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HolidayBuyer's Guide

The Peek: A solution looking for a problem?

A blog post linking to a review of Peek, an e-mail-only handheld.

Peek, a device that does e-mail and only e-mail
Peek is a device that does e-mail and only e-mail. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

Last Thursday, I took a look at Peek, a handheld device that does e-mail, and only e-mail. And by the end of the review, I was left wondering if I was missing something. Do people really want an e-mail-only device? Are there people out there who have cell phones, but want another gadget just for checking e-mail?

And it's not like the Peek has an Internet browser, or an instant-messaging client, or a personal organizer. No, all it does is e-mail. That's it. It's not even compatible with Microsoft Exchange, so we can't say it'd be good for corporate use.

And if that doesn't make you skeptical about it, the Peek costs a whopping $100. plus it has a $20 monthly fee. Sure there are no pesky cell phone contracts involved, but what good is having an unlocked device if it isn't a phone?

Now, this is not to say the device itself is bad. On the contrary, we like the Peek's ease of use, and the QWERTY keyboard is a joy to type on. I also really like the jog dial on the side, which lets you scroll through messages quickly and easily. Importing your e-mail account is as easy as entering in your e-mail address and password (do note that it uses POP and not IMAP, so you'll end up deleting e-mail from both in-boxes, which is a pain). The battery life is also pretty good, lasting about two or three days with a typical day's usage.

But, well, that's about it. Peek claims that its value is its simplicity, and we can't fault them for that. But for such a simple device, shouldn't it be cheaper?

I polled several of my non-geek friends to see if the Peek interested them. All of them said it held no interest, and the reasons were something like: "I don't check e-mail often enough to need it," "My cell phone already gets e-mail," and "It's too expensive for what it does." I find it funny that Peek's own company blog goes on about the evils of cell phone companies (which I admit are many), but it's also marketing the Peek as a secondary handheld for people who already have cell phones.

Unless Peek is supposed to be a total substitution for a cell phone, I really don't see the point. Not to mention that the Peek itself utilizes T-Mobile as its provider (we found a T-Mobile SIM card in our review unit), so I find the whole anti-cell-phone-company thing a little disingenuous.

I'll concede that the only way the Peek makes sense is if you don't have a cell phone but you want e-mail. Which is fine, but how many people don't have cell phones these days?

That said, I'm willing to admit I'm wrong. If you honestly want something like the Peek despite its cost, please leave a comment saying so. If you don't, well, leave a comment saying that so I know I'm not alone.