A power user expects a phone to be an all-in-one communication/personal entertainment device that includes a web browser, GPS, media player, camera, SMS, and IM. However, if you only want to make calls and check your email, a smartphone doesn’t make much economic sense. The initial cost is high and monthly data plans are also expensive. Peek hopes its eponymous email-only device will catch on with people who want email on the go but not the other smartphone accoutrements.
The Peek is a slim (4.0”x2.7”x 0.4”) handheld email device with a bright 320x240 screen. It retails for $80 with a $20 monthly data plan. And if all you want is email, the Peek gets the job done—with some caveats. For a casual user, the device’s limitations may be inconsequential, but tech-savvy individuals will find the shortcomings to be deal breakers.
To get started, you simply enter the addresses and passwords of up to three accounts; the major providers—AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo—and numerous ISP-based services are supported. If you register multiple accounts, though, all your email will be dumped into one folder, and you can’t create additional folders, making organization of incoming mail a challenge.
Limited support for attachments is a larger issue. The Peek can open most image-file types, including JPEGs and GIFs, but there’s a size limit of 6MB per attachment and the device slows to a crawl as it tries to open images. Word docs, PDFs, and other types of attachments are not supported, though a spokesperson promised support for additional attachment types in 2009.
Peek leases bandwidth from a wireless phone provider and has stated that its coverage is “nationwide.” While we had no problems connecting, sending, or receiving email anywhere in the Bay Area, if you live in an area with spotty cell reception, your experience may differ. This isn’t push email, though—we generally waited five to eight minutes for mail to arrive.
Within the narrow focus of what it promises to deliver, the Peek succeeds. Just who would find this device appealing, though, is something of a mystery.