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TwitterPeek review

TwitterPeek review
Laura June Dziuban
Laura June Dziuban|November 5, 2009 3:19 PM
Peek is a company with ideas -- but they like to tackle them one at a time. Last year, amid snickering and cries of uselessness from the gadget world, the tiny company launched an email-only handheld that's attempted to bring the idea of email on the go to the smartphone fearing crowd... and we do know at least one avid user. Now the company has turned around and tried it again, this time with a seemingly even less essential device, the TwitterPeek.

The TwitterPeek works in conjunction with Twitter, and only with Twitter. It's that simple. There's nothing else to figure out or set up, so presumably, the idea is that the device, like the original Peek, is intended for the dumbphone lover who just can't go without a constant stream of Tweets. So, fair enough -- those of us who are more than a little tech savvy may find reason to smile at this, but supposedly this will be attractive to someone. Right?

So how did the TwitterPeek fare when we got our mitts on it? Read on to find out.

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The TwitterPeek is identical to the standard Peek we've already seen, so we won't spend a bunch of time going over the hardware -- though we should at least mention that while photographing it for the gallery you see above, we were reminded of how great looking this thing really is. Even after plenty of time with the original, the IDEO-designed device still stands out as an object of lust.

Regardless, setup -- as you might imagine -- is relatively foolproof (basically just a matter of plugging in your Twitter account details). We should note that while we could tweet right away as well as access our list of followers and those we follow, it took about an hour and two restarts to get the TwitterPeek to populate with our feed. It's seems a bit ironic to us that a device which is supposedly geared towards the always-on, non-stop chatter of the Twitterverse would take 45 minutes to show you your friends latest messages. Once we started getting updates, things seemed fine, but there were a few issues that made using the device less than pleasant.

The TwitterPeek essentially presents a stream of Tweets as if they were the subject lines of emails, so when a new Tweet shows up in your updates, you don't just read it -- because it's been truncated. That's right, the Twitter Peek truncates a 140 character message down to about 26, as far as we can tell. Now, this is obviously done to conserve space and retain the "stream" effect of Twitter, allowing you to see a pile of tweets on the screen at once. Problem is, if you want to see the whole tweet, you have to scroll to it, push the scroll wheel (we love Peek's wheel, we really do), and then choose "view Tweet" from the menu. It's really far too many steps just to see that @Trixxy is pondering an RV romp across the US of A with his family. There is a way to quickly move through tweets one at a time using keyboard shortcuts (like jumping through messages in Gmail), but you can only see one update per page -- not really that useful when you follow lots of people.

And did we mention the device isn't what we'd describe as snappy... at all? We found the speed at which you move through the very basic UI to be somewhat maddening. It's not unusable, but it's not Twitter-fast, or even SMS-fast. You constantly feel as if you're waiting for the TwitterPeek to catch up to your selections. There's also a noticeable lag time between updates, meaning you don't get Tweets in real time -- another oddly ironic aspect of this single-use handheld.

Most of our concerns with the device are in line with this one -- too many steps or too much lag for far too little of a reward. This is, after all, Twitter we're talking about. Do you really want to carry around an entirely separate device meant to do one thing and one thing alone that still doesn't really work that well? This should be the ultimate Twittering device, but much of its operation feels like an afterthought.

On the plus side, actually tweeting and replying to direct messages on this thing is pretty enjoyable, largely because of the Peek's solid hardware and comfortable keyboard. We'd argue that the pricing seems fair -- $99 for six months of service, or $199 for lifetime use -- but it's hard to call it a value when the TwitterPeek doesn't seem like a very good or well executed idea.

So the question is ultimately whether or not this device is worth the money you'd spend on it. For us -- and the gadget geeks we know -- the answer is easy. There's nothing happening with the TwitterPeek that isn't done as well (but probably better) by any reasonable smartphone (or even most featurephones and dumbphones these days). So who is this thing for? We know it's not us, but it seems like there might be some segment of the market that's after something so single-minded and simple to use. Is it our moms? Our dads? Is it tweens? We don't know for sure... and we're not convinced Peek does either.
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