One of the things that I can hardly do without is my email. My iPhone checks email, but the experience is somewhat lacking, and the software keyboard is good for short messages, but not long emails. On Valentine’s Day, I stopped by my mail box and found a Peek email device waiting for me. I was very excited to take it for a test drive and I carried it around for a week, having it constantly download email and remind me about new messages.
Simplicity in design
The Peek’s design is nothing innovative or shocking, but then it doesn’t neet to be, either. This device has one purpose and that’s to let you read and send emails while on the go. On the front is a decently sized screen and a full keyboard. The screen is very bright and easy to read, which is a plus because I was walking around or in a moving car most of the time I was looking at it. The keyboard is more than just the full qwerty. It also includes a lock key and a couple of the special keys are moved to support it’s intended use. For example, you’ll never have to hit SHIFT to get the @ symbol on this thing, making it easier to type in email addresses.
The left side of the Peek has a microUSB port which can be used to charge the battery or connect it to your computer. On the right is a scroll wheel and a univesral back button. It’s designed for right-handers like me to scroll with the flick of the thumb, but the scroll wheel doesn’t seem to move too fluidly, although I prefer that to one that moves every time you accidentally brush against it. The scroll wheel can also be pressed in towards the screen to launch a menu and make selections. Above the screen, there is also a small envelope image that flashes blue when you have new emails.
Getting set up
When you start the Peek up for the first time, you’re greeted with a welcome screen while it searches for service. Once it connects to the network, you’re ready to go through (or skip) the small walk through and start adding email accounts. One thing that I liked right away was that I didn’t have to set up anything to get connected. The Peek connects to its own network, so there’s no need to hunt down a network administrator and type in a bunch of information. Instead, it’s pre-configured to connect to the only network it needs. The simple setup involves just entering your first and last name, email address, and your email password. When setting up my work email account, my Peek told me that it doesn’t support that type of account and that I need to call Peek support for help. I tried with a different account, which took about 30 seconds to validate before informing me that the setup was complete. The advantage here is that the simple, one screen setup got into one of my accounts so easily that pretty much anyone could get up and running on this thing without outside help. The disadvantage of this extreme simplification is that even a super geek like me will need to call for help with certain types of accounts. Future versions of the operating software might benefit from an option to enter an advanced setup screen to provide more information if known. Not only would this free up the phones more for those customers who really need the help, but it would allow someone like me to get up and running a little faster.
Sending and receiving email
One of the things that I really liked about the Peek was the ability to read emails on the screen clearly and without a lot of effort.
The screen is bright, and for me the font and text size were perfectly suited for easy reading. Deleting emails was pretty simple, almost too simple, in fact. I once hit the delete button while reading an email, thinking it was the “back” button, and my email vanished. Maybe the next Peek could have a red delete button for those of us who move too quickly. I also had problems trying to delete more than one email, when a feature that I was pretty happy about didn’t work very smoothly. If you want to delete multiple emails, you just hold down the Shift key and scroll to highlight the emails to delete. When doing this, it would often think I released the Shift key, unhighlighting everything I had highlighted. I don’t know if this was due to new emails coming in or some other factor, but it made deleting a lot of email at once a little more difficult.
Sending email was simple, as well. I simply told it I wanted to send an email by way of a click, a scroll, and a second click, entered a recipient and a subject and then wrote my short email. You can also select a contact and use the contact’s menu to send an email to them. The new email will already include your signature, which defaults to “Sent on the go from my Peek”, but can be changed in the email account settings. I hoped to find a “SEND” button on the screen. Instead, the Peek has you click in the scroll wheel and choose “Send”. This, perhaps, is because there are some additional options in the email menu, like “CC:”, “BCC:”, and “Save as a Draft”, which is great if you want to read through and reply to emails on that long flight while in “Airplane mode”. I’d still like to see a “SEND” button, but I’m happy to have the other features there, too.
While the Peek includes plenty of options and settings like themes, different sounds and alerts, display settings (standard, battery saver, or battery hog), airplane mode, date and time (network or self-set), and security lock, unlike some other full-featured devices, it remembered what it was designed for, and that’s to read and send emails on the go. Little things like BCC: and Save as a Draft, are the type of really appreciated features that can be easily forgotten or set aside in lieu of a camera or some other non-email selling point, and I’m glad that hasn’t happened here.
For a techie like me, it seems a bit unnecessary, as I already have a phone that reads email and I take my laptop when I travel. For the business traveler or anyone else with a phone that doesn’t read email, it’s the perfect solution for a reasonable monthly fee. As long as it isn’t side-tracked in the future with built-in instant messaging, a camera, or other non-email junk, the Peek should remain the obvious choice for those who just want an ultra-portable email-only solution.