BASIS WATCH REVIEW (B1 Band)
Combining the form factor of a watch with the functionality of a health tracker - including a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, and advanced sensors - this 2013 entrant is a strong contender among fitness trackers. And the company keeps improving it.
Basis B1 Fitness Tracker in a Sound Bite
The Basis B1 band is among the latest attempts from the fitness tracker arena to combine the best of activity and sleep tracking in the convenient guise of a wristwatch. As with other shower-proof wrist activity trackers, a benefit of this form factor over competitors' "clothing clip" form factor is its 24/7 wearability, meaning that you are less likely to misplace it, throw it in the laundry, forget to put it back on after showering, or lose it some other way. The original Basis B1 comes with a black watch strap, and you can accessorize with additional bands that are sold separately: a white strap or two different designer straps (Kaleidoscope or Electric Spring).
As an added bonus over the 2013 model, a 2014 version of the Basis fitness tracker is available in "Carbon Steel Edition" - all the original features in a more stylish watch face, and paired with a softer, stretchier watch band that aims to be more comfortable and which can also accommodate especially small and narrow wrists.
I own my Basis B1 fitness tracker
As with all of my first hand reviews, it's important for me to let you know that I bought my Basis with my own pocket money. Basis didn't ask me to review their product or write this review. I just wanted one, so I went out and bought it, and now I'm telling you what I think -- however, if you do buy anything through my site I usually get paid a small advertising fee (it doesn't bring your price up, though, so don't worry!). My opinions are my own, and I'm going to tell you the what I honestly think about the product in addition to listing the cut-and-dried features of the product. And, when a company does give me a test unit to review, I'll always be up-front about letting you know.
Sensors that Pack a Punch
The Basis fitness tracker's advanced sensors aren't just icing on the cake -- they're the stars of the show: For a small device, the Basis Band packs a lot of tech. This makes it stand apart from most other fitness trackers that only capture body motion via an accelerometer. The only other fitness trackers that are this sensor-packed are the suite of BodyMedia products. (Check out the comparison chart to see how it compares to other health trackers on a variety of metrics). The Basis measures motion, skin temperature, resting heart rate, and perspiration via the following sensors:
The device watch face shows the time, day and month, calories burned, steps, and resting heart rate. As you walk, run, or bike, the watch face also reports a running tally of how many minutes of each you've done throughout the day, a feature Basis calls "Body IQ" and that I like quite a bit. You can view all of this plus your additional data (skin temp, galvanic response, habits, and insights) via the data dashboard online or on mobile.
The website encourages you to set goals (like "Move It: Be Active for 30 Minutes") and monitor your progress. You earn points for succeeding at habits, and once you gain enough points you can adopt an additional habit. The site also has tools aimed to help reveal insights and patterns about your activity.
You can currently access your data via Mac or PC, and can also view your data on select iOS and Android devices. The Basis B1 is bluetooth enabled for seamless data syncing - a feature many users appreciate in a fitness tracker. Simply press a button on the side of the watch to start syncing. The list of supported mobile devices that work with the Basis wireless syncing is kept up-to-date here: http://www.mybasis.com/en/supported-phones/
The Basis tracker has a rechargeable battery with a life of 3 to 5 days. The data it collects can be transferred to your computer via a USB cable that comes with the product or via the wireless syncing mentioned above. In my personal use, The battery lasts a solid 5 days -- though about half of the time I sync by putting the Basis in its charging cradle, which definitely helps.
Below is an example web dashboard data display followed by a mobile dashboard data display:
Most Advanced Fitness Tracker Sleep Analysis
With the arrival of 2014, Basis plans to bring the arrival of a new feature: advanced sleep analysis. This feature will become available via a software update on January 21, 2014, and will work on existing original Basis watches as well as the new Carbon Steel Edition. The analysis will include time spend in REM sleep, deep sleep, and light sleep, and will include "Toss & Turns" and how many sleep interruptions occurred over the course of the night.
It will also include a personal sleep analysis including a weekly sleep report that will summarize your sleep over the past week, benchmarking that will show a rolling average of your sleep data (sleep score, Toss & Turn, and sleep interruptions) so you can keep track of your progress toward higher quality sleep.
This is in addition to the features they already provide, including "sleep quality" score, sleep duration, the time of night you fell asleep bed, and time of day you awoke. Another major benefit of the Basis sleep tracking that always been available is that it is "mode-less": you don't need to mess with buttons or settings to tell it you've gone to sleep or woken up, unlike competitors including FitBit and the Jawbone UP. Finally, the Habit Cards include good sleep practices to aim for, like having a consistent time that you go to sleep and wake up.
Here's their press release on the feature: http://www.mybasis.com/blog/2014/01/advanced-sleep-analysis-health-tracker/
Below is an example of the web dashboard view and mobile dashboard view of the sleep analysis feature.
A Product that Keeps Improving
The Basis has only met with the wrists of users in mid- to late-2013. These early adopters so far have voiced appreciation for the product's packaging, clean cut design, web interface, the modeless sleep detection, and the glut of personal data the device collects.
Some feel that it's still a growing device from a growing company, and having just launched, it is a new product from a new company. But I've been impressed with how much the company has brought to the table in just the three months I've owned the Basis:
The company is open to feature suggestions, too, having queried customers for their thoughts at least once since I purchased my Basis. Many current users have voiced a desire for a more detailed device screen, a stopwatch feature, an alarm feature, tracking of calories eaten, weight tracking, and compatibility with existing fitness websites like MyFitnessPal and Lose It. I won't be surprised if I see the Basis team incorporating some of these suggestions during the course of 2014 -- but I will continue to be impressed.
The down side? On the site forums, several users have complained that the Basis B1 seems to undercount their steps when compared to the activity trackers they already own, though others have responded that the device works accurately for them. It is unclear whether the experience of undercounting is widespread or limited to a small handful of users and whether it's based on gait, walking surface, the software algorithm, or something else.
A few have also had trouble with water coming into the watch (the company happily replaced the faulty watches according to their warranty). I think it's only natural that a new company with a new product will discover a few use cases that didn't fall under their waterproof testing or will have manufacturing variation resulting in a few devices that let water in -- and I think that they'll learn from the failure points of the returned units in order to better manufacture future units.
Don't write off the Basis on account of a handful of very early users' initial bad reactions; the product and its software are quickly improving and evolving. A fuller suite of features is on the way including an API that will let the device's data interface with existing fitness websites. Be sure to keep an eye on this product as its software matures!
Finally, many have praised the company's responsive and helpful customer service, and I can attest to their friendly help as well based on my own experience.
My Experience with the Basis Fitness Tracker
I've had the Basis B1 since early October 2013, and after about 3 months of constant daily use, I feel ready to share my reflections. My response is going to be colored by my prior familiarity with two other fitness trackers and the preferences they’ve shaped: I’ve used a Jawbone UP since January 2013, and I used a FitBit One from Nov 2012 to about December 2013.
In broad comparison to the Jawbone UP and the FitBit One, the greatest strengths of the Basis are the wide variety of detailed data it collects, the BodyIQ feature and the Habit cards. I look forward to adding "Advanced Sleep Analysis Data" to that list when it comes out in late January 2014!
Here's what I love:
Here's what I'm lukewarm on:
Here's what I wish would change:
I felt only so-so about my purchase in early October. But with each additional feature that the Basis has rolled out month by month, from Body IQ to a better app to Advanced Sleep, I've really come to treasure it! I do miss the bar charts, social "cheering" and ranked leaderboard features of FitBit, but am confident I'll keep getting happier and happier with my Basis as 2014 progresses.
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Features & Added Benefits
Basis has five sensors that work together to track steps, resting heart rate, activity level, calories burned, sleep (duration, times woken, quality of sleep), body temperature, and perspiration levels. As you walk, run, or bike, the watch tallies your minutes spent in each activity and shows it on the watch face. Though it does have a watch face that tells the time, it does not have an alarm or stopwatch feature.
Hardware & Wearing
The Basis has the form factor of a watch with a traditional adjustable notch-based band. A watch-like display face displays various information that you can toggle through including steps, time, heart rate, and more. It is water resistant and can be worn through showers, in the rain, or while doing dishes or other "wet" activities, but cannot be worn while swimming. While wet, the device screen locks to prevent constant toggling of the capacitive touch buttons by drops of water.
The original Basis B1 comes with a black watch strap, and you can accessorize with additional bands that are sold separately: a white strap or two different designer straps (Kaleidoscope or Electric Spring). The Carbon Steel Edition comes with its own special carbon steel strap, which is not compatible with the strap for the original Basis.
With respect to people who have nickel allergies, the metal sensors on the back of the band Basis do contain a small amount of nickel. I haven't had a problem with it, though and I have a slight nickel allergy (if I wear earrings that have posts containing nickel, my ears start itching, and turn red and warm). Basis responds:
"All metal on the Basis band is made from a steel alloy that does contain some nickel. We've had mixed results with people who have a nickel allergy, some are not bothered at all, and others experience a minor rash. The alloy we use is 303/304 stainless steel, which you can read about here:
Battery Life & Charging
The Basis B1 band has a rechargeable battery that can be charged via a USB cable that comes with the device. The charge lasts approximately 3 to 5 days and takes 2 to 3 hours to charge.
You can sync you data manually via a USB cable provided with the product. The B1 is also bluetooth-enabled, and the company has made wireless syncing available for Android and iPhone/iOS.
You can view your data via a computer and via mobile apps on select Android and iOS devices. The company says that an API is on the way. Though as of this review you can't directly access your raw data via the Basis site, at least one user has provided a how-to: https://github.com/btroia/basis-data-export/blob/master/README.md
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