Everyone knows Fitbit: The proud Fitbit data announcements of that dude from high school on Facebook, the friend who wears a Zip on their hip or your coworker with a Charge on their wrist. It's the best known name in fitness trackers.
It's tempting to call this first Fitbit with fashion in mind: it's got well publicized choices. There's a nice black option, pink leather choice, three pastels in plastic, and a very attractive stainless steel band that I'd covet if it didn't cost $169 (Australian) sans tracker.
But this isn't the first Fitbit focused on fashion — it's just the first one to not treat fashion like an afterthought. From the clasp (a little annoying to use) to the levers to take the band off, this thing is clearly thinking "style" every step of the way.
Back in 2013 Fitbit made its first attempt at the fashion thing with a whole line of Fitbit Flex bands made by Tory Burch. Priced at $38, $175 and $195 AUD — the range will also extend to the Alta, at a date yet to be announced.
In Australia, the Fitbit Alta is available from places like Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks and Rebel Sport from March 2016. Launch accessories include classic fitness bands available in black, blue, teal and plum for $49.95 and luxe soft, premium hide leather bands available in graphite and blush pink for $99.95.
The camel leather band ($99.95) and hand-polished stainless steel silver bangle ($169.95) are coming soon, with a shiny gold bangle to be available later in 2016.
Options aside, because the Alta is still identifiably a fitness band, it doesn't have to worry about the high watermark for fashion that Fitbit's Blaze smartwatch had to deal with. We're used to seeing people with a hunk of rubber strapped to their wrist, and unless you're rocking it at a black tie event, no one's going to call out the fashion faux pax.
Instead they might be impressed with what the Alta can do. It's like they took the best bits of the Flex and Charge and smooshed them together.
The band is thin like the Flex (though it sits a little high on the wrist), but has a detailed display like the Charge. With time, traditional fitness stats, caller ID and even calendar notifications all on the small black and white OLED display, it's the most informative Fitbit display yet. Also new: “Reminders to Move” to keep you moving. You will be prompted to meet a series of mini-goals throughout the day, consisting of of 250 steps an hour — with a pat on the back when you do.
There is, however, an almost-fatal flaw — the tap response. A double tap of the display should reveal the time with each subsequent tap going through your calories burned (highly unreliable), steps taken (pretty reliable), and miles walked (holy crap, I get around). Except for the very rare occasion, I'd have to tap the display like a damn morse code operator to get it to activate. When it turned on, it would immediately rotate through all the screens before settling down and being the responsive product I was promised.
The "flip your wrist to activate the display" feature was significantly more accurate, but I still had to shimmy my wrist repeatedly, which earned me a few looks on the train.
The only time the display consistently turned on was when the entire device would buzz to remind me of a meeting. The buzz to notify me of a caller, however, took a good five to ten seconds after it started buzzing for the caller ID to appear on the display. With that kind of sluggish response time, I could have just pulled my phone out of my pocket, something Fitbit doesn't want you to do.
With its focus on fashion, the Alta wants to be an everyday device rather than just a fitness device. The fantastic battery life (the Alta regularly lasted 6 days) and the wicked fast recharge time go a long way to achieving that goal.
I'll admit, as janky as the display has been, I've still found myself wearing the Fitbit Alta almost Every. Damn. Day. I love waking up in the morning and syncing up to see how much sleep I got and I dig recoiling when it reports on those two hour naps on Friday night (though it also recorded an entire's night sleep — including bouts of restlessness — when it was just sitting on my desk at work). And I get a little satisfied thrill when it celebrates 10,000 steps or my first 64km of the year.
For a brand that needs a win, the Alta gets over the line. Fitbit's unspoken goal is world wrist domination and this is its best band yet — if only the damn display regularly worked.
- Great "wear and forget about it" battery life
- Boring band options
- A display so laggy you might rip it off your wrist and crush it beneath a car
- Fitbit's best band yet