Midrange gifts for the gadget guru

Customize your favorite gadget and take a Peek at the future of affordable hand-held e-mail.


Andrew O'Hehir
December 4, 2008 8:44PM (UTC)

If you are buying a smartphone or MP3 player this season, here's an option you probably haven't considered: customized, fine-art-quality engraving. Joe Mansfield will engrave any design you want (or come up with one to your specs) on iPods, cellphones, laptops and any other similarly sized tech device (prices range from $35 to $150). If you or your loved one is so geeky you require the antimatter of geekdom, Joe would be delighted to custom-engrave your Dutch-made, ecologically correct fine mahogany iPod case (80 euros, or about $102 at current exchange rates).

There is one new and frightfully cute little gizmo this season that seems extraordinarily well-timed and well-positioned: the sub-$100 Peek ($79.95), a hand-held e-mail device aimed at those who don't have an iPhone or a BlackBerry and don't want one (or at any rate don't want to pay a grand a year for service). Painless to set up and easy to navigate even for the non-tech-savvy set, Peek is a triumph of design simplicity. It sends and receives flawlessly using most flavors of personal e-mail accounts, including GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail and the like, along with accounts from most major Internet providers. There are limitations: At least for now, it won't support most kinds of corporate e-mail addresses, it can handle no more than three separate accounts, and it dumps everything into one in box. But there are good reasons why Oprah, Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal have recently championed Peek: With service at $19.95 a month (via cellphone networks), it puts portable e-mail within the realistic range of many students, seniors, teachers, stay-at-home parents and lower-income folks for whom it previously seemed inconceivable.

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Andrew O'Hehir

Andrew O'Hehir is executive editor of Salon.

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