Fitbit Alta Review: A Great Basic Fitness Tracker

A nice design and useful reminders make for a strong entry-level option

Sarah Silbert

Fitbit's stylish Alta offers a variety of interchangeable bands in different finishes and the same app experience Fitbit users enjoy across other devices. This gadget is targeted at workout enthusiasts who want to keep tabs on basic stats, not advanced ones like heart-rate tracking.

Price and Availability

The Fitbit Alta's cost hovers around $100 as of late 2018, which puts it on the high end of the "everyday" category. Other products in this range include the Fitbit Charge and the Fitbit Flex, which generally cost less than the Alta. Higher-end Fitbits include the Fitbit Charge HR, the Fitbit Blaze (both of which fall under the company's "active" category) and the Fitbit Surge (the only device in 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. If you're unfamiliar with a retailer and want to guarantee product authenticity, paying the full price might be worth it for peace of mind.

Design

When Fitbit unveiled the Alta, the company 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. You have your choice of four different strap colors, all of which have a rubberized finish: black, blue, plum, and teal. Additional bands are available in small, large, and extra-large, in a variety of materials and price ranges.

Swapping out a new band is relatively easy. On the underside of the fitness tracker's display frame, you'll find two band latches. Simply press down on the metal buttons and slide each side of the strap out. Attaching a new strap is easy, too; 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, ensure the tracker has a charge. If it isn't sufficiently powered up, 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. Getting the Alta properly attached might take a few tries; you'll know it's charging when you see a battery icon on the display.

To set up your charged Alta with the mobile app, turn on Bluetooth, open the Fitbit app, and pair the device with your phone. This, too, might take a few tries, but the Alta connects reliably after that.

During setup, the app asks for certain information to provide an accurate daily calorie expenditure estimate. It also will ask you whether you're a righty or a lefty, and which wrist you'll wear the device on. 

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

Display and Interface

Apart from the Fitbit app and desktop dashboard, the main way of interacting with the Fitbit Alta is the OLED display on the front of the device. Tap the screen to toggle among various stats, including steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and active minutes. All of these stats are for a given day; tracking resets 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.

Still, this interface is generally easy to use and very intuitive. Viewing your total active minutes is especially gratifying; they 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, go into the Fitbit app on your phone or navigate to the Fitbit dashboard on your computer.

If you want to collect stats on your sleep time and sleep patterns, you obviously need to wear your Alta to bed. Depending on your sleep habits and sensitivity level, this may or may not be an issue. Several other fitness trackers offer sleep-tracking, including the Misfit Ray, so if this feature appeals to you, shop around.

The 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. However, that's exactly what this device is designed to be: a basic tracker with all the essential stats in a comfortable, lightweight, 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.

What We Like

  • The strap is comfortable on the wrist.
  • Vibration notifications remind you to get up and move each hour.
  • The app tracks how many hours of the day you walk a minimum of 250 steps (particularly useful if you work at a desk most of the day).
  • You can receive call, text, and calendar notifications on Alta's screen if you have a compatible iPhone or Android device.
  • The battery's rated to last up to five days on a charge and takes only an hour or two to recharge.

What We Don't Like

  • Bluetooth pairing can take a couple tries.
  • Features aren't as robust as some other models (e.g., no heart-rate monitor is included).
  • The OLED display at times is not as responsive as we'd like: You might have to tap more than once to move among the stats.