Twitter Peek is slick on paper. It's the first device designed in part by Twitter, for Twitter-ers. And of course it lets you Tweet anywhere, anytime, even without a wi-fi connection. And it comes from the folks behind Peek Pronto, an email-only handset that we've previously lauded.
Yet when I pulled out my aqua-blue test product, which bore a striking resemblance to an old-school digital dictionary, all I thought was, "Why?" Twitter Peek is ostensibly geared toward Twitter addicts who don't have smartphones. But that's an oxymoron. Why would any self-respecting Twitter addict drop $199 on Twitter Peek, when Blackberries and iPhones offer a much richer user experience? Moreover, given that Twitter isn't an "essential" service, like email, why does this product even exist?
Instead of showing full, 140-character Tweets, this home screen shows tiny, 20-character Twees*, which are totally nonsensical. (Actual example: "so scary!! I really want to s ... ") To read the real deal, I had to click twice—first to select the Tweet, then again to select "view tweet" from a pop-up menu. (Turns out my Tweeter was referencing Paranormal Activity. Awesome.) As anyone who follows more than 50 people can attest, this isn't just annoying, it's unacceptable. Part of what I love about third-party mobile Twitter apps, such as Echofon, is that I can whiz through hundreds of 140-character Tweets in mere minutes. But even when I used the keyboard shortcuts—"N" for next Tweet, "P" for previous—the same process took twice as long on Twitter Peek.
*No, that's not an official term. But "Tweet previews" seemed unnecessarily verbose.
On any given day, roughly half the Tweets in my feed contain links to various Web sites. So it's unfortunate—nay, infuriating—that Twitter Peek's browser is so bug-riddled. Several links I clicked spawned an error message, even though they all worked on my laptop. And when links did load, they sometimes lagged for more than a minute before sputtering out text-only versions of Web sites that were weirdly formatted and missing random words and sentences. Needless to say,
Okay, so this one's just a pseudo-#fail: Twitter Peek can display images hosted on TwitPic, which is Twitter's most popular photo app. But if any of your favorite Tweeters use an alternate service, such as TweetPhoto or yFrog, you're S.O.L.
After switching my device off for 24 hours, I turned it back on, and waited for a hefty batch of Tweets to roll in, as they do with Echofon. A full two minutes later, I got my 10 most recent Tweets—a fraction of the 200 or so I had actually received—and this ridiculous missive from @peek_inc:
"Wow! You received a bunch of tweets since your last check in with us. We've delivered the last batch—please view the rest online. Thanks!"
No, @peek_inc, thank you! Just think: If only all mobile devices made us go home and use something else, maybe our cell phone bills wouldn't be so high. Speaking of which ...
As of Nov. 3, Twitter Peek is selling for $99 (plus a $7.95 monthly service charge after the first six months) or $199 (plus no monthly service charges, ever). And for what? A device that's clunky, slow, and frustrating? When I spoke with the PR rep, she assured me that several of my issues would be addressed in forthcoming software upgrades, which could make Twitter Peek more attractive. But if you're one of those fabled Twitter addicts without a smartphone, and you simply have to Tweet right now, I'd suggest using Twitter's SMS service, or, um, buying a smartphone. As a Twitter addict who spent 48 hours struggling with Twitter Peek—before bolting back to my iPhone—I can promise you: It's worth the surcharge.
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