If a fitness tracker were a person, what would that person be like? That person would be fit (of course!). It would be a she (and why not?). And, she would be as nimble as she is sturdy. Toned but not chiseled -- more like Gal Gadot as opposed to a Ronda Rousey. She’ll feel right at home in any situation and can always dress for the occasion. She’d be in athleisure mode in most days but can adapt to what’s required on the fly. Doesn’t take challenges too seriously if it’s not fun to do to begin with.
That ladies and gents is who Fitbit Alta is.
At 21.1mm, it’s width is almost half of the Surge, its bigger sibling. The Alta is a slender tracker and you can immediately tell from its profile that the Alta is meant for those who are looking for something on the discrete side. It doesn’t scream, “Hey, look I got a fitness tracker!”. Instead, it confidently but modesty tells the uninitiated, “Yup, it’s a tracker. Cool, right?”. The slim LCD screen occupies the entire length of the face of the bracelet. The Alta’s screen seamlessly flows with the curvature of the bracelet. It’s essentially a carved black gem with rubber bracelets on each side. Even the matte housing, with its chamfered sides, has an opulent polish to it. I’ve had a few, mostly female friends telling me they want one, and they did not know it was a tracker to begin with. It can only mean one thing, it looks trendy and can go with their wardrobe. If rubber isn’t your thing, then you have the metal or leather bracelets to choose from. A fitness tracker that’s a fashion statement? Sure.
The Alta’s bracelet is made of diagonally-textured rubber on the outside and smooth texture on the inside. This means you can, with non-slip confidence, use your non-dominant hand to secure it to your other wrist. The two button pop-in clasp, however, is a love or hate affair. I say “love” because, compared to the other pop-in clasps of other trackers, the Alta’s is amongst the most secure. I’ve had the unfortunate experience losing a two-day old fitness tracker review-unit (different brand)just because its pop-in clasp got inadvertently unfastened while I was (maybe) in the act of slinging my backpack. Suffice to say that the review did not push through. I also say “hate” since the Alta is a pain to put on, literally. Securing it would mean pressing the clasp hard to your wrist which, due to the intense pressure needed, leaves a temporary embossed image of the straps’ small holes on your skin. My female friends had a hard time putting it on without applying force they’re not accustomed to. I even had to assist one, and that friend flinched when I pressed hard. After that slight sting though, all is forgiven since they like how it looks on their wrists. For the much slimmer ones, however, even the smallest setting is still too loose. Fitbit, you’re missing out. Go make an XS size pronto.
In action, the Alta is like most trackers out there – which is a good thing. It has all the basics nailed down: step count, calories burned and sleep tracking. Just for comparison, I tested the Alta on my dominant hand and an Apple Watch on the other hand. After three weeks, I can categorically say that the Alta has a more sensitive step counter. Sure it’s an Alta to Apple comparison but just leaving it out there that the Alta counts 20% more steps than the Apple Watch.
The Alta also tracks calories burned with a 10% variance vs. Apple Watch. For example, my Resting and Active Calories combined for 2,329 calories for Apple Watch vs. 2,550 for the Alta. I’m erring on the side of Apple Watch here since it has HR monitoring, however, a 10% margin of error is acceptable considering the Alta is at a disadvantage. The Alta is also more generous in terms of recording active minutes. In the same date, the Alta logged in 76 active minutes vs.62 minutes for the Apple Watch. Again, not apples to apples here, just pointing out the differences.
I featured the Apple Watch for boxing and thought to myself, the Alta is thin enough so why not put it to the test as well. Since the Alta doesn’t feature any HR monitoring, it had the advantage of being worn on top of the hand wraps. The small bracelet was able to accommodate the added girth of the hand wraps easily. Skipping rope, shadowboxing and dynamic stretching were all done with no problems. I upped the ante to a few rounds on the speedbag and on the double-end bag as well. It was able to count steps made and recorded activity and calories burned consistently.
I then leveled up to putting it through power shots with boxing gloves on. Due to its thickness, you’ll feel a bit of a tight squeeze when you wrap the wrist strap of the gloves over the Alta. I know it’s not meant for boxing and shouldn’t be worn inside the gloves, but hey, it is a fitness tracker after all and with the Apple Watch impressing me in that regard, I just had to test it the same way. With the Apple Watch on my left and the Alta on my right, I continued with my training. I can definitely feel the pressure made by latter. It’s not to a degree that’s bothersome but the pinch is felt just enough to let you know it’s in there. After a few rounds, I got used to it. Looks like the Alta can hold its own after all.
Battery life can last a full 5 days while charging it will only take 2 hours.
Pairing it with the iphone was a cinch and did not conflict with the Apple Watch. Push notifications also buzz simultaneously with the Apple Watch. It can send you four notification types: Caller ID, Text notifications and Calendar notifications. Full name of the caller / sender and a few lines of the message scrolls from left to right. Going to wax nostalgic a bit and say that this scrolling reminds me of those one-liner pagers back in the 90s.
Tap and tap and tap again
Not sure if it’s the unit for review but the one I got has some sensitivity issues. I guess all that shine comes with a hint of snobbery. There are two ways to make the Alta show the data it captured for the day. One is to tap the screen. And two, is by lifting the wrist as if to look at a watch face. Tapping the screen is not as smooth as I would have hoped. There are times that I had to annoyingly tap it more than thrice, making each tap harder than the previous one just to wake up the screen. The responsiveness is just not consistent. Turning the wrist to wake it up is also a hit and miss. Sometimes I find myself completely turning my wrist the other way (palm up) and turn the face back up (palm down) just to wake the screen. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it does make you think that Fitbit should have nailed the sensitivity issues by now.
As part of the Fitbit family, the Alta takes advantage of the platform of connecting friends and family for fitness challenges. It not only connects Altas to others of its kind but to all your friends with Fitbit, regardless of the model. All I did was register using my Facebook account. Since my friends got notified in their Fitbit feeds that I joined, I immediately received invites for challenges. So yes, challenge accepted. You can even invite people from other continents as time zones are taken into account. Fitbit also notifies you via your mobile phone if someone ran past your progress. Fellow competitors cheer or taunt you and you can likewise do the same. It’s all part of gamesmanship. The gamified approach is so much fun that I found myself challenging others for daily, weekday and weekend modes in return. I did not win them all, but then again the fun is in trying to keep up with (or beat) my friends and getting fit while doing so.
So is this for you? If you’re looking for a basic fitness tracker that looks more like a fashion accessory than the usual activity tracker then go get one. It can look just as good in smart casual as it does in activewear. Just make sure, especially if you have thin wrists, to first try it on for size. Definitely, check out the other bracelet options as well. It does have its own quirks on waking up the screen and presents a bit of a challenge in securing the clasp but these don’t detract from the overall experience.
The Alta certainly puts the finesse in fitness and is a highly recommended fitness tracker.