Basis Unveils Its Newest Activity Tracker, the Basis Peak


In the last year, both Apple and Samsung have introduced health-focused smartwatches that are putting immense pressure on companies working in the already overcrowded activity tracker market. Nike, likely seeing the writing on the wall, disbanded its FuelBand product line earlier this year, and ever since the tech industry has been eagerly waiting to see how the remaining fitness tracker heavyweights, like FitBit, Jawbone, and Basis, would respond to the pressure.

Today, Basis becomes the first of the old guard fitness tracker companies to strike back against Apple and Samsung, with the unveil of its first-ever smartwatch, the Basis Peak. The company is careful to call it an activity tracker, and not a smartwatch, but at its core the Basis Peak is a sophisticated fitness tracker that also tells time and receives push notifications from a connected smartphone, so you can receive text messages, emails, and app notifications directly on the device – you can be the judge of where to draw the line between the converging activity tracker and smartwatch form factors.

Basis has presided over a short but respectable run as an activity tracker developer, marketing what had widely been considered the most sophisticated and sensor-laden activity trackers available in the Basis B1. Now, after being acquired by Intel last spring, Basis is back with a new device that attempts to blend the high-end fitness tracking features of its B1 model, with the basic features consumers are coming to expect from a smartwatch.

The new Basis Peak differentiates itself from its Basis B1 predecessor in both style and substance. First, the new device is lighter, thinner, and made of aluminum – all upgrades over the bulky, plastic B1 tracker that preceded it. Next, the face has been redesigned with a Gorilla Glass encased touchscreen, rather than the push button user interface that was included on the B1. Finally, new higher quality wrist straps will be available in a variety of styles. Collectively, the new design resembles something one might actually want to wear in public, and overcomes one of the main criticisms that held the Basis B1 back from broader success.

From a hardware perspective, the Basis Peak includes an accelerometer, a skin temperature sensor, a galvanic skin response sensor for monitoring perspiration, and an optical heart rate sensor, putting it light years ahead of both Apple and Samsung from a fitness tracking perspective. The battery life is reported to be four days, also beating both Apple and Samsung’s smartwatches.

Basis Peak’s sensors feed data to software that can track steps walked, run, and miles biked. During exercise, it can stream real-time heart rate data, something that previously required a chest strap and that even Apple’s heart rate monitor cannot handle. Combined with perspiration data and movement data, the heart rate data is used to create a complete picture of physical exertion. The device can also track sleep patterns in impressive detail, distinguishing between REM sleep, deep sleep, identifying sleep interruptions, and calculating a total sleep quality score.

From a smartwatch perspective, Basis has some catching up to do. The device can receive notifications from a paired smartphone, so that text messages, emails, app notifications, and incoming phone calls will present on the watch face. However, these notices will not be configured in time for the November release. Instead, Basis is promising to deliver notices and alerts in a free future software update. The Basis Peak also does not support its own ecosystem of apps, and as such does not include voice recognition tools or map and navigation tools, both standard features across Apple and Samsung’s offerings. One the plus side, the Basis Peak will be able to pair with either an iPhone or a Android smartphone.

What is clear is that Basis does not intend to let the emerging smartwatch market disrupt its market segment without a fight. The new activity tracker is the most sophisticated tracker we have seen yet, and adds a foundation of basic smartwatch features that will undoubtedly grow over time. It’s certainly not the smartwatch for everyone, but at $199, the Basis Peak makes a compelling argument for fitness enthusiasts that were underwhelmed with Apple’s Watch rollout.

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