The Peek Pronto is a compact gadget with a QWERTY keyboard and a display that was designed from the ground up to serve one purpose, email. Since the Peek is a fairly unique device that sits a bit timidly or awkwardly amongst an emerging market of smart phones, one would need to ask, “Who is this device for?” The best answer would be for consumers who aren’t the most technologically adept, but have a reason or need to be able to check their emails on the go for an affordable price whether it might be for a small family business, for grandparents, or even for casual use. One thing needs to be made clear, the Peek isn’t a phone; it can’t make or receive calls. The device was designed for easy, quick, and simple access to emails with some additional features such as text messaging added on. The best way to describe it would be to use the company’s own slogan, “Simply Connected.”
The Body: 4.5/5 stars
The unit stands about 4 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide, and is under a half inch thick. This places it at about the size of most handheld devices, phones, and media players. With an initial glance, most people will notice the 2.5 inch display and the backlit QWERTY keyboard on the front of the device. Further examining the device, there’s a jog dial on the right side, a flush power button on top, and the charging port on the left. Other than that, the only other thing left to mention would be the 700mAh battery found under the metal lid on the back.
The device reminded me of the early BlackBerry 5790 from 2004 which not only looked similar due to a QWERTY keyboard, display, and jog dial control; however also due to the fact that it was also a data-only device which only supported email and SMS. BlackBerry left this sub-market niche a long time ago, but Peek has picked up where they left off with current technology and the modern day consumer kept in mind. As for the body of the device, the unit looks fairly attractive. The keyboard is easy to use, feels great to type on, and has a click to each key stroke. The one main quirk I ran into was the fact that the jog dial and back button are on the right hand side of the device. Meaning if you happen to be a left handed person, there’s no question it’s going to be awkward or even difficult to use. This was also one of the reasons RIM moved their jog dial on their BlackBerry devices into a wheel on the center of the phone. Other than that quirk, the unit has an excellent build and due to its unique look when pulled from its included Peek-branded sleeve in public, people will often ask you about your hand held.
Email: 4.5/5 stars
The most important aspect of this device, email, actually functioned as advertised and even surprised me with some features I hadn’t seen before. As a computer geek, it’s usually a breeze setting up email on just about any device. However I was truly impressed how simple Peek made it. The average consumer will know little or nothing about incoming POP/IMAP servers or outgoing SMTP servers. They have no reason to be afraid when it comes to the Peek since the only thing the Peek prompts a new user for is their email address and password. Behind the scenes, Peeks engineers have done their magic to setup servers to figure out all the settings for just about every major email provider. (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) What impressed me the most was the fact that the device was instantly able to even figure out the settings needed for a corporate email address and for Skatter Tech email accounts. I actually had to look up information for some special settings when I attempted to setup the same email accounts on an Apple iPhone. Once configured, old emails aren’t imported, but every new message that reaches your inbox will be delivered to the Peek. Although Peek advertises a Push system for immediate notification of new messages, I had varied results. At certain times the Peek would light up its Mail indicator within seconds of shooting out a test email from my computer, but at other times it took as long as 5 to 10 minutes before a message reached my device. Although email isn’t fast paced enough that a few minutes would matter in most real world situations, don’t always expect emails that would be viewable on your computer immediately to arrive on your Peek at the same pace. The only major issue I had with email was the fact that content is almost entirely text based. Sure, the Peek Pronto does support viewing certain attached files such as PDF, DOC, and images; however this still won’t make up for HTML rich emails.
Texting: 4/5 stars
Today, most cell phone carriers today offer “nearly” unlimited texting plans which cost around $15-20 per month. The Peek Pronto offers unlimited text messaging to any mobile phone in the United States at no additional charge. If you value text messaging, this in essence gives the device a lot of value. Since the Peek is an email device, I assumed that texting would require me having to figure out each contact’s special email address associated with their carrier. For example you can send a text message to a phone by composing a message to a ten digit phone number at @vtext.com address on Verizon Wireless or a @txt.att.net for AT&T. I was quite wrong; the engineers over at Peek do the work for you once again. All you’ll have to do is enter in the phone number and that’s it. Peek’s servers will figure out where it needs to go. Although texting is unlimited for Peek users, it isn’t for others. Since there isn’t a 160 character countdown when composing text messages, lengthy messages may end up costing the recipient more than one text. The only other quirk was the fact that all text messages are all thrown into your global inbox, meaning it’s mixed with all the emails the device receives. Although it may not be a big issue for some and in fact some may prefer it, as someone who receives a few too many emails it was a bit hectic to find text messages amongst them. Despite that, if you are or think you’ll be a heavy “texter,” this is a pretty good deal.
Built-in Services: 4/5 stars
Since the Peek doesn’t have a built-in web browser, there are some special services offered by Peek. There are special entries for Local Search, Maps, News Headlines, Traffic, and Weather added into the device’s Contact List by default. Composing an email to any of those contacts with a search term will result in an email being delivered to your inbox with the query results. I found to be an excellent way to get updated data while on the go. The only issue with this feature is time. Since the search results are delivered by email, it faces the same issue as anything being delivered to your inbox. Setting that aside, the services did actually work as intended. Results for weather, news, and maps all worked quite well.
And that’s not it when it comes to those built-in services. According to contact at Peek, there are some new goodies coming in the coming weeks: Facebook and Twitter. We can’t say much, however we do know that it will work in a similar fashion as the other tools work. When the feature rolls out, Peek users will be able to update their Facebook status or Twitter status by simply composing an email. In addition we have word that you can set up “summary emails” to be delivered to your Peek at a desired interval of everything that happens on your Facebook News Feed or Twitter Stream.
Interface: 5/5 stars
One of the things that make a device great is a simple and functional user interface. The Peek provides us with both. Just about all the things you’ll need to do are contained in menus that appear when the jog dial is clicked in. It brings up a simple menu that has a list of commands such as new message, delete message, reply to message, save message, or mark read/unread. The interface allows switching over from the inbox view to the sent, drafts, saved, and trash folder. A search function is built right in as well. Other than that you can browse your Contacts or access the Settings Manager to configure accounts, sounds, themes, and a few more things. Just as the hardware reminded me of the BlackBerry, the interface is also quite similar to slightly older versions of the BlackBerry OS. Borrowing the ideology of how an interface should feel, look, and function, which made the BlackBerry an icon, is also making the Peek a better device. The bottom line would be that it’s easy for just about anyone to use and doesn’t lack necessary features.
The Cost: 4/5 stars
The Peek Pronto now costs just $59 and Peek Classic is only $19. The Peek Classic has most of the features of the Pronto, however has been cut down with no Push support, no unlimited texting, search, and a maximum of two email accounts (Pronto supports 5). The monthly service will run you $15/month for either device. A smart phone plan from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint will start at about $40/month for just the calling portion. Adding the required data services for email is usually an additional $30/month. Further adding texting will rack on more charges. Most smart phone bills will be quite expensive. The Peek obviously can’t do much of what a smart phone can do, however it will keep you covered when it comes to emails and texting. At $15/month, the service is actually a fairly good deal for those who need access to email while away from their computer. Plus you can even pay your bills right from your device!
Overall the Peek Pronto is an excellent device. Everything from the hardware to the software just works. The device runs of the T-Mobile network, so you may want to check if you have coverage in the areas you’ll be using this device before purchasing it. The device was able to run for a couple days without needing to recharge it with casual use. If you are a computer geek, this probably isn’t the device for you, however if you happen to be in the need of an email-only device, this is definitely the way to go.