Peek-A-Boo (A Boo Boo)

India’s first dedicated email device promises a lot, but the service lets it down
It was about four months back that I heard that the Peek, 2008’s gadget of the year, was being launched in India by Aircel. About two weeks back, this dedicated mobile email device was finally launched in India with a relatively low-key announcement. Thanks to the Rs 2,999 price tag, it didn’t take long for the units to fly off the shelf.

I finally managed to find a retailer who had an unsold unit, and decided to get myself a prepaid service as the post-paid account entails a lot of paper work. I was hoping to get my email configured and working as soon as I opened the box, but I was in for a rude shock, as it takes up to 48 hours for the handset to be activated. Though Aircel call centres have different excuses for this, it appears that the company has to go back to the Peek guys in Bangalore and get it manually activated.

I managed to get the unit activated after two days, but not without a number of phone calls. Once online, however, I was able to easily get my Gmail and Yahoo mails working. Though only Rediff Pro mails work on the unit, it can be configured for Windows Live Mail.

The box clearly stated that it had support for Exchange Server and all mail servers that had a Pop or an IMAP port available. This is where I got another shock. To get your office mail configured, your IT team will have to fill up an Excel sheet form and share your username and password with Aircel, which in turn will sent it to Peek to get the account configured. But, I was not going to share my password with anyone and it finally took a brilliant guy at Peek to find a way around it.

The handset design is really catchy, with properly spaced QWERTY keys ideal for typing. However, the keys are a bit hard and the spacebar somewhat smallish, though there are dedicated @ and number keys. The right hand side has a scroll wheel and an escape key, while the power key is placed on top. The 2.5” screen works decently in bright sunlight and has a welcome matt finish to it.

The metal rear has the Aircel and Peek Email logos etched on it. The handset can store up to 5,000 emails before it replaces the oldest with new mails. It also supports up to 1,000 contacts which can be directly downloaded from your Yahoo or Gmail account. However, I had trouble downloading contacts from my corporate server. You can configure up to three email accounts, though they will all appear on a single inbox. But you can choose the account for outgoing mail. Sent mails are also stored on the handset, and there is a search function too. While there is an auto-complete for email addresses, the unit does not come with a spelling checker or auto correct. The battery is great though, as a three-hour charge stays for around three days despite all the email usage.

There are some other issues too. Since the online self management portal is still not online, you will have to depend on Peek support often. Currently my Peek runs about 30 minutes delayed, so it is not exactly a push mail service or even live. But I think this is more of a service provider issue.

The device is still a good alternative for those who want access to email 24/7 but don’t want to spend on a BlackBerry. Sadly, Aircel charges Rs 300 a month for unlimited access, roughly what you would pay for a much better BlackBerry package. Rs 100 a month seems a better price point for the service on offer.

This is a dedicated email device and there is no way you can use it to make a call, which will appeal to many buyers. But it is unclear whether the units will work outside India. However, if you are that hooked to your mail, I suggest you invest in a BlackBerry.

How To Buy

To buy the Peek, you need to pay the Rs 2,999 handset cost, Rs 897 for the first three months service, Rs 25 for the SIM card. Later, you can buy a Rs 300 coupon every month from Aircel.

Services

You can check you account balance using the item menu, though it will take roughly 10 minutes to retrieve the information. The Ask Peek services let you fetch cricket scores, movie information and other information services by sending an email.


The Above article / review appeared in the Indian Express, on Sunday 28th March 2010.