Like its predecessor, the B1, the Peak is loaded with sensors capable of tracking your movement, sweat output, heat dissipation, blood flow and heart rate. This time, though, it can also track your heart rate during workouts. If that sounds like a no-brainer feature, CEO Jef Holove says the optical heart rate sensor on the old model produced too much signal noise while in motion. At the same time, an electrical heart rate sensor (the kind used in heart rate-monitoring chest straps) would have had a negative effect on both battery life as well as the size of the device. So that was out of the question. That said, Holove promises that a new optical sensor and an improved algorithm should produce more accurate results.
Additionally, the band now has a Bluetooth LE radio, helping it sync automatically with a brand-new Android and iOS app. This allows the band to behave more like a smartwatch -- sort of. In an interview, Holove said he didn't want users to be annoyed by too many pop-ups, but added that, at the very least, the band would show incoming texts and calls, along with notifications related to fitness tracking (reminders to get up and move, et cetera). Basis also plans to open its API to developers as it considers adding more apps. Really, though, the company is still figuring everything out: Holove says these smartwatch-like features will be added via a software update sometime after the device ships. That leaves Basis time to decide how many notifications is too many.
So that's how the new fitness tracker works. But if you ask us, the real story is how much better it looks. Aside from the fact that the original B1 was on the pricey side, it was also bulky, with various buttons on the side to make up for the fact that there was no touchscreen. It wasn't the sort of device you could wear with just any outfit. In contrast, this new Peak trades a plastic face for a thinner metal body, complete with an LCD touchscreen, and no buttons on the sides. Basis also claims the display is easier to read in sunlight, but we'll be the judge of that when we eventually get one in to review.