just how long 180 seconds are.
The company reports that accuracy is up to 90% or higher. We have found that claim to be accurate if not understated. In addition, you can easily keep notes organized by using hashtags. For example, if you want to use Senstone as a journaling device you might begin a recording with “#journal” and then speak. The new transcription will begin with “#journal” followed by your note. It works similarly with tasks or pretty much any other organizational system you devise. Once the recording is made using Senstone, it is sent to your mobile device via Bluetooth for transcription. The Freemium Senstone app offers 150 free transcriptions a month. Once you start using Senstone that might not be enough. If that happens, you can subscribe to the paid version; $12.90 will allow you to create an unlimited number of transcriptions.
But why use Senstone when your phone has a notes app? When Dan first received his Senstone, that was the question his wife Raina asked. As he related the story, he asked Raina to record a note on her iPhone. She took out her phone, unlocked it, pulled up the Notes app, started a new note, tapped the microphone icon on the keyboard and began dictating. Dan then took his Senstone, tapped the button on the side and dictated the same message Raina has just recorded. “Which is safer if you are driving?” he asked.
It was, of course, a rhetorical question.
That’s the point. Our phones are powerful multi-purpose pocket computers, but in order to use them, you need to look at the screen, pay attention, and tap away until you get to the app you want. That might not usually be an issue, but when you are driving, about to fall asleep, or otherwise occupied, reaching for your phone isn’t convenient.
Senstone is small, it gets good battery life, it accurately records and transcribes notes, and it can be used without your needing to look at it. You can simply tap the button and record without needing to shift your attention. Senstone is safe, fast, it works, and it is perfect for someone like me because when I have a random yet important thought — if I don’t write it down or record it, I will forget it.
As the company explains:
Carry it everywhere. You never know when you need your recorder, and you are going to need it often. Since Senstone is the definition of portability, nothing stops you from working on the go – literally. If you feel you need to record something, press the button and speak. Don’t let the thought slip out of your mind. Long gone are the days of having to rummage through the drawers to get a piece of paper or to pull out your phone.
The Senstone features:
- Immediate recording, everywhere: Always capture tasks and ideas you can’t afford losing.
- Available anytime: Imagine walking in the busy street or driving a car and capturing thoughts or reminders with the speed of thought. That is a personal assistant. Always with you.
- Speak and it comes out in text: Stay productive or foster your creative soul by capturing topic ideas for articles, podcasts or talks.
- Capturing everything: Being able to take notes on the go is critical — be it your personal goals, your breakthrough ideas or your travel journal.
- Create and work during other activities: Senstone is a standalone device so you can take notes and create lists when it’s not connected to your smartphone. It records for up to 2 hours when offline. Then it automatically syncs your notes in the cloud when you are back in range.
- Choose your style: The best material for Senstone to look and feel right. All models feature a scratch-proof tempered screen.
- Automatic Speech-to-Text: You speak and it automatically transcribes. Transcriptions are stored with audio.
- Maximum Recording: Up to 3 mins in one take. Designed for the convenience of quick capturing.
- Transcription Accuracy: 90% and higher
- Noise Reduction: Single microphone, short-range sensitivity.
- Security: All tracks are encrypted both on the device and during the transfer.
- 3-4 days of battery life: You can have 3 hours of continuous recordings or 1 week in standby mode.
- Daily Logs: The software platform does speech processing of voice memos and puts them into daily logs.
- Cloud: A recording stored on your phone is backed up with your Cloud account.
- Audio and Text: Store your notes with original audio files – everything in the app.
- Todos and Reminders: Create lists and reminders with the help of keywords, and hashtags. Search them by content and tags.
- Share: Edit and share the note with other people.
Subscription: More transcriptions and larger Cloud storage for all your recordings.
Senstone has really impressed both Dan and me. It takes a while to get into the swing of using it but, once you do, you will appreciate its power and simplicity. The creatives behind Senstone note, “Our long-standing vision has been to bypass the usual touchscreen and move forward with a more sophisticated but yet simple voice interface.” They have achieved that and much more, which is pretty cool by any standard, but considering this is a first-generation device, it’s even more impressive.
Senstone isn’t inexpensive. The basic kit with a Senstone, a collar clip, and a charging cable is $179; if you get the version with all of that and the pendant attachment, it’s $199. And if you want more than 150 recordings a month it will cost you an additional $10 per month, or you can pay $300 for a lifetime subscription. That’s not an impulse buy, but if (like me) you have ever had a flash of insight only to forget it moments later, you may find Senstone to be worth every penny. I’m impressed, and I suspect you will be too.
UPDATE 04/21/2021: If you check the Senstone Kickstarter comment page as well as backer #1090 Tiffany Cheng’s comment below, it quickly becomes apparent that there are quite a few backers who never received their product. Even worse, for those of us who actually did receive a device, there are some other issues inherent with the Senstone product. After a little over a year of off and on use, the battery on my Senstone swelled to the point that the product’s casing burst open exposing the swollen battery. My device is now effectively useless, and the swollen battery is potentially dangerous. For those reasons, I can not recommend Senstone.
Senstone Portable Voice Assistant prices start at $179; they are available directly from the manufacturer.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Small and discreet; Battery lasts for 3 – 4 days or up to 3 continuous hours of recording; You can use it without your phone nearby and still record up to 2 hours of voice notes; Up to 3 minutes transcribed nearly immediately on your phone; 150 recordings and transcriptions per month for free
What Needs Improvement: It’s expensive; Update 04/21/2021: Many backers on Kickstarter never received their product, which is not a good recommendation for the company’s business practices; After a little over a year of use, the battery on mine has expanded to the point that the casing has popped open and the swollen battery is exposed — a potentially dangerous condition that rendered the Senstone useless #FAIL