For example, the Peek displays no formatting whatsoever — no embedded graphics, no stationery, not even bold or italic. Paragraphs sometimes break in funny places. All file attachments except JPEG photo files are stripped away, and even those take several clicks to open.
There’s no spelling checker, no ingenious BlackBerryish shortcuts (like R for Reply, or hitting Space twice at the end of a sentence to make a period, space and a capitalized next word). You can’t even get from one open message to the next without returning to the Inbox, which gets old fast.
Those over 40 should note, too, that the standard Peek typeface appears to be 2-point Helvetica. It’s darned tiny.
You can’t create folders for filing your mail; Inbox, Saved, Drafts and Trash folders are all you get. There’s no synchronizing — if you send a reply from the Peek, you won’t find it in your Sent Mail folder on your PC — but at least downloading mail on the Peek doesn’t prevent your computer from downloading the same messages later. (There’s nothing worse than the “two-mailbox” problem, where you can’t figure out which machine contains a certain message.)
Oh, and the Peek works only in the United States at the moment.
Are you getting the idea, perhaps, that the Peek truly is an extremely simple, single-purpose machine?
Now, it’s one thing to eliminate superfluous features. But lots of these limitations would be easy to address without adding complexity or cost.
Fortunately, the company intends to address the Peek’s rough edges with free software updates; in particular, it says that it’s considering adding a larger font-size option, some navigation keystrokes, Next Message and Previous Message commands, an auto-BCC option that sends your computer a copy of each outgoing message, international roaming, compatibility with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, and perhaps the ability to view Word and PDF attachments.
But now I’m starting to sound like a feature-lister. Truth is, the Peek, even in its current condition, elicits “oh, I want that!” from many a nontechie.
Not everyone wants or needs a smartphone; plenty of people would rather talk on a comfortably compact cellphone instead of holding what looks like a JuicyJuice box up to their heads. For them, having a sweet, thin Peek in the purse or the pocket, just for e-mail, makes a lot of sense.
All the usual benefits of carrying separate, nonconverged gadgets apply here, too: losing or breaking one doesn’t mean that you’re completely up the creek. The screen and keyboard for each device is ideal for its purpose. (Sure, many regular cellphones can download e-mail, but carrying on correspondence using a keyhole of a screen and a number keypad is an exercise in futility.)
So go ahead and scoff, feature-listers; a wonderful world waits for you at blackberry.com, iphone.com, windowsmobile.com and palm.com/treo. It shouldn’t affect you one whit that there’s now an easy, cheap way for the other kind of people to keep in e-mail contact wherever they go.
David Pogue is a columnist for the New York Times and contributor to CNBC. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.