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Intel's Basis Takes Second Stab at Health Watch, With Peak

Basis' new Peak watch: Better design, more accurate heart-rate tracking and smartphone notifications.

Another day, another new wrist-wearable in gadgetland. But this one sounds … pretty compelling.

Basis, the Intel-owned maker of a health-tracking watch called the B1 Band, is introducing a new high-quality wristwatch that combines key elements of a health monitor, including step-counting and more accurate heart-rate tracking, with some features of a smartwatch, like phone notifications.

The new Peak watch is made of anodized aluminum and Gorilla Glass 3, and comes in two models — matte black and brushed silver. It has a touchscreen display, unlike the B1 Band, which has four tiny touchpoints along the face of the watch for toggling through display options.

Basis Peak

The Peak also has a faster processor and an improved optical heart rate sensor. The previous B1 Band has an optical heart rate sensor, which infers your heart rate by shining light through your blood and capturing minute changes in the blood flow, but in my experience with the B1, the continuous heart-rate tracking wasn’t always accurate. Basis’s general manager Jef Holove says the optical heart rate sensor on the new Peak should be powerful enough to replace a heart-rate chest strap.

Notifications sent from a smartphone will eventually work on the Bluetooth LE-enabled Peak watch, although that feature won’t be available initially. And finally, the company’s compatible Basis app has been redesigned to support Peak. One of the new features of the app is that it will smartly reorder activities based on which goals are actually attainable for the wearer on any given day.

“We’re not trying to be a full-on smartwatch, but we will be able to do some of the essentials users want,” Holove said in an interview.

The new Peak watch will have the same starting-out price as the B1 Band — $200 — and will begin shipping in early November. It effectively replaces previous Basis bands, though the company will continue to support earlier models.

As Bonnie Cha and I wrote in a previous story, there has been a flurry of new watch and/or activity-tracker announcements in recent weeks, as hardware makers look to get their goods out there in time for the holiday season. Or, you know, before Apple’s watch comes to market.

But the Basis Peak watch certainly checks off a few feature boxes that the Apple Watch doesn’t (at least, from what we know about it right now). Work with both iOS and Android? Check. Claims four days of battery life? Check. Waterproof for swimming? Check. Tracks sleep? Check.

And Basis, which was acquired last March, now falls under Intel’s New Devices Group, which has made it clear it wants to stake its claim in the wearables market and not miss out as it did in mobile.

“Intel is working on a lot of stuff, from processors to IP, that will help us a lot in the future,” Holove said.

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