I'm an avid user of Twitter, so when the San Francisco company Peek offered to send me a new device designed especially for reading and writing tweets (and nothing else), I said yes -- even though I don't usually review products, and there's no local link at all here.
I think the concept behind the new TwitterPeek device (just out today) is that if you don't have a smartphone with a keyboard, and you are not very good at typing short messages with your dumbphone's number keys, you might want a device like this. (How big a market is that? We'll see...)
There's no long-term contract, and you can either pay $99 for the device and get six months of free service, or pay $199 and get a lifetime service plan (as always, this doesn't mean your lifetime, or the device's lifetime, but rather the lifetime of the company selling you the plan. Peek has been around since 2007, selling dedicated e-mail and texting devices with inexpensive connectivity plans.)
Here's my Twitter-length review, with a bit more after it:
In 140 characters or fewer:
The interface design of the new TwitterPeek device totally misses what makes Twitter work: absorbing lots of short messages with a glance.
This captures the essence of what doesn't work about the TwitterPeek: the home screen shows you most of the Twitter username of the people you follow, but just a few characters of the message they've posted (along with the time the message was posted.) You have to click a message twice with the BlackBerry-like scroll wheel to actually see what the entire message says.
With e-mail, this approach to reading a full message works, because just knowing who the sender is can be an indicator of which e-mails are most important.
But with Twitter, it's the content of the message that's more important than the sender, and seeing the first 18 or 20 characters of a Twitter message usually isn't enough to tell you whether it'll be worth reading. Looking at a string of complete Twitter messages is something you want to do with a glance, because of each message's low "nutritional value." You don't want to have to drill down into each individual message to see if it is worth your time. (One way to solve at least part of the problem with the TwitterPeek's interface is to not display the time each message was posted, which isn't very relevant if the most recent ones are at the top of the list.)
Also, while you can click a link within an individual tweet to view photos people have posted on Twitpic.com, you can't read any links to blog posts or articles. (That ability may be coming to TwitterPeek soon.) Those "pointer links" are one of the things I most enjoy about Twitter.
Aside from that, the device does what it advertises. They keyboard is handy for typing (much better than the virtual keyboard on my iPhone). I liked the aqua color and light weight of the review device I was sent. Battery life and connectivity seemed decent. One day, I left my cellphone at home accidentally, and was able to communicate with my wife via Twitter's "direct message" feature, in place of the text messages I would've ordinarily used, using just the TwitterPeek to coordinate a meeting. That was convenient.
What do you think -- will a dedicated Twitter device like TwitterPeek appeal to lots of people?
(As with all product reviews, I sent the TwitterPeek back after a week or so of usage.)
About Scott Kirsner
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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