Looking to replace your standard Fitbit with something that’s got a few more features and a few more accessories? Then the Fitbit Alta may be for you. The designs are similar, the functionality is virtually identical, and you also get an integrated display that allows you see the time and other pieces of info. It costs a little more, but if you can find a deal on one (as I did) I think you’d likely enjoy what the Alta has to offer.
The Fitbit Alta design is very reminiscent of the Flex model, which (all things considered) it probably could replace. The tried and true sport band with module in the middle is something that Fitbit does as well or better than anyone in the fitness tracker game. The fact that Fitbit has a whole lot of models to chose from makes deciding a bit harder and a bit easier at the same time. A bit harder, because there are different features and options to consider (not to mention price points) and a bit easier because most of the devices share enough commonality that you can be assured you’re getting all of the features of the model below it, and a few more things.
The major difference between the Flex and the Alta is the display. The module that houses all the sensors and the display is a bit larger on the Alta, which allows it to display more information. And by more, I mean any at all, because the Flex has a small LED display window showing 5 dots and that’s it. The Alta module is larger than that of the Flex, but the module is gently curved on the back side to match the angle of most wrists. It sits comfortably on my wrist, and while I purchased the “Large” size (and there are both large and small sizes) I believe this is only the size of the bands that frame the module. So for some with smaller wrist sizes, while the small band might fit, the module might not be comfortable. I asked a co-worker to try on mine, and the Alta module seemed a little too large for her, and she indicated she probably wouldn’t wear it because of that.
The rubbery sport style band would likely be fine for most, and you get a few options to choose from “stock” – there’s a black (mine), plum, blue, and teal. A quick Amazon search will next you a plethora of additional options to choose from, ranging from even more colors, to different styles of bands altogether (I picked up a mesh watch style band with a magnetic clasp as well for the Alta to jazz it up a bit while at work) – the number of accessory options available for the entire Fitbit line is one of its biggest design strengths.
I acquired the original Fitbit Flex for one primary reason; to be able to track my sleeping habits. As a father of 2 small children, let’s say my night time sleep patterns are irregular and leave it at that. I wanted a way to track how well and how long I was sleeping and try to find a way to normalize my habits so I wasn’t a zombie or irritable all the time. Since I had to basically give up wearing a watch in favor of the Fitbit, I lost the ability to quickly check my wrist for the time. This proved to be enough of a nuisance that I found myself wishing my Flex could just tell the time. The Fitbit Alta solves that problem, and then some.
It has all of the features that you’d expect from the basic Flex, and goes a step further with a display that shows you the time, total steps taken, total distance in miles (or kilometers), total active minutes, and the battery level. In particular, the time and battery level are a step up for me; the first solving a major issue I’d had with wrist worn fitness trackers, and the second solving one of my other gripes with the Flex – you would have to log into the app to check the battery life left. Say goodbye to the “Your Flex battery is low” emails – you can tap the display to get that information much more quickly.
The Alta also is advertised as “rain, sweat, and shower proof” which means it can handle a bit of water…but you might not want to take it in the pool with you. I’ve had the occasional splash when washing my hands, and its good to know that I don’t have to be overly concerned about it dying on me. You can also use some smartwatch features with the Alta, and have your text messages, incoming calls, and even calendar events show up on the display if you like as well. I’m using the text and calling features, but only for the names of the senders/callers. I don’t find the size of the display more effective for that kind of thing than just checking the display of the phone I’m using. But its nice to know I won’t accidentally miss a call or text either.
The Fitbit Alta starts at about $129, and considering the Flex is about $99, one would have to be sure that one is getting more for your $30 before stepping out to spend it. Inside the box, you’ll find the USB charger for the Alta, a dongle for wireless syncing to a laptop or computer (if you choose not to use the phone app, available for iOS and Android) and a getting started guide. And of course, the device itself. This starting kit is rather spartan, but its meant to get out of your way mostly (I think) – when you want to start tracking your fitness, you’d want it to be as easy as possible to do it, so as not to have any excuses. I find Fitbit’s minimalist approach to this to be fine for me, and probably for most folks who aren’t hardcore fitness enthusiasts. And that’s the real kicker; devices like the Fitbit Alta (and Flex for that matter) aren’t going to be as accurate as a $400 GPS based watch style fitness tracker, but they don’t come with the hefty price tag either, making them a good choice for weekend warriors or those who are want to ease themselves into improving their fitness levels.
You can fool the Alta with arm movements into thinking you’ve taken more steps than you have, but the reality of the situation is this: all those people saying you need 10,000 steps a day don’t really mean 10,000 steps exactly – they mean that you should be active daily in an amount of time and distance that is equivalent to if you actually took 10,000 steps. So being able to fool the Alta in the end doesn’t matter – if you want to fool the thing by waving your arms around like a madman, well you know what – you are now more active than you were before when you weren’t trying to fool anything. And that’s a win in my book.
For the money, if you are in the market to purchase your first fitness tracker, I’d say skip the Flex and go with the Alta instead. For your extra $30, you get the ability to tell the time and the date as well as battery level of the device right on your wrist, and for me that makes the extra money worth it. There are sales and coupons often enough that you could probably find it either at Amazon or Target for a little bit cheaper, and that would make it an even better value. That is ultimately what convinced me to make the switch, and I’m confident I made the right decision. I’m one of the weekend warrior types I mentioned above, and I find the Alta to work best for me. Maybe it will for you too.