Why, though? Twitter Peek had one job

Twitter Peek could only do one thing. That thing was silly, and it was also bad at it.

The reason smartphones are so ubiquitous is because they not only function as phones, but provide access to myriad useful — and occasionally useless — apps. The idea of splitting a phone into numerous devices, each only capable of running a single app, is ludicrous.

A hand holding a red Twitter Peek device on a blue background.

And yet that’s precisely what Twitter did with Twitter Peek.

Peek Inc…

… was founded by three former Virgin Mobile USA employees in 2007.

Its first handheld device only provided access to email — which sounds wild by today’s standard — but earned a place on Time’s list of Best Inventions of 2008.

  • Why? It was cheaper and easier to use than a BlackBerry, and useful for people who just wanted on-the-go email access.

In 2009, Twitter Peek debuted. It only accessed Twitter, which, as Gizmodo noted in its baffled review, was originally a text message-based platform available via any phone.

Worse, it didn’t do its one job well, with reviewers noting that it was slow and difficult to navigate. You couldn’t even mindlessly doomscroll because you had to click twice to read individual tweets.

It was also $200, or ~$300 today.


… Twitter Peek failed.

In 2010, Peek’s more promising Peek 9 offered access to Facebook, Twitter, map and weather apps, and more. Yet by then, smartphones weren’t that much more expensive, did all that, and you could call people on them.

Too late or too early?

Today, a resurgence of “dumbphones” hearkens back to an age before the constant thrum of social media, freeing people from their screen obsessions.

These phones are capable of little other than calls, texts, and perhaps limited apps like alarm clocks, calendars, maps, and music players.

They don’t have social media, meaning Twitter Peek would still be an abject failure — but it seems like Peek was onto something.

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