There are a lot of questions about the future of Twitter now that Elon Musk has finally bought the company and made himself CEO. But away from the fears of relaxed norms, paywalls and other charges, some are fondly recalling a time when one plucky tech company thought Twitter was important enough to warrant its own mobile device.
Tweeters of today are rediscovering the much-mocked gem that is the TwitterPeek, a mobile device designed solely for using Twitter – yes, really. You never bought one? Neither did anyone else. But some are now suggesting that Musk resurrect the device (for more nostalgic delights, see our pick of the best retro games consoles).
The TwitterPeek (2009) was an always-connected Twitter device with cellular service. The $99 device came with 6 months of service. Users could renew the service for $8 per month or pay $199 for lifetime access. pic.twitter.com/KoGjjkLb5zOctober 31, 2022
For anyone wondering what all the fuss is about with Musk's takeover of Twitter, it's worth recalling that the social media platform of not many words was once considered so important that it received its own mobile hardware. In September 2009, New York-based Peek Inc launched what it billed as the "world's first Twitter-only device". We suspect it was also the last.
TwitterPeek was a handset with a full QWERTY keyboard and a 2.7-inch by 4-inch colour screen. With no-contract wireless coverage, it allowed users to send and receive tweets and direct messages, follow accounts and view images sent via Twitpic. It looked a bit like a Blackberry phone... but with one sole function.
Twitter has been much amused to rediscover the ill-fated retro gem after the user @RetroTechDreams posted (opens in new tab) about it. "This looks like a gag product," one person tweeted. "Don't give ideas to Elon Musk," one person wrote. "I have a feeling Twitter consumer hardware will be making a comeback soon," someone added.
Many want to know if the device's claimed "lifetime access" still works (spoiler: it doesn't. Some people who actually bought the devices confirm that they're now unusable). Even Musk himself got involved. "Little did we know that was also peak Twitter," he wrote.
Little did we know that was also peak Twitter.October 31, 2022
Why did TwitterPeek fail?
While's sometimes space for simple specialist devices that do just one job well, that wasn't the case with TwitterPeek. The company had already had moderate success with a previous email-only device, and it saw Twitter as warranting a similar treatment, despite regular phones already offering access to social media.
But TwitterPeek's greatest flaw was that it didn't even do its one job very well. It was slow, and the screen displayed only the first three words of each tweet, so you had to click to open each message. You couldn't open links and you could only see some images. It could also only save ten of the latest tweets.
The reviews were unforgiving. The Telegraph was confused, asking "What is the purpose of TwitterPeek?", while Gizmodo's was devastating. "TwitterPeek is so dumb it hurts my brain," was its headline.
Peek persevered, adding more social media and news features to its next offering, the Peek 9 in 2010, including Facebook. But by then Blackberry was already trialling social apps for phones that... well, that could also be used as phones. Despite Peek having promised "lifetime access", it ended support for its devices in 2012.
Twitter is loving some of the other retro treats posted by the same account, from Microsoft's Clippy to X-Files Winamp skins. If you find inspiration for your own ideas, make sure you check out our pick of the best free retro fonts.
Winamp Skin - The X Files #winamp pic.twitter.com/JR9fFCtPf3October 31, 2022