While Fitbit has looked increasingly to the high-end of the fitness tracking market with its last three product releases; Charge HR, Surge, and the 2016 Blaze, their second new product for the year turns its attention back to the lower-end of the market, offering fewer whizz bang extras but focusing on essential features and sleeker design sensibilities.
Pitched as a replacement for Fitbit's late 2014 model Charge, Alta offers a few new software upgrades and features, but it's the complete re-design of the hardware which helps sets the Alta apart. While Charge (and its brother, the Charge HR) had a look that can be kindly called 'industrial,' Alta has a smooth design aimed at the more fashion conscious.
The core functionality of the Fitbit brand has always been based on pedometer functionality, but Fitbit's range has grown to encompass some impressive biometric tech which gives quantifiable feedback on heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, altimeters, and almost everything in between. Many of these are missing in action with Alta, but the resulting product is significantly more streamlined and attached to a very reasonable price point.
The single biggest change with Alta is the revision of the tracker display, utilizing a touch-sensitive OLED display, perfectly hidden in the frame of the unit. It provides an easier way to read data and can be oriented in a horizontal or vertical fashion. The narrower size means that the unit is a little deeper and sits a little higher on the wrist than its predecessor, but never feels obtrusive. Despite the increased display size, it doesn't seem to have much impact on battery life, which continues to last around four to five full days. One current quibble out of the box relates to the sensitivity of the touchscreen, which occasionally requires two or three taps to wake it from its slumber, but I'd be very surprised if the company didn't refine this in firmware in the future.
Even with Fitbit's new approach to simplicity here, it might come as a surprise that Alta doesn't have any physical buttons. Thanks to upgrades in the software, it seems it doesn't need them - with the unit successfully able to automatically track a range of pre-defined workouts including running, cycling, and gym workouts. The automatic nature of the Alta makes it even more appealing to its target demographic, which only requires users to strap it on, then it handles the rest. Charging the tracker is as simple as ever, with a newly produced hook-on clip which grips onto Alta's frame for dear life as it supplies current via USB.
The newly designed tracker allows users to flip out the tracker panel and fit it into a variety of alternate armbands (all available separately) - a nice touch which lets users tailor the bands with numerous options including leather and even metal variations. Again, this is further proof that Fitbit is reacting to consumer and fashion demands. Reworking the band from a traditional watch strap to a lock-in plug style isn't without its troubles, and I occasionally found it hard to lock it properly in, but I assume as the plastic becomes more worn-in and flexible this will become easier over time. As always, be sure to take note of hygiene suggestions to allay potential skin irritations and rashes. After a workout, wash the tracker in light water and completely dry with a towel. I didn't suffer any skin problems myself, but people with pre-existing skin allergies should be mindful.
Of course, solid hardware is nothing without equally reliable and user-friendly software, and Fitbit's suite of apps simply cannot be faulted. For everyday information, the app does an excellent job of displaying the most pressing vital stats, while the web app gives access to a broader suite of statistics and interactive graphs to illustrate your health progression and to alter a range of band settings. The Bluetooth syncing is flawless, running reliably in the background, but can also be triggered manually.
In an increasingly crowded product market, Fitbit has taken a detour with Alta, breaking now new technological ground, but creating their most autonomous, easiest to use and fashion conscious tracker yet. Alta isn't aimed at gym junkies or runners who'll likely continue to exhibit a strong preference for the Charge HR and Blaze trackers, but for everyday people who just want some feedback on their daily activities and to push their physicality a little more, they'll no doubt find a lot to like here.
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||85%|
|Value for Money||90%|
The Bottom Line: If you're in the market for a mid-range fitness tracker with a range of useful features and strikingly good looks, the Fitbit Alta leads the pack.
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