Basis Science Basis B1 Band review: 24-7 fitness watch isn't small but motivates well

Get on the wagon
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.

Unlock new habits to establish by gaining points. Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

Better syncing with Bluetooth
A new capability, and one that Basis has been promising since it first showcased the Basis Band a few years ago, is wireless syncing via Bluetooth with a companion Android app. I had the privilege of getting my hands on the application ahead of its official launch. At the time the app was technically supposed to work on Samsung's Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy Note, and Galaxy Note 2 smartphones.

Recently the company has extended app support to iOS devices as well as more Android phones such as the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5, HTC One, and Moto X, not to mention the Galaxy Note 3.

The Basis Band now syncs via Bluetooth with Android smartphones running a custom app. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
I have to say that I'm impressed so far with the Basis Band's performance. The software is smooth, and aside from a brief glitch or two, it operates as advertised. I successfully had the software up and running on my HTC One and LG Nexus 4 test phones. I even got it to work properly with my Motorola Moto X eval unit. Be advised that you'll be able to download the Basis application from the Google Play store using only the officially sanctioned devices.

Powering the Basis Band is a lithium-polymer battery that you recharge via the bundled watch cradle. Thankfully, the cradle, which connects to PCs and Macs through a USB port, also syncs recorded data with Basis servers while its charging.

The Basis app worked with my Moto X test unit. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Basis Band is rated to provide up to four days of battery life, which squares with what I experienced. I did find that the best way to keep the gadget always powered up was to unstrap it first thing in the morning and drop it in its cradle for a quick sync and juice-up (about 15 to 20 minutes). This daily ritual enabled the watch to carry on indefinitely.

In a similar vein, while Basis Science says the Band is water-resistant enough to withstand showers, doing dishes, and splashes in the pool, I don't suggest you soak it repeatedly. The first Basis unit I tested suddenly succumbed to quirky behavior such as refusal to sync (both wired and over Bluetooth) before dying completely. Now I can't confirm whether regular showers and soap is what did it in, but I have my suspicions. The replacement device works just fine, by the way.

Be advised though that I did run into a few odd performance issues, aside from my damaged unit. Every once in a while the Basis Band incorrectly tracked my sleep duration. Apparently the watch lost adequate connection with my wrist, and perhaps my skin temperature and heart rate. Whatever the cause, the device would log only a few hours of Zs when I knew I had at least 6 hours.

Likewise, I observed that the watch requires a pretty tight seal between your wrist and its underside in order for the gadget to measure heart rate. That means that if you like to wear your timepieces a little loose, the Basis isn't for you.

Despite its ambitious AI-like goals, however, the Basis Band’s slick Body IQ function operated relatively smoothly. For the most part it correctly comprehended when I walked as opposed to when I stepped things up and went for a quick jog. That said, the watch wasn’t infallible here either. For example, one afternoon the device thought I went cycling for 10 minutes. Unfortunately the only activity I engaged in then was speedily pushing a stroller across snow-laden NYC streets, a rousing ride to be sure, but not exactly the Tour de France.

One absolutely stellar trick the Basis Band does, something other high-tech watches really should imitate, is to automatically fire up its LCD's backlight when you twist your wrist and swing your arm for a closer look.

Conclusion
Sure, it can be cumbersome to wear a watch 24-7, especially one as thick as the Basis Band. Other wrist-style fitness gadgets, such as the Fitbit Force and Jawbone Up24 for instance, are much closer to effortless to live with. That said, Basis Band is relatively compact and light compared with many all-metal timepieces I've owned.

I also think the habit approach to changing people's behavior has a shot at succeeding and hopefully motivating people (not just the fitness-crazed) to live a better lifestyle. I know that I find the Basis system the most addictive "personal wellness solution" I've used. That said, its $199 price tag is practically double what the $99.99 Up24 and $129.99 Force cost, both of which offer many of the same capabilities. But even with its rough spots, the Basis Band is the most capable fitness tracker money can buy.

Editors' Top PicksSee All

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Hot Products