Fitbit has had a huge past year; not only has the company gone public but it also has reached a point of popularity that counterfeits are being smuggled into the US. Last month at CES the wearable producer expanded their lineup with their first true smartwatch-like device, the Blaze. Now the company is revealing their most connected fitness tracker ever, the Fitbit Alta. While Fitbit makes compelling fitness trackers, anyone looking for smartwatch-like connectivity in a tracker needed to look at other brands. The new Alta model should solve that; if you have been in the market for a Fitbit, this is probably the device you have been waiting for!
The most notable change with the Fitbit Alta is the screen. Gone is the microscopic display that has almost become iconic for the brand. It has been replaced with a touch sensitive monochrome OLED display that is almost as large as the front of the wearable. This large screen finally enables Fitbit to have true push notifications including calls, texts, and calendar events. The are also multiple watch faces baked into the tracker which can be displayed either landscape or vertically. The watch face isn’t the only way Fitbit is allowing you to customize the device. The Alta promises to be the company’s most fashionable device to date. Despite a few notable partnerships, such as with designer Tory Burch, most Fitbits are relegated to the company’s rather unsightly rubber bands. The Alta has been designed to be easily swappable between bands with connectors on either end which allow interchangeable bands to slide on. While the Fitbit Alta will initially ship with the company’s traditional elastomer band, it has already announced both leather and metal bands are forthcoming and that there will be a line of gold and Tory Burch accessories for the Alta.
While, in our opinion, looks are one of the things Fitbit needed to focus on most, the company has also crafted a very capable fitness tracker with the new Alta. The device automatically recognizes and tracks workouts, it has all day movement tracking, tracks sleep automatically, and even has a silent alarm to wake you up in the morning. With the Fitbit Alta, the company is also introducing Reminders To Move. This new feature is similar to that found on some other trackers and even the Apple Watch; every hour the band will encourage you to hit your 250 step/hour goal. The Fitbit Alta has a 5 day battery life and is water resistant to rain, sweat, and splashes. It is launching in March and can currently be preordered for $129.95.
About the only fitness tracker feature missing on the new Alta is a heart rate monitor. Priced $20 lower than the company’s Charge HR, the feature is likely missing more to create space in the product matrix than any other reason. I would expect to see the Charge HR phased out in the not-too-distant future and replaced with a souped up version of the Fitbit Alta. Speaking of replacing a product, the new device is also priced identically to the Fitbit Charge. Functionally inferior, the Charge offers no compelling feature versus the Alta. I am surprised it wasn’t removed from the company’s product mix with today’s announcement but expect it will disappear when the Alta ships in a few weeks time. All that said, I am still struck at the missed opportunity for Fitbit to use the new Alta fitness tracker as a chance to slim their product lineup. The existence of the both the Charge and Charge HR at a $20 difference has been ridiculous. It would have been nice to see Fitbit remove that bloat and replace 2 products with 1. It will be interesting to see when the heart rate monitor makes it into the Alta (we would guess Holidays) and if the company will position it as a premium Alta HR model (based on history, we would guess – yes).