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E-mail on the go
By Nick Burklow

The Peek e-mail device was introduced in September 2008. Its job, to send and receive e-mail. That's all. The first time I read about the device, I thought to myself, "Man, what is the point?" I didn't even give it a second thought. Then I saw several tech Web sites publish reviews of the device. Out of curiosity I read the reviews, and I still didn't get it. A device that only does one thing, check e-mail, could never survive in today's marketplace. Then, Time magazine named it gadget of the year, beating out the T-Mobile G1 phone and Apple MacBook laptop. Maybe I should give this thing a chance after all.

So, that is what I did. The conclusion I came to is that this device is not meant for me. It is not intended for the hardcore techie, and it even says so on the packaging. It is, however, intended for the average Joe. Just who is that average Joe? I will get into that in a bit. First, you need an overview of the device.

The Peek is a sleek and, dare I say, sexy device. It's thin enough to give even the most thin smart phone a complex. It sports a 2.5-inch, 320x240 screen with a wide, easy-to-use, rubberized keyboard below.

On the right side you will find a scroll wheel used for navigation, and on the left a charging port. The power button is on the top.

Peek designed its own software to run on the device, and right from the first time you start up the device you see it's simple to use. The first time you power on your Peek, it prompts you for your e-mail address and password. Once entered, the Peek automatically sets up your account and imports your e-mail contacts to the device. You can set up three e-mail accounts. If for some reason your e-mail account cannot be automatically configured, you are unable to set it up manually. This was intentional, as Peek wants you to call its customer service line so that one of their representatives can do the dirty work for you. The goal is to make it as simple as possible for the end user.

The main screen on the Peek is your inbox. A press of the scroll wheel on the right of the device will bring up a menu giving you standard e-mail options such as compose, reply and forward, as well as the ability to view your saved, send and received e-mail folders.

The Peek runs on the T-Mobile's network. It automatically checks for new messages every five minutes with the option to manually check for new messages if you are impatient. When you do have a new message, a blue envelope glows at the top left side of the device. You also have the option to sound an audible alert, vibrate or do both upon receiving a new messages. There is a silent mode as well.

Recent upgrades to the Peek allow it to view .jpg file attachments and send text messages. To send a text message to someone, simply put the recipient's 10-digit phone number into the "To" field and type the message. The routing of the message is handled by Peek to ensure proper delivery.

That pretty much sums up what the device can do. It gives you unlimited mobile access to your e-mail, and it does it well. That is not to say that the device is free of flaws. For starters, if you set up more than one e-mail account, all your messages get filtered into one inbox. This makes it difficult to separate work from play. The Peek will not allow you to set up custom folders to sort and manage your messages. The omission of any kind of search function is a major drawback, too. All e-mails are reformatted to be displayed in plain text format, causing HTML e-mails to be difficult to read.

Complaints aside, the device seems to be well received and comes at a somewhat decent price. If you have a $100 and a Target store, you are halfway there. Another $20 per month for unlimited access to e-mail and you have a winner, it would seem. Although dropping that monthly fee to $15 or even $10 couldn't hurt. And for all you commitment-phobes out there, the Peek is contract-free.

Now, back to the big question at hand: Who is this device intended for? In my opinion, I would say this device would be perfect for teens or even tweens that want a cell phone but whose parents aren't ready to give them one. It would allow them to stay in contact without running up a huge cell phone bill. Outside of that group, anyone who has a regular cell phone but no interest in using a complex smart phone would benefit from this device, provided they like and use e-mail. To be honest, though, I'm not really sure who will buy the Peek. It's anyone's guess as to how well sales will be, and who will buy it.

The Peek e-mail device is a simple, no-nonsense product that does one thing and does it well. Being a Blackberry and iPhone user, I have had my e-mail on the go for years. I wouldn't have it any other way. For anyone who doesn't want to upgrade to a smart phone but likes their e-mail, I would highly recommend trying out the Peek e-mail device.

Wow, I got through the entire review without making a single "Take a peek at Peek" pun. Whew.



Nick's pick

One of the best parts about getting new gadgets in the mail is the packaging. Yes, I am referring to the almighty bubble wrap. Did you pop all the bubble wrap your stuff came in at Christmastime? No worries, ThinkGeek.com has you covered with its electronic bubble wrap key chain. It has eight buttons that simulate the sensation of popping those magnificent bubbles. As an added bonus, every 100th pop plays a silly sound, such as a bark, horn, or rude noise. Now that mankind has invented infinite bubble wrap, I can die a happy man. Check it out at ThinkGeek.com; it will run you $9.99 plus shipping.


Story published Friday, January 9, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 1 )

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