4 things you'll love about Fitbit Alta — and 2 you won't

Alta is the sleekest activity tracker Fitbit has ever made. It's also relatively inexpensive and reminds you to move every hour. However, it lacks some important features, and its display isn't well suited for use in bright settings.

If you want a Fitbit wearable that tracks your heart rate and the flights of stairs you climb, the company's new Alta ($130) probably isn't for you. But if you'd appreciate a thin, stylish activity tracking wristband, you'll find a friend in Alta.

After spending a couple of weeks wearing Alta, I found four things I love about it, as well as two things that could be improved. [ Find it on Amazon *What’s this?* ]

4 things you'll love about Fitbit Alta

1. Alta is the most stylish Fitbit

Alta is Fitbit's sleekest, most attractive device thus far. It still looks like an activity tracker, but Alta's slim profile gives it an upscale, refined appearance. It also feels more comfortable on your wrist than any other Fitbit, in part because of how light it is. If you've been holding out for a more stylish Fitbit, wait no more.

2. Fitbit Alta reminds you to move

Alta's "Reminders to Move" feature, which causes Alta to vibrate when you've been sitting for too long, is unique to Fitbit's product line. The feature is designed to get you to take at least 250 steps each hour, which translates to about two or three minutes of walking. It's an important feature, because health officials suggest that "sitting is the new smoking." (Fitbit recently released data on the age groups that are most sedentary on average, along with the most common periods of inactivity.)

reminders to move fitbit

You can customize the move reminder by selecting start and end times, and days of the week. And if you don't want to be nagged on Sundays you can disable the reminders for that specific day.

Fitbit's Reminders to Move go beyond the Apple Watch's Activity app stand reminders because they're customizable and they encourage you to walk for two to three minutes, instead of just standing for one minute an hour.

The Reminders to Move feature is "coming soon" to Fitbit Blaze and will be available on future Fitbits, according to a company spokesperson, though there are no current plans to add the feature to other existing Fitbit devices.

3. Fitbit Alta battery lasts up to five days

In my tests, Alta's battery lasted at least four days and often five. Its comparatively small screen, and the lack of both heart rate monitoring features and an altimeter no doubt help the wearable keep on running.

4. You can swap Fitbit Alta bands

As with the new Blaze ($200) and older Flex ($100), you can change Alta's look by removing its bands. You have three band types to choose from, including "classic" elastomer ($30), leather ($60), and metal ($100). Designer bands are in the works, too, from Tory Burch and Public School.

2 things you won't love about Fitbit Alta

1. Alta's screen is terrible in bright sunlight

Unfortunately, Alta's OLED screen is nearly impossible to read in bright, sunny weather. I've had this problem with other Fitbit devices, to one extent or another, except for Surge. Yes, you can see everything you need to know in the Fitbit mobile app, but you have to stop and look at your smartphone screen during exercise, which isn't ideal.

2. Fitbit Alta makes it tough to toggle through on-screen stats

Instead of pushing a button to easily toggle through stats such as steps taken and calories burned, you must tap Alta's screen, which is awkward. You also have to tap the display somewhat forcibly, which takes some getting used to. 

Is it bad that Alta can't track heart rate or floors climbed?

I was tempted to list the lack of heart rate tracking and flights of stairs climbed as things I disliked about Alta. But other Fitbits offer heart-rate tracking and floors climbed. Also, the goal with Alta was to offer a super-slim wearable, which Fitbit says wasn't possible with an altimeter or heart rate monitor. So criticizing Alta for lacking these features feels a bit like complaining that an iPad mini is too small.  

Alta includes plenty of other cool Fitbit features, too, such as automatic sleep and exercise tracking, and three smartphone notifications: calendar appointments, text messages, and caller ID. Still, the lack of heart rate monitoring and an altimeter will be a deal breaker for some, especially serious athletes. Which raises another important question ...

Exactly who is the ideal Fitbit Alta user?

Alta will be a good fit for people who don't want to spend a lot of money, don't care about heart rate measurements and elevation stats, and who want the most attractive Fitbit available.

There's one other potential Alta user who I doubt Fitbit had in mind: the Apple Watch owner. If you must wear a Fitbit along with your Apple smartwatch (which I sometimes do, at least when working out), the combo looks pretty good. 

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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