The last device in the Fitbit Alta range was released nearly two years ago. This makes it ripe for an update.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
At the time of its launch, Fitbit called Alta HR the “world’s slimmest” wrist-worn tracker with a continuous heart rate sensor. With this fitness band, the company has shown that it is possible to bring its Pure Pulse technology to a something this narrow. The device gets the basics right and comes with one of the most user friendly app ecosystems out there.
But let’s face it, there is a lot of room for improvement. Here’s what we’d like to see from the next generation tracker.
Fitbit Alta 2: design
Alta and Alta HR are amongst the best looking fitness trackers Fitbit has released so far. They’ve been big seller particularly with women, the high-fashion crowd and those looking to get into fitness tracking.
The two generations we’ve had so far look very similar. Just 15mm in width, they are slim, stylish and lightweight. This is obviously part of Fitbit’s effort to create products that feel less like computers and more like design accessories. We therefore don’t expect Alta 2 to be much different.
The current version sports a discreet, slightly curved, touch-screen, OLED display with a 128 x 36 pixel resolution. It automatically turns on or off based on your wrist movements. Like most companies, Fitbit does this to save battery. The screen shows your activity stats and the time, and can be personalized using a variety of portrait or landscape clock face options.
You won’t find any buttons on the Alta HR. You wake up the device by lifting your wrist or by firmly tapping on the centre of the display. While not a touch display, taps navigate through the screens. This has the advantage of keeping the form factor down, but it also means you lose some functionality. Therefore we would like to see a physical button on the tracker, perhaps an inductive button such as the one on Charge 3. The other option is to introduce a full touch screen.
Better water resistance is another thing we would like to see. The previous generations are rated only “sweat, rain and splash proof”. This means while you may be ok to go jogging in the rain, don’t plan on going swimming with them. A water-resistance rating of at least 3 ATM or 5 ATM will hopefully be part of the new package.
Rather impressively, despite the addition of heart rate monitoring and its slim size, the Alta HR can keep going for up to a week before needing a top-up. That’s pretty good. We’d expect no less from Alta 2 and perhaps a bit more.
Fitbit Alta 2: functionality
The original Alta is able to track steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. It is also equipped with reminders to move, nudging you to stay active throughout the day, while providing visual feedback on your progress and keeping you connected with smart notifications. The gizmo does all this reliably and accurately.
As its name implies, the second generation Alta HR slaps on a heart rate monitor. It also includes the new Sleep Stages feature, which uses accelerometer and heart rate data to more accurately estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep, and REM sleep stages each night.
But there is more that could be added.
Altimeter for floor count
When it comes to fitness basics, something devices in the Alta range don’t do is count floors. Therefore, an altimeter is the first thing we’d be looking for on Alta 2 as its the most obvious omission from the previous generations. The total flights of stairs you have climbed is estimated using atmospheric pressure. The value is also used to make your calorie output more accurate.
Seeing as there’s a pretty good chance Alta 2 will have better water resistance, swim tracking should be part of the package. Fitbit may very well add on some other sports to the existing list which includes 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).
Manual starting of activity
When it comes to exercise tracking, another addition we’d be looking for is manual starting of activity. The current versions don’t have a physical button so workouts are only recorded when you’ve been active for at least 15 minutes (or a time of your choosing). There’s no way to start an activity manually. If the automatic tracking does miss or wrongly classify a workout, you can fix this in the Fitbit app.
Another omission from the current editions is the lack of GPS. We wouldn’t be looking for built-in GPS as that would bump the price up too much, but most Fitbit devices these days have Connected GPS. This is a fancy way of saying the gizmo on your wrist can tap into your smartphone satellite signal for more precise tracking of distance. This should also enable the Alta 2 to spit out an estimate of your VO2Max, a feature it currently lacks.
One other possibility is the inclusion of an SpO2 sensor. The Garmin Vivosmart 4 has shown that it is possible to add the sensor on a device that is very small, and Versa and Charge 3 already have it. Unfortunately, users are still unable to tap into this data, but hopefully Fitbit will enable the functionality soon.
An SpO2 sensor measures how well oxygen is sent to parts of the body furthest from your heart (such as arms and legs). Fitbit is planning to use it while you’re sleeping to let you know if you have any sleep issues such as apnea.
Guided Breathing Sessions
The last thing we’d be looking for are Guided Breathing Sessions. This helps you get your breath in rhythm and relax.
Fitbit Alta 2: price and release date
The original Alta was unveiled in February 2016, the Alta HR came out in March 2017. Fitbit usually updates its devices every 18 months to 2 years, so a Spring or early Summer launch date looks very likely. We are not looking for a revolutionary update, but there is clearly a lot of room for improvement.
As for the price, the Alta HR is going for around $130 on Fitbit’s website. This is not a high-end device, so the company will probably be looking to sell the new tracker at a similar price-point.
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