Smart phones, such as the Apple iPhone or BlackBerry Curve, put so much functionality into one device that, for the novice user, just figuring out how to set up e-mail can be a daunting task. Enter the Peek, a device that does e-mail and nothing more. It’s aimed at users who don’t want or need the sophistication of a smart phone—or the contracts that come with them. If you are willing to carry around two devices, the $99.95 Peek is simple and sleek, and its $19.95-per-month fee for data isn’t a bad deal. However, this Version 1.0 device has some drawbacks.
Sleek, Slim Design
The Peek isn’t a smart phone, but it sure looks like one. The front of the Peek is Charcoal Gray (also available in a Black Cherry and Aqua Blue), and its back has a silver metal finish. Comparing the Peek and the BlackBerry Curve 8330 from the side is like looking at weight-loss before-and-after pictures; the 4.0 x 2.7 x 0.4-inch Peek is very pocket-friendly, weighing a mere 3.8 ounces. The Curve 8330 measures 0.6 inches thick and weighs 4.0 ounces. Of course, those who carry the Peek will most likely be carrying a cell phone along with it.
The Peek’s 2.5-inch display is crisp, and we had no problem reading our e-mail outdoors on a sunny summer day. Above the screen on the left is an icon of an envelope, which flashes blue when a message arrives. The Peek has a minimalist design with only a scroll wheel and a back button on its right side and a charging port on its left. The power button is on the top.
Comfy Keyboard, Finicky Scroll Wheel
The rubber QWERTY keyboard on the Peek is spacious and extremely comfortable. The backlit, candy-button–size keys provided good feedback and are well spaced; within just a few minutes, we were typing e-mail addresses and messages at a brisk pace. Slightly different from the typical smart phone keyboard, the Peek has a dedicated row of number keys and an @ button. Our only complaint about the keyboard is that the space bar is relatively small, and we had to hit it harder than the other keys.
Like the early BlackBerrys, the Peek sports a side scroll wheel. Though the wheel allows for quick one-handed scrolling through messages, we found the plastic divots on it uncomfortable when paging through a long e-mail and when pressing it to make a selection. We would have preferred a thicker, rubber wheel like the one on the BlackBerry 8700c, or better yet a trackball or directional toggle like that on the Samsung BlackJack II.
Speedy E-mail Setup
Right from the setup process, the Peek hits a home run—providing an intuitive mobile e-mail experience. Unlike a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device, when the Peek is powered on for the first time, it prompts you to enter your name, e-mail address, and password. Peek immediately imports your e-mail contacts to the device. We set up our Gmail account, and within 2 minutes our contacts had all downloaded to our Peek address book.
You can add up to three e-mail addresses, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. However, those who may want to configure corporate IMAP or POP3 e-mail accounts with incoming/outgoing server information will have a tougher time, and Peek suggests calling its customer support for assistance.
Bare-Bones E-mail Functionality
Peek built its own simple interface for this device: The main screen is your inbox. A press of the scroll wheel brings up the typical e-mail options, including composing a new message and forwarding or replying to a message. You can also access folders for your sent, received, saved, and deleted e-mails. To our dismay, all the messages from our accounts fed into the one inbox, which means separating work and personal messages isn’t possible. A menu with two separate e-mail inboxes would have been ideal for users who plan to use the device for work and play.
Most of the functions you would want on a mobile e-mail device are present, but we wish there were a search option to allow you to find messages from a specific contact or with a specific word in the subject line. While the Peek can handle opening a JPEG picture attachment, it can’t open Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, or any other file type.
The Peek uses T-Mobile’s GPRS network for data. We found that our Peek device didn’t send or receive e-mails as quickly as our BlackBerry Curve. It took the Peek 2 minutes longer to receive a message than the Curve did. Similarly, when we sent an e-mail from the Peek and Curve at the same time, the one sent from the Curve arrived faster. According to the company, the device will send/receive on average every 5 minutes, but it does vary by e-mail provider. Users can force the transfer by selecting the manual Send/Receive option.
Monthly Fee, No Contract
The Peek device costs $99.95, and service costs $19.95 per month. Unlike most cell phone contracts, you can pay month-to-month for the all-you-can-eat e-mail functionality; you simply input your credit card information on the device. Though T-Mobile provides data service on the back end, Peek customers never need to interact with the carrier itself.
Peek’s monthly fee may or may not be attractive depending on the cell phone carrier you have. For instance, a T-Mobile subscriber’s best bet is the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 ($99.99 with contract) and the carrier’s $9.99-per-month e-mail–only plan. Verizon Wireless customers must shell out $29.99 for the E-mail and Web for BlackBerry plan. AT&T customers pay $30 per month for the PDA Personal plan, which includes unlimited data usage for smart phones such as the Palm Centro. However, if you want to add just e-mail functionality to a regular cell phone with a keyboard, like Verizon Wireless’ LG enV2, Verizon charges $15.00 a month for unlimited access to Mobile Web 2.0 features, including e-mail access.
We do wish that the Peek had Wi-Fi capability; users who were planning to check their e-mail only while on their home network or in a hotspot wouldn’t have to shell out the extra dough to get their messages.
The Peek’s battery is rated for up to 5 days of use on a charge. After 24 hours of sending and reading e-mails while out and about our device still had 50 percent battery remaining. You may be able to get through Peek’s claimed 5-day duration, provided you aren’t sending e-mails every minute.
Like the Flip Video is to camcorders, the Peek is a wonderfully simple device dedicated to e-mail. The question for users is whether it’s worth carrying around an extra device for e-mail only, rather than going the route of a sleek smart phone like the Palm Centro or BlackBerry Pearl. Though we wish it had a more comfortable scroll wheel and integrated Wi-Fi, the Peek is a good choice for someone who wants a device for e-mail and nothing but.