The $500 Freewrite word processor is pretentious hipster nonsense


We see a lot of ridiculous tech products in our inboxes — everything from a connected toothbrush to a belt that loosens as you eat too much. But the Freewrite, which calls itself the “world’s first smart typewriter,” is ridiculous on another level.

The Freewrite is a $500 word processor. The device, which has Wi-Fi, a 5.5-inch e-ink screen and a mechanical keyboard, is designed to be a single-purpose writing tool. Files on the device are stored in plain text and can sync with Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote.

Basically, it’s like a number of distraction-free writing apps that already exist for iOS, Android, Chrome and OS X — but in a device that weighs four pounds (slightly less than a Macbook pro) and has a tiny screen. For the same price, you could have a 16GB iPad Air 2.

The device — intitally called the Hemingwrite — raised nearly $350,000 on Kickstarter at the end of 2014.

Today, the Freewrite is available for pre-order in a 24-hour flash sale for $449. The price will go up to $550, and is expected to start shipping in March.

We appreciate that there is a niche group of writers who will want something like the Freewrite. There are plenty in the media who love the idea. But we still can’t wrap our minds around a $500 word processor in 2016.

When one considers that similar devices, such as the Alphasmart Neo are closer to $50 — albeit without cloud connectivity — charging this much money for this type of product seems insane.

When the news was posted to our Slack channel, we couldn’t stop talking about just how much dumb this entire idea is. Below is a lightly-edited transcript of our reaction:

Christina and Karissa attempt to understand why this exists

Christina: Let’s talk about what this is. This is a four pound typewriter with a tiny electronic screen, Wi-Fi and the ability to save text files to your Dropbox account. Am I missing anything?

Karissa: Yup, it’s basically a word processor. Remember those?

Christina: Vaguely. My mom and dad had one in the 80s. And then we got Windows 3.11 like everyone else.

Karissa: Yeah, because everyone realized computers are superior technology. And typing on a tiny screen is painful.

Christina: It’s totally painful. And while I understand the need for distraction writing tools — there is an entire ecosystem of Mac and iPad apps for that very person. Byword, Drafts, Write, Hanx Write, Focused. I could go on. There are literally dozens of distraction free apps.



Karissa: And those are all FREE. Did we mention this thing costs nearly $500?? That’s like half a MacBook Air, or the price of a good Chromebook, which is actually useful for more than 15 minutes.

Christina: Oh and it weighs FOUR POUNDS. So it costs as much as an iPad Air 2. But it weighs four times as much. Seriously, buy an iPad Air 2, a keyboard and use a distraction-free writing app.

One of the “selling points” of this product is it can’t access the Internet. So you can’t get distracted. It backs stuff up to the cloud, but it won’t let you access other stuff. But here’s the thing — anyone who is using this is also going to have their phone on them. And guess what? Your phone will distract you if you want to be distracted.

Take it from me. I’ve been sifting through legal documents for the last week and my phone has still made sure I’m earning my stars in Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood.


But can you really put a price on being “that guy” who brings the 4-pound aluminum word processor to a coffee shop??

But can you really put a price on being “that guy” who brings the 4-pound aluminum word processor to a coffee shop??Christina: I wonder if that is more or less than the price of being the guy who brings his iMac to Starbucks.



OK, but let’s talk about the press response to this thing, KB. The press is FAWNING all over this. What do they see that we don’t get?

Karissa: Of course they are. This hits the sweet spot of obsolete tech no one ever really liked made (slightly) relevant again.

Christina: This is a great point. Look, I understand the appeal of retro tech. I’m very seriously considering buying one of the new Fuji InstaPix cameras because I really, really miss my old Polaroid. I like playing retro video games. I love analog tech. But this is just going too far.

This is literally a $500 word processor with a tiny-ass screen that weighs a ton that will appeal to the same people that make taking the G train so insufferable.

Karissa: Also, it’s not analog. I get why some people may enjoy writing on typewriters. This is not the same thing. But I think what the creators are trying to tap into is that writing is a very personal thing and some people really prefer this type of experience, or think they would prefer it.

Did you see the photos of it in use? It looks physically painful — you have to hunch over a tiny screen while balancing a 4-pound brick on your lap, that can’t be healthy.

Christina: Totally. And even though the screen is e-paper, it still can’t be great for your eyes to focus on that small of a screen.

In an interview with Wired, the co-founder of the company behind the Freewrite said, and I have to quote the whole thing, “Everyone, particularly the millennial generation, understands that we now have to fight for our own attention from the outside world. Instead of allowing it to be a general purpose computer, we focused on one purpose, making the best possible writing experience.”

Dude. I’m an older millennial. You’re a younger millennial. Do you actually think a single-purpose device like this will offer a better writing experience? I mean, I spend at least 10 hours a day in front of a keyboard. I can’t imagine trying to write with only a few viewable lines at a time. Can you?



Karissa: If I had to imagine writer hell, that’s how I envision it. Yes, getting distracted is a huge problem but it also makes writing a lot easier to, you know, have access to the Internet and stuff. Can you imagine writing for hours and not being able to quickly look up an article or the definition of a word? Even if you only write fiction, I can’t imagine writing for any length of time without easy access to the Internet or the ability to easily go back and re-read my last 3 paragraphs.

Christina: Can we talk about price for a second? Because this is where I just threw up my hands and laughed. Look. I get that a small, vocal number of creatives who think they really are the next coming of Hemingway (or at the very least, David Foster Wallace — gotta get in thatInfinite Jest reference on its birthday) could be attracted to this product.

If I see you at the coffee shop using this, I’ll laugh at you — but I can sort of understand how some people would find it appealing.

What I cannot understand is in what universe, this is a product that can actually sell for $500 ($550 after pre-orders are over). Like, forget about having rose gold Beats headphones (guilty), the ultimate sign that you have too much disposable income is to have one of these things.

Karissa: It’s totally pretentious. I reached out to the company and asked them why it costs so much and here’s what they told me:

The price is based on the cost of the components, it is not much more complicated than that. The mechanical keyboard and screen make up the majority of the cost and these were two things that we didn’t want to skimp on. Buying a good external mechanical keyboard for your desktop/laptop costs between $125 and $250. Add in a Kindle at normal market prices (Amazon makes money on ebooks, not the hardware) and a professional quality device and you get to where the price is. Even the kindle came out way back at $399!

If we could charge less and keep the same quality, we would!

Ok, so it’s not plastic. But It’s almost worse to have a “premium” version of this thing than a cheap plasticky one.

Christina: This screams “Kickstarter project that didn’t know how much it would actually cost to build the thing they sold to a fawning public at scale” to me. Quality components are great, but $500?! Again, this is as much as an iPad Air 2.

Karissa: For something you’ll probably uses once or twice and then put away and never use again.

Christina: Yup. You know why I think this product really upsets me? I buy everything. Like, seriously. I buy everything. I’m every horrible stereotype you can think of of an early adopter crossed with a label whore. I’m actually the worst type of consumer. But even me — someone who once backed an Instagram digital photo frame — is like, “you know what, I’m good.” Like this is too pretentious, even for me.

Karissa: I really hope I see someone using one of these in public. Also, does this mean we’ve reached peak Kickstarter? I hope not.