Less than a month after Fitbit unveiled its “smart fitness watch” at CES 2016, the company is announcing a new wearable — the Alta.
And while many — including Wall Street — were quick to dismiss Fitbit’s smart watch as an unattractive Apple Watch competitor, the Fitbit Alta looks quite nice, featuring a design that’s more subtle and sleek compared to the gadgety look of the watch.
The $129 Fitbit Alta might actually be the best-looking fitness tracker the company has released so far, and it certainly invokes the slimmer profile of the Fitbit Flex and other fitness bands like the Jawbone Up series.
In many ways, the Alta looks a lot like the Fitbit Flex dressed up for a night out. That makes sense given that Fitbit is angling the Alta as a potential fashion accessory, touting its exchangeable bands that range from sporty (rubber) to stylish (leather), along with a stainless steel shell that houses the OLED display.
But looks aside, the Alta feels more like a refinement than a milestone gadget. There’s really nothing new here that we haven’t seen before in other fitness trackers: all-day tracking of your steps, sleep, and exercises, and the ability to receive text, calendar, and call notifications from your phone. Fitbit is saying its “SmartTrack” technology means the band’s sensors are better at tracking and distinguishing between a range of workouts from outdoor biking to kick-boxing and tennis, and there’s now daily and weekly goals accessible through the app to keep you from taking weeks off exercising.
The Alta will also remind you if you’ve been sitting around for too long, vibrating on your wrist in an attempt to get you to walk around for 2-3 minutes every hour (or 250 steps) and rewarding you with a little virtual goal. It’s similar to the Apple Watch’s trophies — gamification of your workout goals for those needing that extra nudge.
Setup is easy, especially if you’re already someone who uses the Fitbit app. After you sync it with your phone over Bluetooth, there’s some customisation options that let you choose how the date and time are displayed on the Alta’s slim OLED screen. You can choose between vertical and horizontal orientation for the main screen, though texting and calendar notifications display horizontally in order to fit the text on the screen.
At the end of the day, the Fitbit Alta is going to appeal to people who are looking for a fitness tracker but aren’t into the bulkier form factors of smart watches. The Alta is lightweight — I’ve forgotten it’s on my wrist a few times over the last 24 hours I’ve been testing it — and some of the its nudges and notifications are helpful for setting mini-goals.
If you’re looking for something a little more dedicated to fitness tracking than your phone, but wary of upgrading to a watch, the Alta is good alternative that features a solid design. You can pre-order the Alta for $129 starting today, and it’s arriving officially in March.
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