For almost all applications, the new Fitbit Alta HR is typical for what Fitbit offers. This activity tracker features an accurate pedometer, exercise detection functionality, notifications, heart rate monitoring and extra (at cost) bands. What’s new here is the tech and software that measures sleep.
These bands are listed for $149.99, but Fitbit’s selling them for $129.99 currently.
Right, I totally get that sleep is a weird thing to want to track with a wristband. You lay down, you close your eyes, you sleep. When you want to know how long you slept, you think about what time you went to bed and what time you woke up. For me, that surface level of sleep information is enough, but the Fitbit Alta HR and its application offers more granular insight.
This device, when worn to bed, measures the user’s heart rate to detect the four stages of sleep. It’ll know when you wake, when you’re in light sleep, deep sleep and the oft-discussed REM stage. A night of sleep produces a graph that tells you that you might have tossed and turned at 3 a.m. for a few minutes, or maybe that supposed nine hours of sleep was actually six by the time you slept and woke.
When you’re working really hard to hit certain counts and metrics with your sleep, calorie intake, distance walked or constant heart rate, this small, explicit information is exceedingly useful. It’s not for everyone, and I’ll offer that trackers like these may give users more information than they really need. But, for that person who wants to get incredibly specific and insightful with their fitness tracker, the Fitbit Alta HR is an awesome bet for what it offers.
It’s great that this wristband does everything else pretty well, too. In terms of how it wears, I couldn’t be happier. The band is thin (though that might be problematic for those with large arms), and the tracker is light enough to go unnoticed after a few minutes of wear. It doesn’t bounce or rattle, and the recommended tightness of the band during normal wear is comfortable.
The band can be swapped with others from Fitbit, with the cheapest we could find running for $29.99. The swap is super easy, and it feels entirely secure once it’s in place. We were offered the standard black band and light brown leather band, and both wore well for their applications. The leather did develop some minor wrinkling after a few weeks of use, but that’s to be expected of the material itself.
I did have trouble consistently waking the device. You’re supposed to be able to wake it with a twist of the wrist as you turn your watch arm up towards your face. I found that worked about half the time. My other option is to give the screen a nice tap. Again, that worked around half the time. I was often twisting my wrist and tapping a few times in order to wake the screen. A minor complaint to be sure.
Where the Fitbit Alta HR falters the most, with some measures of success, is its notifications. Now, the fact that you can receive stuff like text and call alerts on your wristband is great. I like that idea. What I find frustrating is the orientation of the information (a design flaw that couldn’t really be avoided given how thin the band is) and the speed of the notification.
The speed is where I think Fitbit can make a fix. Right now, if I were to get a text from my wife, my Fitbit would vibrate. I’d lift my hand to have a look and see her name right away. So far, so good. The issue is that it takes a second or two to start scrolling. And since the text is so large and the screen is so narrow, the information actually takes more than five seconds to fully display. It doesn’t even necessarily get to the full context of the text message, either.
So, while I greatly appreciate the notifications, looking at them can be frustrating. Just like how finicky tapping the screen or turning your wrist to wake the Fitbit Alta HR can be, these minor design flaws crop up to become a touch annoying over time.
The benefits here outweigh those irks in my mind. The Fitbit Alta HR is great at pushing your micro goals when you sit for too long. “Why not go for 250 steps right now?” it might chide, and I totally dig that.
Overall, the experience that comes from the Fitbit Alta HR is on the positive side. Minor problems accompany the $129.99 wristband, but I didn’t mind it in my daily use for more than two weeks. In fact, if I was on the market for a fitness band, I’d highly consider this one. If you’re looking for something slim, a little insight on your sleep and the solid Fitbit application, the Alta HR is a great choice.
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