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Review of the Peek email handheld

Review by Michael Oryl on Monday September 15, 2008.

bluetooth / wireless reviews · peek news · bluetooth / wireless news · michael oryl

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The Peek is a bit of an odd device in today's age of smartphones. It harkens back to the days of the early BlackBerry devices in that it supports only email - nothing else. Heck, even the BlackBerry devices did more than email back then. So what is the purpose of the Peek, and who is the target audience for this newly available email handheld device? We're honestly not quite sure.

Physical Aspects

This is not to say that I am not, on a whole, intrigued by and somewhat fond of the device. It's dimensions, 102mm x 68mm x 10/11mm (4.0" x 2.7" x .4"), make for quite a pocketable and easily held design. At 108.5g (3.8oz) in weight, it's not all that heavy. It also has some other good stuff going for it, as well. The full QWERTY keyboard is very nice, except for the space bar and missing '+' symbol, and its 2.5" QVGA (320x240 pixel) display is a good size and can pack a fair amount of text in one screenful. The back of the device consists of a dark plastic and a dimpled metal cover that conceals the battery and the T-Mobile SIM card. The main navigation on the device is handled by the clickable scroll wheel and the back button, which are located on the right hand edge of the Peek. A thin cover protects the power port, which is, I'm very happy to say, compatible with any standard micro-USB cable or charger. So on the surface, at least, the overall design of the Peek seems quite good.

The Peek works on T-Mobile's GPRS network, and supports the 850, 1800, and 1900MHz GSM bands, which means that it can, theoretically, work in Europe. It's battery is rated for 4 or 5 days or typical use, and we managed to get 4 solid days out of it without any trouble at all. The Peek website states that the Peek runs PeekUX, which implies that it runs on some sort of embedded Linux operating system. The spec sheet claims that retail versions of the Peek ship with a carrying case, though our review unit did not.

Using It

In terms of basic email support, the Peek performs well enough. Up to 3 accounts can be added to the device (one shared inbox), but they all have to be from fairly well-known email providers like AOL, Hotmail, or Gmail. This means that you can't hook up the device to your personal or corporate IMAP or POP based email server, and the Peek in no way supports any form of enterprise email - so wipe that thought from your mind. But in its defense, it is exceedingly easy to add an email account to the Peek, and the device will even download the contacts from supported email systems. It literally takes only a few seconds to add an account to the Peek: enter your email address and your password, and indicate if you want it to download contacts or not. That's it. Totally painless.

The email viewer is pretty straightforward, and doesn't offer much in terms of customizations - you can't set the font size, for example. But you can read email easily enough, and the email reader can even download and display simple images. Other types of attachments are not supported at all, and would quickly fill up the Peek's paltry 8MB of storage space in any event. The inbox, which is the main screen on the Peek, is also quite simple. You can scroll up and down with the scroll-wheel to highlight a message, and then click the scroll-wheel to bring up a menu. From that pop-up menu you can create reply or forward the message, create a new message, or access the contacts list or the Peek manager (settings). There's even support for marking a message read or unread, and the Peek gives has separate folders for drafts, trash, sent, and saved messages as well that can be accessed from the menu.

One of the shortcomings in the Peek is the speed of the user interface. With only a simple 104MHz ARM7 processor, scrolling on the Peek can be painfully slow at times. Long lists of messages in the inbox, a large contact list, or even a long message can all be a bit daunting at times for the Peek's little brain. The Peek designers could have eased the burden a bit by letting users type a letter or two to skip ahead in long lists, such as contacts, but failed to do so. This means that you can spend a few minutes scrolling to the end of a long list of contacts. While the shift key can be used with the scroll-wheel to select multiple contacts at once, deleting a few hundred contacts mistakenly downloaded from Gmail, ahem, can take a very, very long time.

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Corey @ 10:51:20AM EDT on Tuesday March 24, 2009

The Peek is great when you hear about it online or in the videos. But when it comes to really using it it lacks in its ability to actually recieve e-mail and text messages. When I send a message to my Peek Mobile it takes ten or more minutes for it to arrive in my inbox. The software is also very slow for a device that cost as much as it does. Dont get me wrong I love having my Peek and I could not see me without it, I just wish it was faster and could do more than what it already does. Maybe instant messaging could be something the Peek Mobile team could look into.

Peekaboo @ 2:53:59AM EDT on Saturday April 4, 2009

Costco has this for $399 with a lifetime of free e-mail service. It becomes a value proposition for people who doesn't want to pay the $20-30 monthly service that the phone carriers charge (if you're getting e-mails from your phone), if they won't mind carrying around a 2nd device in their pockets.

Dan @ 7:09:29PM EDT on Thursday May 28, 2009

If I could give this little thing ZERO stars I would. First of all... SLOW! It is miserably slow. I am a HARDCORE techie, and I can tell you this device is JUNK. If you do nothing other than three sentence emails maybe it would work for you, but... only if you don't mind WAITING for it to get your email sometimes HOURS. I used it with GMAIL, and HOTMAIL and another POP server and the performance was abysmal! It costs twenty per month for the account, although you can reduce that to about seventeen by subscribing for three month intervals. The device is fifty. No considering that you can get an HTC Touch Windows mobile device for Seventy from most carriers I wouldn't bother with the PEEK. The billing system is automatic and will keep renewing until you cancel it, and don't cancel it in the middle of a cycle unless you don't mind losing the money from the remainder. There are NO refunds for partial months. Besides all this you have to carry and charge two devices now instead of one. It has a micro USB jack, so unless your phone had the micro and not the MINI your existing phone chargers won't work. That gets tedious very quickly. It is self-contained and uses the TMobile network for data services. What you see here is all you need for great slow text-only email only service (with no attachments) service. (ok, sometimes you can get it to show a picture that is attached) There aren't many current reviews on this thing and I haven't seen an ad for months. I think it is going the way of the Dodo bird. My advice: Get a cell phone with email you will be MUCH happier! My carrier has email service for fourteen per month.

Ruvonne @ 2:50:13PM EDT on Thursday October 15, 2009

this was very helpful to me in seeing what it was all about thanks

Derrick @ 12:26:01PM EST on Friday December 18, 2009

You can buy cellphones that do what the peek does and only have to carry one device. My wife and I had the peek for a few months and we really liked having email in our pockets, but @ 20.00 a month it was just too expensive. we recently updated our phones to the Samsung Freeform on Metro PCS and we are much happier. We spend 90 a month for a total of 3 phones. 2 of those phones are the Freeform. These phones connect to my hotmail and yahoo mail, they have instant messenger service, GPS navigation, an MP3 player, a camera, and internet all for just $90 a month. There is no seperate vioce and data charges.

Metro PCS isn't the only carrier to offer the flat rate talk and text all you want plans. AT&T go phone does the same thing and so does Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile.

Our Peeks just did email, and they did it quite poorly. There were always outages in the service. You got emails late or sometimes there would be glitches in the service and you would get tons of duplicate emails from 2 days ago.

If you shop around you can get a device that does everything the peek does and more and probably lower your communications bills as well. In my opinion the Peek is a waste of time and money.

About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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