Fitbit Alta Review: A Great Basic Fitness Tracker

A Nice Design and Useful Reminders Make for a Strong Entry-Level Option.

Sarah Silbert

Earlier this year, Fitbit announced a stylish new addition to its activity tracker lineup: the Fitbit Alta. Offering a variety of interchangeable bands in different finishes and the same app experience Fitbit users have access to across other devices, this gadget is targeted toward workout enthusiasts who want to keep tabs on basic stats, not advanced ones like heart-rate tracking. Keep reading for an in-depth review of the Alta, based on my hands-on time wearing and working out with the product.

Price and Availability

The Fitbit Alta costs $129.95, which puts in on the high end of trackers in its "everyday" category of devices. Other products in this category include the Fitbit Charge, which is currently available for as low as $80 from a variety of sites (due to its being updated with a heart rate-monitoring version called the Fitbit Charge HR), and the Fitbit Flex, which costs $99.95. There are several higher-end Fitbits that cost more than the Alta, however; these include the $149.95 Fitbit Charge HR, the $199.95 Fitbit Blaze (both of which fall under the company's "active" category) and the $249.95 Fitbit Surge (the only device under the "performance" category.)

You can purchase the Alta directly through Fitbit or through a number of online retailers, including Best Buy, Kohl's and Walmart. Most retailers are selling it at the MSRP of $129.95, though some smaller outlets have it at a lower price.

If you're unfamiliar with a smaller retailer and want to guarantee product authenticity, it might be worth paying the full price for peace of mind.

Design

When Fitbit unveiled the Alta back in February, it described this fitness tracker as combining fitness and fashion. In practice, this means that the device has a modular design so you can swap in various straps.

For the price of $129.95, you'll have your choice of four different strap colors, all of which have a rubberized finish: black, blue, plum and teal. Bands are available in small, large and extra large. If you want to buy an extra strap in this "classic collection," it'll cost you $29.95 apiece through Fitbit.

If you want something a bit dressier or more unique, you can purchase other interchangeable bands separately. There's a leather band available in camel, blush pink and graphite that costs $59.95, and a metal bracelet-style band in stainless steel is listed on the Fitbit for $99.95, though it's not currently available. 

I opted for a black band, but since it was only available in the large size, I decided to get the blush pink leather band in size small as well. This ended up being a good choice, since the large size was too big for my wrist. I like the leather band; the pink color is subdued enough to look professional, and the texture feels almost rubberized so it's quite comfortable against the skin. I don't think this strap option looks especially premium, though — maybe the camel color would look more luxurious, but the finish didn't look like premium leather, and the pink tone seemed to get dirty and a bit discolored quickly.

Fitbit originally announced that "Alta Gold and a Tory Burch Designer Collection" would be available for this device — while these accessories aren't available yet, you'll have more choices down the line. These could definitely up the fashion factor, but even as it is the Fitbit Alta is more attractive than other Fitbits, thanks to a significantly slimmer band design and the optional leather and metal finishes.

Swapping out a new band is relatively easy. On the underside of the fitness tracker's display frame, you'll find two band latches. You simply press down on the metal buttons and slide each side of the strap out.

Attaching a new strap is easy, too; you just slide it into place until it snaps.

Setup

Getting up and running with the Fitbit Alta is relatively easy, though the process does have a few quirks. First, you'll need to ensure the tracker has a charge. If it isn't sufficiently powered up, you'll need to plug it into the included USB charger. The charger has a clip on the end, with pins that line up with the charging port on the actual tracker. It took me a few times to get the Alta properly attached — you'll know it's charging when you see a battery icon on the display.

Once you have the Alta charged, you'll want to get it set up with your mobile app. Turn on Bluetooth, open the Fitbit app and pair the device with your phone. Even with the Alta right next to my phone, it took a few tries before the pairing was successful, but once the device were paired it was smooth sailing.

During setup, the app will also ask you to provide certain information that helps provide an accurate daily calorie expenditure estimate. You'll also be asked whether you're a righty or a lefty, and which hand you'll wear the device on. 

Once you're ready to start wearing the Alta, strap it on. Just make sure the top of the tracker (the side with the charging port) sits on the outside of your wrist.

The Display and the Interface

Apart from the Fitbit app and desktop dashboard, which I'll briefly discuss a bit later, the main way of interacting with the Fitbit Alta is the OLED display on the front of the device. You can tap the screen to toggle between different stats, including steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned and active minutes.

All of these stats are for a given day, with tracking resetting at midnight in your time zone. To wake the screen up, double-tap it, and you'll see the current time. From there, you can cycle through the different stats by tapping once.

In my experience, the OLED display wasn't as responsive as I would have liked; several times, I had to tap more than once to move between different stats. Still, overall this interface was easy to use and very intuitive. I especially loved viewing my total active minutes, which can add up quickly when you're walking around doing errands.

The Fitbit Alta's sensor collects data for some stats that aren't viewable directly from the device's screen. To see info on your hours slept and sleep patterns, hourly activity and stationary time and specific exercise identification, you'll need to go into the Fitbit app on your phone or navigate to the Fitbit dashboard on your computer. Note that you need to wear your Alta to bed if you want to collect stats on your sleep time and sleep patterns (obviously)— as a side sleeper, I personally didn't find this comfortable enough to do, but depending on your sleep habits and sensitivity level this may or may not be an issue. There are several other fitness trackers that offer sleep-tracking, including the Misfit Ray, so if this feature appeal to you make sure to shop around.

Other Features and Overall Impressions

I enjoyed wearing the Fitbit Alta, both because the strap was comfortable on my wrist and because the fitness-tracking features motivated me to stay consistent about going to the gym.

Any fitness tracker can provider activity stats, though, so what makes the Fitbit Alta worth considering beyond its more style-focused modular design?

For one thing, this device vibrates against your wrist with reminders to get up and move each hour, and the app will track how many hours of the day you actually walk a minimum of 250 steps. As someone who spends most of the day working at a computer, I found this feature useful... though I still ignored it plenty of the time.

You can also receive call, text and calendar notifications on Alta's screen if you have a compatible iPhone or Android device. To configure these, your phone and your Alta must be paired, and you'll need to set up these functions in the Fitbit app.

I also appreciated that the Fitbit Alta offers relatively long battery life. It's rated to last up to five days on a charge, and in my experience, it lived up to this. If you're the type of person who forgets to charge your wearable until the very last minute, you'll at least get several days of use out of it. Re-charging takes one to two hours, and you'll just have to remember to put the Alta on again once it's ready to go!

Bottom Line

Overall, the Fitbit Alta does seem like a "lite" approach to fitness tracking compared to more heavy-duty gadgets like the Fitbit Surge, which includes a heart-rate monitor. However, that's exactly what this device is designed to be: a more basic tracker with all the essential stats in a comfortable, lightweight and attractive package. It won't satisfy the needs of hardcore athletes, but if you want an activity tracker that keeps you up to date on your basic workout stats without sacrificing style, this is a great option.

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