Fitbit is the global leader in wearables sales. There is a reason its trackers sell well. They are simple to use, reliable, look smart, provide great vitals statistics and have a great app behind them. It is fair to say though, that Fitbit’s range of trackers have not been the most stylish. This has all changed though in 2016, with the new Blaze and Alta fitness trackers. Today, we present you with our take on Fitbit’s new stylish fitness tracker – our Fitbit Alta review.
Ease of use
Use of information
The Alta tracker has a slim stylish fairly unisex design, a major step up in the looks department from the retro look of its 2015 line of fitness trackers. 2016 definitely looks like is going to be the year when wearables develop a fashion sense. This is a device that can directly compete with stylish offerings from Misfit, Withings and Jawbone.
The Alta features a discreet, slightly curved, touch-screen, OLED display. It’ll automatically turn on or off based on your wrist movements. Like most companies, Fitbit does this to save battery. You can switch the screen on by lifting your wrist or by lightly tapping twice on the display.
The screen shows your activity stats and the time, and can be personalized using a variety of portrait or landscape clock face options. In total, you can choose from five vertical or five horizontal clock options. The device doesn’t have any buttons and you navigate your way around by tapping on the sides of the display.
The Alta comes in a bunch of colours and is designed with a satin finish, stainless steel body. Available at launch in silver stainless steel, the tracker will soon be available in gold stainless steel. In terms of size, with a width of 15 mm, the bands are much smaller compared to the FitbitCharge or Charge HR but slightly larger than for example the Jawbone UP3. Weighing only 29 grams, the device is light, and comfortable enough to forget it’s there.
There is a range of bands of different colors and materials, like elastomer, leather, or stainless steel. Also coming soon, Fitbit and Tory Burch will introduce new styles, providing unique ways to accessorize the device.
As the picture shows, bands can be removed using quick release spring bars while the tracker module simply pops out. The concept is similar to the Blaze and the clasp works slightly better than other Fitbits. Total time to change from one look to another is under 10 seconds. Many, but not all, of the bands comes in three sizes – small, large and extra large.
The Alta is one of the cheapest trackers sold by Fitbit. The company has not included a heart rate sensor, which has allowed it to lower the price as compared to its other wearables. It also does not contain a GPS or an altimetre for counting floors climbed. What it does contain is a 3-axis accelerometer and a vibration motor.
Classic accessory bands have been tested up to 5 ATM meaning they are sweat, rain and splash proof, but not swim proof. Which means we will have to wait a bit longer before Fitbit comes out with a fully water-resistant fitness tracker. Leather bands and metal bands are not intended for high intensity workouts as they are not sweat or water-resistant.
The device has a 5 day battery life, but don’t be surprised if your device keeps going about a week on a single charge. This compares pretty favourably to some smartwatches on the market.
Getting started with your tracker requires connecting it to your compatible mobile device or computer. After setup your tracker can sync its data to your Fitbit dashboard, which is where you can analyze your stats.
The Alta is very user friendly – once you have done the initial set-up – strap it on and you are ready to go. As mentioned, there are no physical buttons on the device, and this is because you don’t really need them. Tapping on the bottom of the screen cycles through your basic fitness stats, including your steps, distance traveled, calories burned and active time. You may find that the screen can be unresponsive at times – meaning you will need to tap more than once to get a response.
A new feature, called SmartTrack, automatically recognizes select exercises and records them in the Fitbit app. It can be easy to forget that you’re logging exercise, so a feature that does it automatically is useful. Activities are recorded when you’ve been active for at least 15 minutes, but that time can be manually adjusted according to your preference. Activities that can be recognised include elliptical, outdoor biking, running, walking, and general categories of aerobic workouts (such as Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and other dance classes) and sports (such as tennis, basketball and soccer). You can also edit settings to exclude certain activities from being recognised.
You don’t have to tell the Alta that you’re planning on snoozing, and sleep mode will kick in from your movements. Which means, all you have to remember is to wear your tracker to bed. When you wake up, sync your tracker to see last night’s sleep stats on the dashboard. It is worth noting, the display sometimes lights up when you change sleeping positions during the night. To avoid being woken up by this, you need to remember to open the Fitbit app on your phone and turn off “Quick View” before going to sleep.
The Alta also features push notifications from your Bluetooth-connected device. It will also display information on phone calls, texts and calendar alerts, accompanied by a short buzz. Unfortunately, you don’t get third party app alerts.
The tracker automatically syncs with your smartphone throughout the day, or you can initiate manual syncs on your own. As with all the Fitbits, you can monitor your stats on your wrist, and for more detailed information on the mobile app or web interface.
Advanced tracking is the name of the game, and the Alta record all the usual statistics, including steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, active minutes, and sleep. The device offers a lot of real-time fitness stats right there on your wrist, which is an advantage over the rival Jawbone Up3 which does not have a display.
We did find the number of steps to be slightly high in some early days of testing, but the rest of our week looked extremely normal, and in line with other devices. There’s no GPS built into the device, which puts it behind the likes of dedicated running watches and it’s big brother, the Fitbit Surge.
While sleep tracking is fairly accurate, as with Fitbit’s other devices, the information provided is still pretty basic. The charts will only show sleep, restlessness and wake. There are much more advanced sleep trackers out there such as Jawbone UP3 or Basis Peak. The UP3 for example, shows you details of light, deep and REM sleep. It does this by monitoring your heart-rate, respiration rate, body temperature and galvanic skin response.
The mobile app remains a well-designed, easy to navigate tool for looking at your data, monitoring your fitness progress, and also tracking your food intake and water consumption. Any metric can be tapped to show historical data, and weekly totals. That’s especially useful for ‘active minutes’ which is the amount of time spent in the day with your heart rate elevated. Upping this total means you’re getting fitter.
The Fitbit device offers a wide selection of data to help and motivate you towards your fitness goals. We feel, however, that more could have been done to provide users with meaningfull analysis of its data. And, of course, there is the lack of communication with Apple’s Health app and Google Fit, which means your Fitbit stats will not be shared with these apps.
On the plus side, the Alta does have move reminders, something that the new Fitbit Blaze lacks, which means it will nudge you to move when you’ve been sitting for too long.
Fitbit has recently added a new feature that allows you to set weekly exercise goals. Exercise Goals can be personalized by choosing the number of target exercise days per week and the types of activities that will count toward their goals. Progress toward goals is displayed within the Fitbit app.
Although the Alta is a big leap forward for Fitbit in terms of design, in terms of functionality it is fair to say that Fitbit is styling up what it already has on offer. This means that at its core, the Alta is not much different from other Fitbits – there is no ground-breaking new technology on board. The Alta, however, shows that Fitbit has learned enough about design to compete with more stylish rivals.
Fitbit’s new tracker might actually be the best-looking fitness tracker the company has released so far. We think this will be a big seller, particularly with women and the high-fashion crowd. Automatic activity tracking is a huge plus. Just put the fitness tracker on, without worrying about pressing buttons or logging any activity.
Retailing for $130, the Alta is one of the cheapest trackers sold by the company. There is no heart rate sensor, which has allowed Fitbit to lower the price as compared to its other wearables. It also does not contain a GPS or an altimetre for counting floors climbed. Think of it as a much better looking, revamped cousin of the Flex, but with a screen.
While it’s comfortable and easy to use, the Alta doesn’t go far beyond the basic capabilities of a fitness tracker. If, however, you’re looking for a stylish fitness tracker from a recognised brand that does the essentials well, then this could be the device for you.