By focusing on style and nailing the basics, Fitbit has a winner with the new Alta fitness band.
By Caitlin McGarry
At a Glance
Looks less like a fitness tracker with slim, sleek design
Tracks workouts like running automatically and accurately
High-quality interchangeable bands
Display can slow to respond to tapping
Fitbit’s fashionable fitness band tracks activity and sleep seamlessly, accurately, and affordably.
Fitbit’s lineup of activity-tracking bands runs the gamut, from the totally basic $60 Zip to the powerful cardio companion, the $250 Surge. The new Fitbit Alta is a sleeker, more stylish fitness band than the company has attempted before, and with its launch, the wearables market leader has hit the sweet spot. The Alta is a slim, affordable, versatile fitness band that you can take from the gym to the office to after-work drinks without looking like an overzealous weirdo. If that’s important to you, read on.
The $130 Alta is one of two new Fitbits released this spring. The
Fitbit Blaze is more fully-featured (and more expensive) than its little sibling, but it might be overkill for people who don’t care about on-screen workouts and text message notifications. Those people may want a subtle but useful band that nails the basics: accurate activity- and sleep-tracking and positive reinforcement to meet their fitness goals in a stylish package that doesn’t scream, “LOOK AT THIS GIANT FITNESS TRACKER ON MY WRIST.”
That’s where the Alta comes in.
Note: This review is part of our roundup of various Fitbit models. Go there for details on each product and our testing methods.
Looks aren’t everything
The Alta doesn’t have a heart rate sensor like the Blaze does, so athletes may want to spring for a more powerful fitness watch. But if you just want to quantify your daily activity and maybe see how much you toss and turn at night, the Alta gets the job done (and looks far more attractive while doing so). I often see executives around New York sporting the Fitbit Charge, which, no offense to Fitbit or the executives, is pretty ugly. The Alta has many similarities to the Charge, like accurate activity-tracking, automatic sleep-tracking, call notifications from your phone, and an OLED display that shows your daily progress. The Charge still wins on battery life at an impressive 7–10 days, but the Alta isn’t far behind at five days on a single charge. (And the Alta’s charger isn’t an abomination like the Blaze’s, so that’s an extra point in its favor.)
Fitbit put the SmartTrack technology from the Surge and Charge HR in both of its new bands, which means I don’t have to open the app or press a button to begin a workout. The Alta automatically logs my morning miles in the app, no extra work required. The band accurately recognizes walking, running, outdoor biking, elliptical training, and two general categories, sport and aerobic workout (which includes cardio-intensive movement like dancing) and syncs that data to the Fitbit app seamlessly.
If you’ve used a Fitbit device before, you’re familiar with the Fitbit app’s ease of use. You’ve also probably set up fitness challenges with your friends and family, which never cease to motivate me. Yes, I’ve walked laps around my kitchen to knock someone else down on the leaderboard, and I’m not ashamed.
We’ll never go out of style
But let’s get back to what sets the Alta apart from other Fitbits and from most other fitness bands: design.
Other Fitbits are just so obvious about their function. The Charge is a utilitarian-looking thick piece of plastic—sorry, elastomer—and the Blaze is even more gigantic. Like those two trackers, the Alta has a display so you can tap to see the time and stats like step count, stairs climbed, and calories burned. But its minimalist look is the best of any Fitbit, and of most Fitbit rivals, too.
Like the Apple Watch and Fitbit Blaze, the Alta ups its style quotient with interchangeable bands according to occasion. Workouts require the elastomer sport band, which comes in four colors, then you can quickly switch up to head to work with the leather band, which is available in camel, pink, and a soft grey for $60, or splurge for the $100 metal band. Designer collections are in the works, too.
The bottom line
The Alta is one of the best fitness bands around for the average person. If you’re training for a marathon, it’s probably not the best pick, but it’s a solid, well-made device that automatically tracks your workouts, steps, and sleep without any work on your part. The ability to swap out bands according to your mood or the event you’re attending is a plus.
Fitbit has finally nailed fitness band design. The Blaze, Surge, and even Charge HR are bulky and look ridiculous on those of us with petite wrists. The Alta looks just as good on my friend’s 6’4“ fiancé as on 5’3” me. That versatility is difficult to come by.
How I know the Alta is a winner: Every day I struggle to choose between wearing the new Fitbit and my Apple Watch, which does more than the Alta could ever dream of at its low price point. I guess I could wear them both, but that’s a level of insanity I’m not ready for yet.