Twitter Peeking into the Past

Many, many gadgets may seem like a good idea, but never make it to market. Then, some do. And in even rare occasions, they never should have. Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook know that all too well. One device that needed a crowd to say "No!" was the Twitter Peek.

Back in the infancy of the iPhone and the modern smartphone era, the Peek was a small single-purpose device that allowed you to access your Twitter feed without a smartphone or computer. It was one of the first standalone devices made specifically for social media, and it was supposed to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, it never quite caught on, and the company behind it eventually went bankrupt.

It fits into that awkward teenage year stage of mobile devices where we got powerful phones from HTC, Samsung, and Microsoft but they hadn't landed on the "IT" that rocketed the industry forward. Adam Frucci at Gizmodo summed it up well with the headline "The TwitterPeek is so dumb it makes my brain hurt." Even worse was the price tag: $200 and an $8 monthly service charge.

But this? Twitter only? Twitter is something that you can do easily on a smartphone, yes, but it's also something you can use easily on any phone. It's a service based on text messaging, for god's sake! In practice, you could use Twitter on your phone no matter what phone you have. Hell, even StarTacs supported SMS and could use Twitter, if you happen to still be using one.

Maybe they expect this to be used by people without cellphones at all? Why would anyone carry a device that does only Twitter instead of getting a basic free cellphone that can call friends and restaurants and companies with phones (all of them)?

The real kicker? This thing has one single function, and it can't even do that very well. PC Mag just gave it 1.5 stars!


The Peek has an entry on the Museum of Failure's website. And rightfully so. It only displayed the first 20 characters of a message, was overpriced, and was incredibly limited. But not all failed products are seen with disdain.

Looking back on the Twitter Peek now, it's hard not to feel a little nostalgic in the same way as I look back at the T-Mobile Sidekick. To me, that was an amazing phone with an amazing keyboard. Compare it to modern mobile tech and it falls on its face. The difference with the Peek though is how badly it was suited for the time it was on the market. Whereas the Sidekick predated the iPhone and had a lot going for it, the Peek was competing with every possible free way to access Twitter.

If Twitter had debuted even three years earlier, the peek could be considered a product that was ahead of its time. Twitter Peek's CEO Amol Sarva had an interesting way of looking at it: "it's a little like buying a piano instead of a guitar. They both make music but you have to be pretty serious to buy a piano." The Twitter Peek may not have been the right instrument for any of us, but for a brief moment, it was a glimpse of something that was possible.