My thoughts on the Peek Pronto

I am a light phone talker. If you look at my call history, you'll see maybe one or two calls a day, if that. My bread and butter is email and texting, so I thought I might try out the Peek Pronto, a device that claims to do those two things and those two things only. And with no monthly service fee (with a higher purchase price), it sounded like a killer deal to me. I even ended up using credit card reward points to purchase the device, so I was out of pocket nothing. So how did I like the Peek Pronto? Did it change my non-verbal telecommunications world? Keep reading...

I really had high hopes for the Peek Pronto. With claims of email and sms, as well as social networking capabilities, this sounded like the perfect device for me - just the thing it would take to let my cell phone collect dust at home. But while the concept was great, the implementation was terrible. Here are a few main points:

The Device Itself

The Peek Pronto is an email device. Plain and simple. It's really not made to be anything more. And fortunately, it sucks at that too. The only way to navigate is through the scroll/click wheel on the right side of the device (think Blackberry). There are no front-facing navigation controls. This required me to always keep re-adjusting the device so I could hit the controls. The click wheel was also too hard to press. It took a lot of effort to press in accurately. But probably the worst part for me was the keyboard. It made a very loud clicking noise for every key press as opposed to a softer click from a more padded control under the surface. The keyboard buttons were also too hard to press. Trying to punch out a message was archaic. I'll give it one thing, though: the device was sturdy. I'm pretty sure you could drop the thing from a 2-story building and it would still work.

Email

The way the Peek Pronto displayed email was nothing special. The font was too big (no option to make it smaller) and very Blackberry-esqe (think 2004). Scrolling line by line was unbearable too. No HTML email viewing and of course no way to click links in emails because there is no built-in browser. Email also got pushed to my device consistently slower than it got pushed to my iPhone.

SMS

Although the Peek claims it support SMS, it really doesn't. You can send a text message from the device to a regular phone number, but it comes through from a standard 10-digit phone number that you have to reply to before the session ends. You can't save the phone number the message came from as being from your contact, because if you've never received a text from the Peek before, or outside of a limited period of time, the text won't go through. This right here is a deal breaker. There is no way I'm going to explain to my friends that you can't save the phone number that I texted you from because it's not me. Oh, and Peek attaches a "Sent with Peek" message in the footer of every text. I'm sorry, but no.

In my head, when I heard the Peek Pronto supported text messaging, I kind of figured the phone sent the text via an email address to the phone's email address based upon what carrier the cell phone was on. For example, I send a "text" from <myusername>@getpeek.com and sends to <7141234567>@mobilecarrier.com (all carriers support this). That way, recipients would at least know to save (and could reply to) the email address.

Unfortunately the method that Peek uses is the worst method possible.

And don't even get me started on the social networking integration.

Setup Process

For a device that is supposed to highlight simplicity, even the setup process failed. Sure, it would have been nice and simple if it worked, but my setup wasn't. I think the device is supposed to instantly work as soon as you power it on, but I was told to go to the website to register it. But when I tried to register it, it told me to call customer service. Once I got on the phone with the customer service rep, she said the 1-year prepaid plan I ordered with the device didn't attach itself for some reason, and that she would have to send an email to the billing department. I asked if I could just be transferred, and she told me she was in Arizona and the billing department was in New York and "didn't have phones" because they're an email company, "like the Peek." I'm sorry, what?? Even when I asked if I could be transferred, there was instantly an attitude in her voice. From her voice, it sounded like she was from Atlanta.

Anyway, she told me she'd call by Friday, two days later, a length of time that seemed unreasonable for activating a simple email device.

Having struck out here, I decided to try tweeting @peekinc. An hour later, my device was working and a couple hours later, I received a follow-up call by someone else making sure my device was working. I think she was from the billing department. I though they didn't have phones.

A couple hours after that, I got an @reply on Twitter from @peekinc, confirming that I was up and running. To their credit, they probably looked up my Peek account from my name that displays on Twitter, which I was mildly impressed with, given that most customer service reps would probably ask for a name rather than fact checking for themselves.

Summary

Like I said at the beginning, I really had high hopes for the Peek Pronto. I wanted to love it so much that I could use it for all my email and sms, and maybe even switch my current phone plan to a prepaid plan. But unfortunately, it's implementation is less than perfect. I don't even think this is a good device for small businesses that want an affordable way to load up their employees with email-only devices. I will definitely be returning the thing. I will keep my eyes open for a new Peek device - maybe something more expensive with an implementation that can really blow it's featureset out of the park. I would definitely pay a lot of money for something that could do what this device does well (with little or no monthly fee), but at this point, the Peek Pronto is not a good contender in the marketplace. I kind of expected more from Peek, since this isn't their first offering.

I watched some videos of the CEO presenting the device and talking about it on national news, and he seems like a smart guy. I just really hope that he guides the company in a direction that will product FUNCTIONAL devices, rather than low cost crap devices like the Peek Pronto and the TwitterPeek, which, I don't think I have to tell you, is a device that will go nowhere.

Despite all of this, I'm rooting for you, Peek!

Dear Chevy Astro Van...

Dear Chevy Astro Van,

You've had a good run, but it's time to go. I remember riding around in you as a kid in friend's parent's cars, but those years have long passed. Now your only use is to transfer lower income families at 40 mph on the freeway, spewing smog into the lungs of everyone who is cursed enough to be stuck behind you. On top of that, let's face it, you are now used in about 50% of gang-related crimes. Do your part to lower crime - it's time for your to call it a day, throw in the towel, and find your way to the closest junkyard. You've done well for yourself, but now, your time has come. I mean, Obama tried with the whole Cash for Clunkers deal, but some of your owners didn't seem to get the memo (which is perfectly fine with me since I don't feel like financing any more of those deals with my tax dollars). Your fate is now the same as other vehicles like the Ford Windstar. How come your owners aren't more like theirs? I haven't seen one of those wretched things in ages. So do me a favor: find that junkyard, and we'll be sure to recycle you into something new and beautiful so we can start the process all over again.

Sincerely,

Cory Watilo

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Somebody broke the internet

This has not been a good week for Posterous, as their various data centers have been struggling to stay online all week. This is disappointing since Posterous now hosts my blog. When Posterous goes down, I go down. What's worse is that I can't check the Posterous system status on the Posterous Twitter, because ironically, Twitter is also down.

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