The original Basis B1 smartwatch included an optical heart rate monitor, which was a big deal in 2012 when it launched. But other smartwatches have caught up since then, and an LED is no longer an unusual sight poking out from the underside of a watch, so the Basis was due for an update. On Monday, Basis announced the Basis Peak, which improves on the original in several ways.
Most of the changes in the Basis Peak are focused on improving its fitness tracking capabilities. For instance, the touchscreen remains black and white to save battery life, but gets a big upgrade in terms of both size and resolution. The optical heart rate monitor that was the claim-to-fame of the Basis B1 is also improved, with a more powerful LED that should improve accuracy. The Basis finally gets Bluetooth LE support, which will significantly help battery life. Most importantly, the whole package has been slimmed and shrunk down, and generally looks more like a polished, second generation product.
Those sensors plug data into existing Basis apps for iOS and Android, which combine activity tracking with a light gamification layer that “encourages” good habits like going to bed at the right time or suggesting that office workers to stand up once an hour. The Basis app tracks sleep — which includes REM, deep and light sleep — as well as walking, biking and running. Unfortunately, the Basis Peak doesn’t seem to have any of the sensors or chips that [company]Intel[/company], its new parent, has been working on lately.
Special attention should be paid to the Basis Peak strap, which uses a new type of connection mechanism that works with standard 23mm watch straps. But the default strap should be very nice as well, with special attention paid to airflow. Basis understands most users will stick with the strap that came in the box, and they’ve taken the time to make sure it’s comfortable over the long run.
Basis is promising that the Peak will eventually be capable of displaying notifications from a smartphone as well, like other smartwatches. But consumers thinking about buying the Basis Peak should consider those to be a bonus, especially Basis says those capabilities will be “expanded over time.”
But you’re not buying the Basis Peak to be an Android Wear smartwatch, you’re buying it to use Basis’ algorithms and software to help you get fit. So the compromises also come with benefits, like a four-day battery life and true waterproofing, which means you can go swimming with your Basis Peak on.
The optical heart rate monitor on the Basis B1 proved to be so effective that it has become almost standard issue on smartwatches coming out in 2014: Several Android Wear smartwatches come with optical heart rate monitors, Fitbit’s followup to the now-recalled Force will have one, and the unreleased Apple Watch will have a variety of biometric monitors.