From the very beginning, the Basis Band wanted to do more than the Fitbit and Nike competition. With high-tech sensors designed to monitor your heart rate and sweat levels — not just your flailing arms — it was one of the first, best activity trackers on the market. It was also an ugly little cretin, but the caterpillar is finally coming out of its cocoon: The new $199 Basis Peak brings some smartwatch sensibility to the company's medical-grade formula.
Basis Peak (left) vs. Basis Band (right)
Cosmetically, it's pretty simple stuff, really: It's thinner! It's lighter! It's made of aluminum! It takes real watch straps! They're made of silicone for a comfortable stretch! And it doesn't look (as much) like a medical bracelet reject! But there's more going on underneath the new Gorilla Glass-covered screen.
The optical heart rate sensor is far, far larger now and protrudes from the body of the watch so it sticks better to your wrist. Basis admits that the original B1 wasn't always reliable when you were running, but claims that now you can even go swimming (also thanks to newly robust waterproofing!) and still accurately track your vitals, though the heart rate sensor (and only the heart rate sensor) shuts off when you're under water. The watch also charges magnetically.
The most important part might actually be the part that's least connected to Basis's fitness tracking goal: the new Peak will also deliver notifications, much like Pebble, from your smartphone. I wasn't able to see those for myself, but the company says it will extend an API for third-party apps to send data to and from the watch as well. That's one less reason you'd ever need to take the device off.
Still, what Basis is primarily selling here is what it's been selling all along: a device which tracks your activity and sleep cycles more intelligently, with more sensors than the competition, up to four days of battery life, and actionable daily goals. Now it's getting updated for the smartwatch era. Will it be enough? We'll find out this November when it hits the market.