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I think there’s a market for the Peek

Quite a few folk across the web are talking about The Peek. It’s an email-only device — think Blackberry but without any features (e.g. phone, browser).

It’s America-only at the moment and is being sold in Target supermarkets from today for $100 and a fixed service fee of $20 a month. Here’s what it looks like:

Picture 6

If you simply want mobile email… and JUST mobile email then the Peek looks like a good idea. The experience, according to Eric over at The Oregonian isn’t entirely brilliant. He had a few surmountable challenges getting it to work.

I do like the concept though. I like the idea of normobs being able to buy mobile email simply and easily.

(I’d like it even more if there wasn’t a monthly fee — I’m thinking something like the PocketSurfer2, for example.)

As Eric points out in his piece, the Peek is definitely not aimed at business people. ‘Soccer moms’ are the target suggestion — or teenagers. Although I reckon teenagers would much rather have a smartphone of sorts.

Although I haven’t had hands-on with the device, I can imagine getting one for my mother. What d’ya think?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

14 replies on “I think there’s a market for the Peek”

Here's the AP review that appeared last week, and it's pretty damning as far as I see.

The overall experience looks to be fairly rubbish.

In the developing world the 1-day battery life would be a killer. If you're going to save up a month's wages to buy one thing, it better do more than email. And for the developed world, the expectation of battery life & speed wouldn't be met. Between work, cafe's & home web-based email is never far away, leaving the uber-email junkies. They just would not accept this level of low speed and restriction – no Exchange support, no HTML content, not push (major omission IMHO, from a firm that owns the E2E experience. Why not do a protocol a la Lemonade / Emoze / MoMail?).

My money's on this one slowly glugging into the bargain bin, to the distinct whiff of burning VC money….

:

“(AP) — It's hard to remember now, but the first BlackBerry devices weren't phones. They were two-way e-mail pagers that couldn't be used for calls. Now a New York-based startup is betting it can fill the niche the BlackBerry abandoned. It has made a sleek, $100 e-mail pager called the Peek that hits Target Corp. stores Monday.

The goal of the Peek is to reach the people who don't already have e-mail on their phones and may be intimidated by today's feature-rich “smart” phones, like BlackBerrys, BlackJacks and iPhones. The Peek does e-mail and nothing more: no phone calls, no Web surfing, no camera. The service fee is $20 a month, with no contract.

Conscious minimalism is rare in gadgets, and usually welcome. But it's hard to see the Peek being a big hit. If you do one thing, you're supposed to do it well, and I have a few too many reservations about the Peek.

But to start with the good, the hardware is tasteful. The tablet, 4 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide, is covered by rubber on the front and metal on the back. It has a full-alphabet keyboard with generous spacing between the keys for easy typing. The keys are backlit. The color screen is sharp and relatively large, with a 2.5-inch diagonal. It's not touch-sensitive, so you control the device with a scroll wheel on the side, just like older BlackBerrys.

It's reasonably easy to set up for the Web-based e-mail services of Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The service fee compares well to the data plans that are required for e-mail service on a cell phone. These are usually around $30 a month, in addition to the voice plan. Peek Inc. founder Amol Sarva assures me that there's nothing tacked on to the monthly fee, unlike cell phone bills, where a $70 monthly plan comes in as $80 or so.

So what's not to like? Well, the Peek is slow. It's partly because it's sluggish to react to the user (perhaps because the processor is a model called “LoCosto” – not a joke), partly because the interface is a bit cumbersome. You need to do at least three things to start creating a new e-mail: press the wheel in, roll it down one step, press again.

The Peek is also slow to get new e-mail. It checks for new e-mail every four or five minutes, and when I tested it, it sometimes took even longer for new messages to show up on the device. This makes it impossible to conduct quick back-and-forth exchanges, which you can do with BlackBerrys and several other e-mail-enabled phones.

The Peek can receive and show pictures attached to e-mails, but because it uses one of the slowest still-extant wireless data networks, the images take forever to appear (“forever” is defined as 90 seconds when it comes to waiting for a picture to appear after you've clicked on it).

The Peek isn't really designed to get office e-mail. You can get it if your corporate e-mail servers have unusually lax security settings. If they don't, you could forward your work e-mail automatically to a free Web-based account connected to the Peek, but if your IT department catches you doing this, they will consider you a risky character and glower at you in the hallways.

Also, the Peek's software is not upgradable. This is going to limit the company's ability to fix bugs and introduce new features, though it does have some leeway because it manages the servers that relay the mail. Sarva said the company is looking at providing more support for corporate e-mail, and possibly instant messaging and text messaging.

Despite its limited capabilities, the Peek's battery life is not outstanding. My test indicated that the Peek needs to be charged at least every other day if in use, and possibly every day. That makes it more of a hassle to carry this extra device.

So even though the Peek is relatively simple and inexpensive, I think most people would be better off with a smart phone.

The people who would be best served by this device are those who have a cell phone but don't use it much and are on a prepaid plan. Prepaid service, and the phones that come along with it, are otherwise tough to combine with mobile e-mail. For these people, the Peek will do an acceptable if not outstanding job, and since there's no contract, it's a comparatively inexpensive thing to try. It does one thing, and it does it just OK. “

Hmm.. can't see this working out – I personally wouldn't get one and I am an uber gagdet freak.

Make it a one off fee and no monthly then maybe.. and a few more firmware releases too by the sounds of it! 🙂

Mark

its doomed.

$20 would be £12?+ a month here
for that money why would you.
you can get a lg ks360 for £59 PAYG on orange
or a winmob with qwerty for £99.
or a sidekick etc.

people would want convergent devices. but as a market the mumberry is largly untapped.

It's a neat idea. But given that you can get BlackBerrys free on a £20ish contract, I don't really see the point.
If it could use WiFi rather than the phone network, it might not be such a bad product.

hmmm….everything points to people actually *not* wanting converged devices.

In fact, wanting the opposite. Hence the huge market for the $100 Flip, alongside the 100%-saturation, huge market for Digicams that almost inevitably can do better video than the Flip for free. But the Flip is elegant, and crucially simple. And iPods, when mostly any phone newer than 2 years can play music as well.

Converge devices and you double the battery demand, clutter the UI and halve your redundancy. Eggs in one basket -> basket gets dropped -> no more eggs.

No, this will fail because it is a poor implementation. They don't care about corporates, and I agree, although there would be plenty of small businesses who might like mobile email and nothing else. If it was 3G, with open-source attachment support (Word / PDF, AVI, maybe MP3) and had a battery that lasted a week, I'd be sold. But maybe even that meagre feature list is too geek for the masses to care.

But you are correct re price.

Not my personal opinion but I counted over 10 of my friends who'd rather have an email-only device. I have a friend in a finance company who needs to carry a b'berry for work email. However, she does not need to receive/make calls on it, just email, she doesn't even know the phone number on the device! Of course she will be happy with an emai-only gadget

However, at that price and specs, the Peek won't do

Er….do the mass market purchase gimmicks at $100 a pop? I doubt it.

Actually, the Flip is purchased not by gadget freaks, but by anti-gadget freaks, people who don't want features. People who want one-click, no options, easy upload to YouTube or their PC.

The difference between the Flip and the Peek is that the Peek is compromised by its omissions, the Flip is enhanced.

Time will tell.

Er….do the mass market purchase gimmicks at $100 a pop? I doubt it.

Actually, the Flip is purchased not by gadget freaks, but by anti-gadget freaks, people who don't want features. People who want one-click, no options, easy upload to YouTube or their PC.

The difference between the Flip and the Peek is that the Peek is compromised by its omissions, the Flip is enhanced.

Time will tell.

Not my personal opinion but I counted over 10 of my friends who'd rather have an email-only device. I have a friend in a finance company who needs to carry a b'berry for work email. However, she does not need to receive/make calls on it, just email, she doesn't even know the phone number on the device! Of course she will be happy with an emai-only gadget

However, at that price and specs, the Peek won't do

Er….do the mass market purchase gimmicks at $100 a pop? I doubt it.

Actually, the Flip is purchased not by gadget freaks, but by anti-gadget freaks, people who don't want features. People who want one-click, no options, easy upload to YouTube or their PC.

The difference between the Flip and the Peek is that the Peek is compromised by its omissions, the Flip is enhanced.

Time will tell.

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