When I wrote about the TwitterPeek back in November, I was intrigued about this gadget, which lets users access and and post tweets to Twitter.
I asked its maker, Peek, to send me a copy to test. Peek was kind enough to comply, and I soon received a charcoal gray device (it also comes in Twitter blue) with which to play.
Unlike a smartphone, which lets you do any number of computing tasks, you can pretty much just play with a TwitterPeek. Think of it as an above average game on a Nintendo DS.
TwitterPeek comes in a small carrying case and measures four inches long, 2.7 inches wide and one-quarter inch thick. It includes a full QWERTY keyboard, and a click scroll wheel on the right side of the device, which is the key to navigating the TwitterPeek.
TwitterPeek is powered by a rechargeable, lithium ion battery, good for a whole day or more of tweeting, depending on use. You recharge the device by connecting its standard AC charger to a micro USB port on the gadget.
Once I turned on the device, it walked me through four screens telling me how to navigate it, then let me enter my Twitter user name and password. Boom, I was in and could see all of my tweets, or at least parts of my tweets.
One of the knocks on the device is you have to push the scroll wheel, which is basically your enter button, to read a whole tweet, which is what we’re accustomed to seeing from our smartphones and computers. Pushing on the scroll wheel also reveals a menu on the right-side of the Twitter screen.
Menu options are plentiful and include, from top to bottom: view tweet, reply, retweet, new tweet, new direct message, my @mentions, direct messages, my tweets, search feed, view user feed, following, followers and settings. The back button sits right under the scroll wheel, and it easily the scroll wheel’s constant companion.
TwitterPeek’s keyboard is great, with keys spaced widely enough and raised enough to avoid tripping onto other unintended keys. Typing to reply to tweets or retweet was a snap, as was checking @mentions, direct messages and my tweets.
I quickly got used to clicking the scroll wheel to see tweets in their entirety, but Peek offers a number of shortcuts that make the device much easier to use and keep your fingers from getting bored. For example, users can type C or T on the keyboard to send a new tweet R to reply to tweet, D to send a direct message, or Shift, then R to retweet.
Is The TwitterPeek a Good Gift?
Searching feeds worked well — a search on Google Wave from the TwitterPeek pulled up the last few tweets I had sent regarding the collaboration platform. Searching tweets of those users I follow was passable, showing a handful of tweets, but what if I wanted to see more? I can’t.
There is one major, major accessibility feature missing from TwitterPeek today: you can’t access your Lists! That’s right. There is currently no way to do this from the device. For many power users who live in the Lists they and their tweeps (Twitter friends) carefully curate, this will constitute a FAIL rating akin to the once frequently seen Twitter Fail Whale.
When the tweets come in, three things happen to let you know: the Tweet indicator light blinks blue rapidly; the device vibrates several times; and, well, tweets, or chirps at the user.
I brought this to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, put it on a coffee table. TwitterPeek proceeded to annoy a few family members with its frequent vibrating and chirping. I turned it off after 15 minutes.
There is another a major drawback to the TwitterPeek: the tweet stream latency is enough to make anyone put the device down and pick up their smartphone, which will stream tweets faster. For example, new tweets took five to 10 minutes showing up on the TwitterPeek. That’s unacceptable to me.
Twitter’s magic is that it’s near real-time. TwitterPeek renders Twitter more like e-mail, and that will be a dealbreaker for many end users interested in a dedicated tweeting device.
TwitterPeek will also have a tough time as a single purpose device playing in a market saturated with smartphones. The iPhone, myTouch 3G, Motorola Droid, HTC Eris and others of their ilk are all geared to be the Swiss-army knives of mobile computing, throwing into question the value of single purpose devices.
The rise of smartphones are what prompted by colleague Jim Rapoza to note that single purpose gadgets such as the Kindle will have a tough time making it. And yet, Amazon is set to sell 550,000 Kindles in 2009, so who knows whether the TwitterPeek will thrive or go the way of the dodo bird
TwitterPeek is available exclusively from Amazon.com here for $99.95. The purchase price includes 6 months of unlimited Twitter service, a price point timed for the holiday season.
When the six months elapses, the tweeting service will cost $7.95 per month, but users can pay $199 for unlimited Twitter service for the lifetime of the device.
That might be your best bet if you’re a hardcore Twitter user and would rather tweet from TwitterPeek than your smartphone.
Is this a good Christmas gift? Yes, but only if the user is a major Twitter user and won’t mind paying for the service when his or her contract expires.
You also have to reconcile whether or not the limitations I pointed out — the lack of Lists access and the latency — are dealbreakers or not. If even one is, you might want to pick out something else.