Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wrist Watch: Pebble vs. Basis Band

I'm Jeff and I am an early adopter. There. I said it. I admit to my vice (that's the first step, right?) As an admitted early adopter I was one of the early backers of the Pebble smart watch on Kickstarter, and I received my Pebble shortly after the first production run. Although I have had my Pebble for more than a month now, I have only worn it several times. That's because the same week that my Pebble arrived, I also received my Basis Band… another new gadget I ordered early enough to be among the first to receive.

One Available Wrist

As most humans, I only have two wrists, one of which has been home to a bracelet since my early teens. After all these years I have grown accustomed to wearing just a bracelet on my right wrist. I feel awkward without it, and I prefer to wear only a single bracelet on that wrist. Which leaves me just my left wrist for any other watch or band device. Hence having to choose between my newly acquired Basis and Pebble. Here's why, for the moment, the Basis has won the battle for my left wrist…

Connected Self vs. Quantified Self

I, like many of you, am addicted to my smartphone. My Samsung Galaxy SIII is the last thing I look at before I go to bed and the first thing I grab when I wake up in the morning. No, these are not great habits. Yes, they mean I live an uber-connected life, feeding myself a constant stream of information via a phone that is rarely, if ever, further than a meter from my media overloaded brain. As if my mobile habit wasn't bad enough, I find I am also addicted to fitness tracking devices, and own all generations of the Fitbit (plus an Aria wi-fi scale), a Jawbone UP bracelet, a Motorola ACTV gps watch, several generations of old Garmin GPS watches, a Nike+ FuelBand, and now, the Basis Band.

Up until the arrival of the Basis, I was wearing my Nike FUELband on my left wrist, using it as both a watch, and a fitness tracker. Since the FUELband does not track sleep, I also wear my FitBit regularly. With both the Pebble and Basis as shiny new options for my left wrist, I retired my Nike FUELband, and ultimately chose the Basis as my daily wrist mate, leaving the Pebble for "special occasions" as described in more detail below. While the Pebble is an awesome device, when weighing the true benefits of wearing it all day, every day, I decided the fitness data provided by the Basis truly added more value for me.

The Pebble

Firstly, both the Pebble and the Basis Band are great devices. They are both well manufactured, comfortable and cool looking to wear, and deliver on their respective promised features and functions. The Pebble, while lauded as a "smartwatch," is really more accurately a "connected" watch. In the current early stage, it essentially becomes an extension of your smartphone, passing along alerts and messages to the e-ink screen on your wrist, and letting you then decide whether said alert or message warrants retrieving your smartphone from a pocket or purse to take further action.

My conclusion: during the day, when your phone is generally handy and accessible (often right in front of you on your desk), getting alerts on your watch is just an additional distraction and doesn't necessarily add much convenience or value to the smartphone or watch experience. I can glance at my phone screen just as easily as I can glance at my wrist when my phone is faithfully at my side (sadly, my norm.) Where the Pebble does shine, and where it really is a pleasure to wear, is when you are at an event or in a situation where it really is inconvenient or inappropriate to be constantly addressing your phone. The times I have worn, and thoroughly been delighted by my Pebble have been at concerts, the theater, and social events, where I can remain "in the moment" and not with my face rudely glancing down at my phone, yet still feel completely connected and have no FOMO (fear of missing out) because even though my phone is tucked neatly in a pocket, I will know everything it is trying to tell me. In these situations, the Pebble rocks.

The Basis Band

As fitness trackers go, the Basis is the closest thing to an "all in one" device I have found. With a slew of sensors, the Basis tracks steps, calories, heart rate, body temp, perspiration and sleep. And it tells time! It does all this quite seamlessly and elegantly in a watch form factor that looks great and is light and comfortable to wear. What I love about the Basis is that it is a passive device. Just wear it like a watch and it tracks everything. Even sleep tracking is automatic, a big plus, as every other device I have used to track sleep requires you to "start" and "end" some type of "sleep mode" for sleep tracking to engage, resulting in many missed nights of data. The Basis software (currently web only, with apps reportedly coming very soon), is both detailed and slick, including some neat gamification elements as you earn points and unlock "habits" for further trackable goals. My only complaint about the Basis, and it is not that big of a deal, is that the screen is not very bright, even when backlit. I suspect this was a trade-off in favor of better battery life, since there are so many active sensors working 24/7 on this device.

Best of Both Worlds

I am a huge fan of the "quantified self" movement and strongly believe that when you track activities you will do them more, and I absolutely know that I exercise more regularly now that I am fully aware of my progress each day. The Basis is a great fitness companion and subtle coach, pushing me through awareness toward my daily goal. Thus, for me, the Basis provides much more utility and value as my "all the time" watch than the Pebble does. However, as soon as I hit my daily 10,000 step goal (and especially when I go out on a Saturday night), I am happy to switch to my Pebble, and give my smartphone some time to hibernate in my pocket, leaving my hands free for fun.

Have you tried a Pebble or a Basis Band? What are your thoughts?

(Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links to help support my gadget addiction...)
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