3 reasons to buy Fitbit's new Alta band, and 2 reasons not to

Fitbit Alta is an updated version of the company's popular Flex wristband with some valuable new features other Fitbits lack, but the new band isn't well suited for serious athletes.

Fitbit this week announced, in essence, an upgraded version of its Flex wristband activity tracker and an eventual replacement for its Charge device. The new wristband will retail for $130 and will be available in March.

I don't have an Alta yet, but I know a thing or two about Fitbits. Based on details the company announced, I came up with three things about Alta that are sure to appeal to Fitbit fans, as well two things that may give potential buyers pause.

3 things to love about Fitbit Alta

1. Alta reminds you to stand up every hour

Sitting, as the saying goes, is the new smoking. The Wall Street Journal reported not long ago that, "[s]tudies have found that sedentary behavior, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease."

[Related: The definitive Fitbit buyer's guide ]

The Apple Watch and a number of additional fitness trackers already offer hourly reminders to stand and move around. Fitbit Alta [ Find it on Amazon *What’s this?* ] takes stand reminders a much-needed step (pun intended) further.

"Using short, positive prompts, Fitbit Alta will encourage you to meet a mini-step goal of 250 steps each hour (approximately 2 to 3 minutes of walking), and will congratulate you when you achieve the goal," according to the Fitbit Alta press release. "These prompts can be personalized to your schedule and can easily be put on 'Do Not Disturb' during long meetings or appointments, ensuring that you only get reminders when wanted."

2. Like Fitbit Flex and Blaze, Alta's look is customizable

The Alta tracker is designed for use with a number of interchangeable bands that modify its look. And like the accessories for the popular Flex band, Tory Burch-designed Alta wristband styles will eventually be released. (Flex has even more wristband color choices than Alta.) 

fitbit flex colors

Fitbit Flex bands come in multiple colors

3. Alta has next-generation Fitbit features

Alta costs just $30 more than the Flex band, and it has a number of updated Fitbit features, including automatic exercise recognition, and on-screen call, text and calendar alerts.

How does Alta fit into the Fitbit lineup? And is it designed to replace Flex? A Fitbit spokesperson said Flex is among the company's best-selling models, and it will likely remain one. But Alta is expected to eventually replace Fitbit Charge, which, like Alta, costs $130.

2 things you might not love about Fitbit Alta

1. Fitbit Alta lacks altimeter sensor

Like Fitbit's Zip and Flex trackers, Alta can't count the number of flights of stairs users climb. The Fitbit spokesperson said the company decided to forego this particular sensor in an effort to keep the device as compact as possible. For people who value a thin, compact wristband over advanced features, this omission may not be a deal breaker. However, as someone who regularly hikes up and down San Francisco hills for exercise, Alta won't work for me.

2. Alta doesn't track heart rate

For serious athletes, the lack of a heart-rate monitor likely is a deal breaker. Fitbit's Charge HR ($150), Blaze ($200) and Surge ($250), which all have heart-rate tracking features, are probably better fits for these folks.

[Related: 3 ways Fitbit missed the mark with its new Blaze fitness watch ]

Also of note, Fitbit was recently the subject of a class-action suit that alleged its heart-rate monitoring features are inaccurate. However, Consumer Reports retested Fitbit's Charge HR and Surge heart-rate tracking after the suit was filed, and found that both devices passed their tests "handily." Chest straps, such as Polar's H7, are typically more accurate than wrist-worn heart-rate tracking devices ... but I hate wearing chest straps.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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