I started shopping for a wearable fitness band several months ago. I looked at several and was most impressed with the BASIS Band concept. It was different because it combined a device that had advanced tracking capabilities with a cloud-based service that could be expanded and improved with only server-side upgrades. What a great business model, I thought. reading the forums, I could see that the BASIS customer service folks were very responsive to feedback and feature requests. A lot of people were also very excited to see this service expand and were eagerly asking for more features and capabilities that could be added to the back-end service or software. BASIS didn’t yet have integration with popular fitness apps but that was coming. You couldn’t yet download your data to analyze it yourself but, given their centralized approach to synchronizing the device and managing all this data, it would only be a matter of time before they would add this capability. They offered an iPhone and Android app but nothing for Windows or the Windows Phone, but again, a simple API would enable the developer community to do to some great things. Since the BASIS collected more sensor data than most other devices, I was excited at the prospect of being able to analyze my own fitness data with my own tools. This just seemed like a slam dunk with some much opportunity. I could just imagine being able to chart and trend my heart rate, perspiration and calories during and after after workouts; over weeks and month of progress.
Back in June when I started shopping, I could go to the Nike Store and look at their bands. The JawBone and FitBit bands were on display everywhere, and there were many others that I could touch and look at but the BASIS Band wasn’t on display anywhere; only available online. As an underdog brand contender with all of their advertising claims, I reasoned that the device itself must be just as good as the competitors so I took the plunge and ordered a BASIS Carbon Steel directly from the company for $199. Shortly after my purchase, the company announced that they had been purchased by Intel. Wow! How cool was it that this small start-up was now part of one of the most innovative technology companies on the planet? Great things must be on the way! I felt a little slighted when they lowered the retail price of the band I had just purchased to $149 but with all the upgrades coming, I could live with that.
After nearly four months as a BASIS customer, this has been one of the most disappointing investments I have ever made. They were so close to getting it right by listening to and responding to their customers but they just didn’t do it. Their support forum is full of questions asking why this company has ignored such passionate customers. I’ve bought a lot of junk in my life but the BASIS is something that COULD HAVE BEEN GREAT but isn’t. If you’re considering the BASIS, take some time to read through their Community Forums and the comments from customers. I’ve posted a few comments and suggestions over the past few months like this one. I’ve also asked that the customer service people who always respond very quickly with answers like “Thank you so much. We take your feedback seriously but can’t respond with any specific information…” to ask company leaders or developers from the company who can answer these questions to respond.
I had so much hope for BASIS to be cool and useful for me and many others – and it could be, in my opinion, if the company would simply listen to their customers and respond to them. They would earn the respect of many technologist if they would release an API so the software developer community could develop apps and integration, and the ability to download, export or feed a users personal fitness data to an app or tool of their choosing. Until they do that, BASIS has very limited use for me.
PEAK Next Generation Band
Will the next generation PEAK be better than the B1 or Carbon Steel? Of course it will but when you use in a BASIS, you are investing in a complete service and the whole thing has to work together any value from it. Here’s a good article comparing the new Peak with previous models. I expect the Peak band to address some of the shortcoming of the device but the biggest shortfall of Basis is their limited service and lack of integration. If they can fix that, and the damage already done to their reputation by waiting so long, they could have a good product.
What Exactly Is BASIS?
Basis really consists of three different components: The band itself, the synchronization software and the web-based service. All three must be used or the band is useless. In my opinion there should be four components, including an API or web service to allow developers to integrate Basis with their own applications. This is so obvious, in my opinion, that I have included it in one of the grading criteria in my score below.
The Carbon Steel band is bulky but bulky men’s watches are fashionable so that didn’t bother me. The LCD display is dim and very difficult to read. It feels like an LCD watch from the 1980s. The backlight stays on for a short time and it can’t be read during an outdoor run or bike ride.
The Basis Sync application that runs on the desktop looks like a Windows application written ten years ago in Visual Basic 6 in about two hours. It’s light on features and synchronization fails about a third of the time. Unplug the device & plug it back in, close the app and re-open it, or wait and try later; and it will then synchronize with the Basis cloud service.
The online service and web site are quite functional. The site is attractive and the analytic graphic and charting is actually quite impressive. I featured both the daily fitness statistics time line and sleep analysis in this blog post: https://sqlserverbiblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/nascar-driver-kurt-buschs-basis-bio-stats/. Basis also sends alters and reminders. They have this goal tracking and point system to keep you motivated. All of that is well-designed and works well if you want to use your device in this way.
Where the service breaks-down is if you want to analyze more than a days’ worth of stats. You just can’t. Period. Since you can’t download or integrate any of “your” data, you can’t use it outside of the few features offered by Basis. In short, it’s not really “your data” to analyze.
The accuracy of the device is constantly under scrutiny. Basis has a lot of monitoring capabilities and tracks heart rate, perspiration, skin temperature and movement. With this, it analyzes different activities, sleep quality and calories. I have not measured its accuracy against other devices so I don’t a strong opinion. I can say that it has worked well for me and from my reading, Basis seems to work as well as or better than most competitive devices. I would rate the functionality of the device quite high but the display is very poor in my opinion.
Setting the time and time zone. You can’t. There are no settings at all on the device. It sets the time when it synchronizes and you cannot change the time, date or the time zone without changing your online profile. This makes the band useless as a watch when you travel.
Alarms, calendar, reminders – None. This $200 “sophisticated” device lacks all of these common features of a $20 Casio watch.
Device – B
Synchronization software – D
Web site, on-line analysis and daily trending – B
Integration & API support – F
Overall grade: D+
Potential: Could have been an A. Now a C if they get their act together.