Fitbit Alta HR Fitness Tracking wristband
We like this new Fitbit. So much so that when its battery died while I was travelling, we were disappointed I couldn’t use it that day. If you were a fan of the Fitbit Alta before but have said to yourself half a dozen times over the past year, “I wish it read my heart rate,” then you are in luck. Or if you wanted a heart rate-tracking Fitbit but didn’t like the looks of the Charge 2, then you are also in luck. The Alta HR may have been yet another unexciting move on the part of Fitbit, but it also seems to me like it was a good move.
The Alta HR looks almost exactly like last year’s Alta, which means it is more of a bracelet than an activity tracker. It is modular, so the bands on either side of the plastic module in the middle can be easily swapped out. It has the same display as the Alta. It’s not touch-sensitive but requires a tap on either the face or side of the module if you want to cycle through your data. This can get annoying. There is one noteworthy design change: the strap. Last year’s Fitbit Alta had a snap-in clasp but this year’s version has a more traditional railroad-style strap.
Some people have asked whether the Fitbit Alta HR is now a replacement for the Charge 2. My answer is: not really. They’re the same price and both have heart rate sensors. But you can stop and start exercises with Charge 2, and you can’t do that at all with Fitbit Alta HR. The Fitbit Alta HR will automatically recognize if you go for a run, but it’s not something you can control, and it doesn’t display a timer during your activities.
So what can this Fitbit do? It does what a Fitbit does. It tracks your steps, your distance travelled (without GPS), your calories burned, and your sleep. It shows your notifications and incoming calls from your smartphone. What’s new about the Alta HR is that it has optical heart rate sensors built into the underside, so it records your heart rate throughout the day, and Fitbit will now show you more advanced sleep data in its app. This latter feature isn’t limited to just the Alta HR; it will work with any newer Fitbit that has heart rate sensors.
The heart rate sensors in the Alta HR aren’t supposed to replace a chest strap during intense exercise sessions, something that Fitbit has had to defend itself around after it was hit with a class action suit last year for what some consumers alleged was inaccurate heart rate tracking. Instead, the idea is that you can get a continuous reading throughout the day. But more beneficial is the addition of resting heart rate, provided you wear the Alta HR to bed.
This is something that’s considered a baseline metric for your overall heart health. I look at the Fitbit Alta HR’s heart rate data as something that is nice to have, data that I wouldn’t trust entirely but could still help to inform other activity decisions. The same goes for distance tracking: since the Alta HR doesn’t have GPS, or even connected GPS through the phone, my expectations were low. After a five-plus-mile hike last Friday, the Fitbit app told me I had taken more than 19,000 steps in total that day and had been active for 158 minutes, but I also noticed within the app that the activity was automatically recorded as just 4.97 miles.
This is also the same with sleep tracking: unless you venture into a lab and have sleep sensors taped to your body and have that sort of data to compare it to, it’s hard to gauge the accuracy and efficiency of consumer trackers like Fitbit. But Fitbit is at least trying to give you more insights into what’s going on when you’re sleeping. More importantly, it’s trying to tell you what that means for your overall health. Ultimately this is what this the Alta HR is designed for. Anyone looking for extreme sports or intense fitness sessions tracking should look to other options.
Sleep sessions are now broken down into a light sleep, deep sleep, REM stages, and time awake, with a breakdown of your overall sleep quality. There are sleep insights now, too; the app will say “You were 31% in REM sleep last night” or “Light sleep doesn’t mean weak sleep! Your body actually performs a number of important functions during this sleep stage.” It’s all a little reminiscent of the insights that, dare we say it, Jawbone used to offer with its UP activity-tracking system. It’s good to see Fitbit catch up.
In fairness, we like what Fitbit has done with this product. It is still the same bracelet-like Fitbit from last year, but with one hardware addition and one new software feature that improves the overall experience. Its battery life lasted nearly a week, from a Wednesday night to the following Wednesday, on a single charge. This is more impressive when you consider the added heart rate sensors.
Over a week, I became a little addicted to Fitbit again, wanting to get my steps up, trying to pay attention to the move reminders, actually checking the app every now and then to see how I slept or what my resting heart rate was that morning. I did miss real exercise-tracking features while I was wearing it and am still a lot more inclined to buy a wearable that has GPS and another advanced sports tracking. But the new Fitbit Alta HR told me just a tiny bit more about my activity than what I knew before, and that is what, at the end of the day, really matters.
Wondering how the Fitbit Alta HR compare to other fitness trackers? Read about the most accurate fitness trackers and what other options are available out there.
Not only is it accurate and easy to use, but it looks great too. Its battery life is solid and its customization options impressive. Just be wary about taking it out in the sun too often, you might strain your eyes with all that screen-struggling squinting. We recommend this Fitbit if you are looking to track constant HR, sleep, total calorie burn, and get alerted to texts and calls but won’t use it for intense or extreme activities/ sports such as HITT, triathlon, trail running, CrossFit, etc. We have learned so much about ourselves and our day by day health with it that we can only highly recommend it.