Here's the Peek pitch: there are those of us who are dependent on e-mail, but don't want to get a smartphone--maybe because of pricing, or because smartphones can be pretty complicated for first-time users. So forget the BlackBerry, the Treo, and the iPhone; the people behind Peek wanted to introduce a mobile e-mail device for "everyday people." And they did. The Peek does e-mail, and only e-mail. It doesn't make calls, it doesn't browse the Web, and it doesn't even send and receive text messages. It is a dead-simple handheld dedicated to one primary function. Because of this simplicity, we wanted to like this, we really did. But its $100 pricing with a $20 monthly service plan just makes this single-use device a bit too costly for our liking, even if there's no contract or service agreement.
The most common comment we've heard about the Peek is that it looks a little like a business calculator. Indeed, it is wide, thin, and flat, with a black rubber front and a silver metal back. Measuring 4.02 inches long by 2.7 inches wide by 0.42 inch thick, the Peek has the dimensions of either a really big calculator or a really svelte BlackBerry. It's also incredibly lightweight at only 3.84 ounces and can be easily slipped into a pocket or purse.
Right on the front is a 2.5-inch diagonal QVGA display, which provides excellent resolution (240x320 pixels) and displays text clearly and legibly. Since the Peek is an e-mail-only device and doesn't even support HTML mail, there isn't much to look at in terms of graphics anyway. By default, the display is capable of showing at least eight messages in a list, which is fairly generous. Along the top of the display is the signal strength, the battery life, the date and time, and a circle that lights up when it's processing an action. You can also adjust the backlight time, and the color theme (there's Spring, Tangerine, and Dusk),
Underneath the display is one of the best QWERTY keyboards we've ever tried. It resembles a desktop or laptop computer keyboard, with the numbers arranged along the top. The keys are all raised above the surface, and are made out of a cushy rubber material, which made it a real pleasure to type. On the right spine is a jog dial, which can be used to scroll through the in-box and through individual messages. When pressed, the jog dial can select messages, as well as bring up a function menu. We really love the jog dial, as it makes navigating the messages incredibly easy.
Next to the jog dial is a Back button that lets you go back to the previous screen. On the left spine is the charger jack with a rubberized cover, while the power switch is on the top. Normally we don't mention battery cover construction, but we feel like we need to do so here. The battery cover of the Peek we received is flimsy to a fault. It appears to pop out at even the slightest nudge. This might be because the unit we received is not ready for market, and we hope they fix it in time.
As we mentioned, the Peek is an e-mail-only device, and it promises to make e-mail as easy as possible. It certainly delivers on its promise. Setting up an e-mail account is as easy as entering your name, e-mail address, password, and hitting Submit. Right now, Peek only works with Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL, with more e-mail providers being supported in the near future. You can add up to three e-mail accounts on each Peek, plus you can import your contacts over as well. Like most e-mail software, you can open, compose, reply, reply all, save, and delete e-mail. You can also mark them read or unread, and you have access to the Sent, Drafts, Saved, and Trash folders. As far as settings go, you can also set up the sounds and alerts for incoming messages.
Peek's e-mail system appears to work via POP and not IMAP, meaning you might have to do some juggling between in-boxes. For example, deleting e-mails on your Peek will not delete the e-mails in your e-mail account, and vice versa. A minor detail for those who don't care about such things, perhaps, but we found it highly irritating. Also, do note that the Peek receives its signal from regular cell towers (we found a T-Mobile SIM card in our device), so you do need to be in a good signal strength area to send and receive e-mails. Also, if you travel abroad, you might incur roaming charges.
Perhaps our biggest problem with the Peek is the concept itself. While we understand the need for simple devices such as this, we feel that it should be a lot cheaper for what it does. And if Peek wants to charge $100 for the device and a $20 monthly fee, then the device needs to do more than just e-mail. We suggest adding an instant-messaging function at the very least. Otherwise, the Peek just does not compare with other messaging phones like the Sidekick and the Centro, which both cost about the same, but offer so much more than just e-mail. In short, while the device works as promised, we just didn't think it was worth the money.
The Peek has a rated battery life of two to three days with "typical usage."