The $199 Basis B1 Band from Basis Science puts a new spin on the personal health monitor. It may be larger and more expensive than similar products, but it's also way more capable, plus its watch-style design is very handy, and it syncs with iPhones and various Android handsets wirelessly.
Like many similar products on the market, such as the Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand, and Fitbit Flex, this watch-style gadget tracks steps and basic activity level. Additionally, the Basis Band measures how long and how well you sleep, a trick both the Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex manage as well. What really sets the Basis Band apart is that it also keeps an eye on heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration. It uses this information to record sleep data and is the first device of its kind to do so automatically. Also innovative is how the Basis Band pushes users to adopt "healthy habits" such as burning more calories by taking walks throughout the day. All this makes the Basis is one of the best personal fitness trackers available.
When I first got my hands on the Basis Band, I admit I wasn't blown away by its styling. At first glance the Basis looks like a standard, even basic digital watch. It's not exactly thin, either; its monochrome LCD screen is small, and there's only one obvious button, which is located on the right edge.
Flip the watch over, however, and you'll begin to realize that this is no ordinary timepiece. On the bottom of the device are six stud-shaped sensors and two green LED lights. The Basis uses these to measure your heart rate by estimating blood flow through your skin.
Additionally, the four silver circles in each corner of the watch face (which I initially thought were ordinary screws) are capacitive buttons. The two buttons on the right cycle up and down through views of steps, calories, and heart rate data. The key in the top-left corner activates the Basis Band's backlight, and tapping the bottom-left button pulls up the date.
It turns out that these fancy touch-sensitive controls aren't just for show. They help you operate the watch in wet environs without fear of moisture entering the Basis' chassis. Indeed, the Basis Band is splash-resistant, so taking it out in the rain or keeping it on in the shower isn't a problem.
On the left edge of the watch are four metal contacts. They connect to the Basis Band's wired charging cradle, which in turn plugs into USB ports. The folks at Basis Science claim the watch's lithium polymer battery can run the Band for four days straight between charges.
To add a bit more oomph to the Basis Band's visual impact, Basis Science also offers artist-designed wrist straps to replace the stock plastic band bundled with the device (black or white). The Cityscape band ($34.95) also starts with a white background but is stenciled with a stylized cartoon street scene. More conservative in design and also more expensive, Carbon Steel ($49.95) gives the Basis Band a handsome touch of metallic silver and black silicone.
As mentioned before, the Basis Band uses a built-in accelerometer to record the steps you take. But its features go way beyond those of the average pedometer. The device relies on a pair of green LED emitters to pulse light into your wrist periodically. An optical sensor uses the pulse to calculate the amount of blood flowing through your skin, and ultimately your heart rate.
Other sensors take note of your skin temperature and perspiration level. Since body temperature typically drops significantly during sleep, as does heart rate, the Basis uses the data its sensors generates to determine the length and quality of your slumbering. What's more, the device does so automatically. Other gadgets, such as the Jawbone Up and Fitbit Flex, require that you press a button to begin sleep logging. After a very long day, remembering this step can be a tall order.
What's really innovative about the Basis Band and the Basis system is how they're built around what the company calls "healthy habits." Essentially, to buy into the Basis lifestyle, you must adopt various preset behavior patterns. For instance, the Get More Sleep "habit" asks you to log a certain amount of sleep for at least one night a week. The more nights you fulfill your requirements, the more points you earn.
You can then use the points accrued toward opening up access to more habits. Gaining more habits ups the level of your profile, which also rewards you with more-demanding habits to choose from -- and I imagine some bragging rights, too.