At first glance, the Fitbit Alta already looks way more appealing than its predecessor, the Fitbit Charge. It still packs a punch while being slimmer and along with its bigger brother, the Fitbit Blaze, Fitbit is trying to make more “fashion conscious” trackers with interchangeable bands.
I’ve been wearing one for about two weeks now and I haven’t found a lot I can complain about it. So does the Alta live up to the Fitbit name?
Fitbit has been making quality fitness trackers for quite some time now so it is to no surprise that the Alta is still flawless when tracking steps, activities, and sleep time. Sleep time is automatically detected so you don’t have to do anything as it “knows” when you go to sleep, wake up, and if you have been restless throughout the night. However, Fitbit removed the altimeter so it doesn’t count how many floors you’ve walked up anymore. This is not a big deal to me but it could be useful for someone that takes the stairs often at work or at home.
One new feature they added is the “SmartTrack,” which automatically recognizes and records exercises after you’ve been active for more than 15 minutes (you can lower it down to ten minutes). The new move/stand up reminders are great too as Fitbit will try to get you to move around by saying random messages like “take me for a 250 step walk” instead of the generic “stand up” messages we are accustomed to.
The Alta now displays text messages and calendar notifications but don’t rely too much on it if the message is long because it’ll get truncated so you’ll still need to reach for the phone. But it is useful to quickly glance at it to see if you really do need to take your phone or not. A smartwatch this is not.
Fitbit also didn’t include a heart rate tracker but at the same price point, the Charge didn’t have one either. It’s clear that Fitbit is trying to get people to buy the more expensive Fitbit Blaze ($199) or Surge ($249) for heart rate monitoring.
The company says the Alta lasts “up to five days” but I’ve gone about six days before needing to charge it again. This is great for people that want something that is reliable and not has to worry about charging it all the time.
The Alta is a lot slimmer (0.61 inches wide) and looks a lot more appealing than the Charge. You can now wear this around as it looks more like a bracelet than something that screams “fitness tracker.” They look way better than the Jawbone Up (slimmer but has no display) or the Misfit Ray.
The Alta felt great on my wrist without any discomfort (I didn’t have any discomfort wearing the Charge in the past either). The only thing I dislike with the clasp design on fitness trackers and the Apple Watch Sport bands is that I feel like it is going to become loose and fall off at any given moment—and the same is true here. Fitbit says the tracker is sweat, rain, and splash proof but should not be worn while swimming or in the shower.
There has been a lot of complaints about the clasps and how hard it is to put it on. Though it does get some getting used to (remember to put your index and middle finger underneath the band and use your thumb to push the clasp through), I don;t really find it a problem once I got used to it. I compare it to putting on the Apple Watch bands the first couple times.
The tiny screen on the Charge has now been replaced with a scratch-resistant OLED tap display that can now show text and calendar notifications. Fitbit is calling it a “tap display.” Tapping it twice will turn the screen on to show the time and each subsequent tap will show the steps, calories burned, and distance walked. You can raise your wrist to turn the screen on as well.
The biggest problem I’ve had so far with the Alta is that the screen is laggy and doesn’t turn on about half the time when I try to double tap it. I’m still wondering if there is a trick to turning the screen on but there have been many times where I tap it many times only to have a blank screen staring right back at me. Other times, I’ll tap it a few times and then it’ll just go a little crazy cycling through the different data screens. Raising my hand to turn it, however, works 90% of the time.
The Alta costs $129 and comes in black, plum, blue, or teal. Fitbit also sells fashion conscious bands if you want to spice things up a bit. I didn’t get an extra band for review but I did try to take the band that comes with the tracker off and it is very easy to do so. At this time, only the leather band ($59.95) and metal bracelet ($99.95) is available on Fitbit’s website. Also, note that these prices are ON TOP of the tracker itself so if you want the metal band, the Alta will cost you a healthy $229.
With all that said, the Alta isn’t a revolutionary product by any means. As a fitness tracker, it’s great—as all Fitbit products are. The new OLED screen is certainly an update from the Charge, but the technical problems make the execution of the “smart” features a little half-baked. However, the Alta is stylish on the wrist and gets the job done—and until smartwatches prove their place in the market and worth to customers—is one of the go-to wearables devices out there.