Fitbit Alta Review

Fitbit Alta Adds Move Reminders, Automatic Exercise Tracking, Notifications

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Fitbit Alta steps up its fitness tracking with more ways to improve your lifestyle in style. If you already are part of the Fitbit family, there are new features such as vibrating move reminders, automatic exercise detection and smart notifications that may convince you to upgrade. You can easily switch bands from classic polymer to luxe leather and metal bands to suit your mood and style.

Who is the Fitbit Alta Right For?

If you want to be encouraged to get the right kinds of activity, exercise and sleep each day, the Alta tracks it.

Even better, it's automatic, you don't have to remember to start and stop any of these functions. The changeable bands are easy to switch to match your style. I've worn all of the Fitbit family and I would recommend the Alta if you want to reduce sitting time, ensure you get enough active exercise, and be encouraged to sleep long enough at night.

The Alta isn't a sports watch, so if you are looking for heart rate, lap timing, GPS speed and distance, etc. you would probably prefer the Fitbit Blaze or Surge, or you may want to use a Garmin Forerunner for those workouts.

Basic Fitbit Functions You Get with the Alta

The Alta has all of the basics you would find with most of the other Fitbits:

  • Distance
  • Automatic sleep tracking with silent vibrating alarm
  • Track your diet, water, weight with the app or online dashboard.
  • Hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly stats in the app and online dashboard.
  • Compete with and encourage friends in challenges and on leaderboards
  • Sync with either computer via wireless USB or with mobile apps for most devices
  • 5-day battery life, recharge with custom USB cable.
  • View the time, steps, distance, calories and active minutes on the OLED display, which is handy to read in the dark as well as indoors, but a bit dim outdoors in sunlight.

Advanced Functions with Alta

  • Inactivity tracking and vibrating reminders to move
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise detection and tracking
  • Smart notifications - Call, text messages, calendar notifications (can turn any on or off). These scroll on the OLED watch face
  • Customize the watch face - vertical or horizontal time display. Just raise your wrist and it appears, or give it a double tap.
  • Changeable bands that are truly easy to switch

Functions you don't get with Alta

  • Floors climbed
  • Heart rate
  • You can track your walks, runs, and cycling via GPS with the mobile app, but these do not appear on the Alta display itself.
  • It's water-resistant, not waterproof.

What's New and Different with the Fitbit Alta

Display: The watch face of the Alta displays the time, steps, distance, calories, and active minutes.

It is an OLED display that activates when you raise your wrist or when you give it a double tap. You scroll through the display by tapping it. I found it bright enough for indoors, but outdoors it  was hard to read in sunlight. I like being able to read it in the dark. Customize the orientation of the time display to view it horizontal or vertical.

Notifications: View smart notifications on the Alta when you pair it with a mobile phone. It will display calls, texts and calendar notifications and you choose whether you want to see those items or not. I enabled all three and I liked that I didn't get all of the other app notifications from my phone, just those important ones.

Vibrating Move Reminders and Inactivity Tracking: Alta is the first activity tracker of the Fitbit family to give you vibrating inactivity alerts when you haven't yet moved 250 steps during the hour. If you spend a lot of the day sitting, it will encourage you to get up and move for about two minutes and cheer you when you've done it. Review the whole day and week to see where you were inactive for over an hour.  It is even  retroactive if you've used past models of Fitbit - your past history shows your inactivity stats once you have an Alta.

You can set which hours of the day the reminders are active so it isn't waking you up early with the vibration. Each day you also see your longest active period, total active time and total stationary time. It is a great, graphic way to see when you needed to move more and help reduce the health risks of inactivity.

SmartTrack Automatic Exercise Detection and Tracking: When you move continuously for at least 15 minutes, the Alta knows and records it as a workout. It also classifies it by what it thinks you were doing - walk, run, ride, elliptical, sport, or workout. In the app, you can change it to any of dozens of activities to refine it, from archery to Zumba. Each detected workout is logged in the app and online dashboard. Review the steps, calories and active minutes for each workout. Adjust the detection timing of each type of exercise so it recognizes a workout of as few as 10 minutes up to 90 minutes. The SmartTrack feature can also be found on the Charge HR, Surge, and Blaze.

Set exercise goals to encourage yourself to achieve 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise five days per week or more, meeting the American Heart Association's physical activity guidelines. See whether you've met the goal yet for the week. This can encourage consistent exercise.

Automatic Sleep Detection and Sleep Goals: This is a feature on many of the Fitbits, but not all. You can set a silent, vibrating alarm. Set a sleep goal so it will encourage you to get enough sleep - you get a green star if you stay in bed long enough. See total time asleep, times awake, times restless and minutes you were awake or restless.

Change the Bands: It is important for a fitness tracker to fit your style. The Alta bands are very easy to switch. The classic polymer band comes in black, blue, plum and aqua and you can swap them. Luxe leather bands are available in bluish pink and graphite, and premium stainless steel and gold bands are coming. Many different designs are available from third-party vendors as is common for the Fitbit Flex.

Drawbacks of the Fitbit Alta

  • I struggled to get the clasp closed with the polymer sports band, just as I always had problems with the Flex band. But I had no trouble with the leather band. It is still worrisome that there isn't a buckle band which would be more secure although the metal band will close securely. I might still use a Bitbelt to be sure I wouldn't lose it.
  • The display is too dim outdoors.
  • Many Fitbit users will miss having the floors climbed count.
  • I wish there was a clasp attachment so I could take off the bands and wear it on my waistband.

Bottom Line on the Fitbit Alta

I've been waiting for a Fitbit with inactivity tracking and move reminders similar to the Jawbone UP, and the Alta does this well. The automatic exercise tracking and sleep tracking make this an excellent all-around fitness tracker. You won't get frustrated because you forgot to start and stop any functions. I prefer fitness trackers that have a numerical display like the Alta over those where you have to check the app to see your stats. Having text, call and calendar notifications and interchangeable bands is icing on the cake.

I recommend the Alta over the Flex or Charge if you are considering a first Fitbit, although you may like the Charge HR, Blaze, or Surge if heart rate is an important feature for you. If you already have a Fitbit and want the new features, it's a good upgrade and all of your Fitbit history will be maintained. In fact, it will automatically show your inactivity stats from your past history, which is an eye-opener!

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.

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