(Pocket-lint) - Fitbit is arguably one of the most well-known companies when it comes to activity tracking, monopolising around 70 per cent of the market. It not only offers a huge selection of devices in comparison to its competitors, but it also offers an excellent interface to match.
One of the most recent additions to the Fitbit portfolio is the Alta. This little wrist-worn tracker not only offers changeable straps, but a lovely OLED display too. Is it all about looks or does Fitbit's latest have personality to set it apart from the competition?
Fitbit Alta review: Design
The Fitbit Alta is easily the most stylish tracker within the Fitbit portfolio. It has a lovely design, is smaller than the Charge HR, yet more appealing than the similar-sized Flex thanks to its chamfered metal frame.
A 1.4-inch OLED tap display is the focus of the device, its 128 x 36 pixel resolution sharp in appearance, but not amazingly bright for outdoors viewing.
It's also responsive to tap-based controls, for most part anyway, and it allows for easy, detailed progress-checking without opening the associated smartphone app, which is a feature the Flex lacks.
On the underside are clips that allow for the easy removal and changing of straps. It comes with a flexible durable elastomer strap as standard, but there are leather options available to buy as additional extras, as well as a metal link bracelet for when a smarter look is required.
Fitbit opts for yet another charging mechanism for the Alta: it uses a small bulldog-style clip that locks securely into the pins. It's easy-to-use but different to all other Fitbit devices and any other device so it means carrying another cable around when travelling. The Alta did last the quoted five days on one charge, though, or even longer.
Note: there is no optical heart-rate monitor in the Alta like there is on the Charge HR, which is a huge shame.
Fitbit Alta review: Features
The Fitbit Alta will track steps, distance travelled, calories burned, active minutes and provide sleep data, like the Fitbit Flex and many other activity trackers. It doesn't offer elevation data as there is no altimeter on board, nor heart-rate data.
The Alta does feature Fitbit SmartTrack, however, which the Flex lacks but the Charge HR offers. This feature enables the device to automatically recognise certain activities such as running, walking, cycling, sport, elliptical and workouts, recording them in the exercise section of the Fitbit app.
Additionally, reminders to move to reach an hourly goal of 250-steps will appear on the Alta's display, along with Smart Notifications. These notifications allow you to see incoming calls, texts and calendar alerts on the display (each can be toggled on or off in the Fitbit app). There is no third-party support sadly, so WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter alerts won't pop-up. Long texts are also cut short, meaning you'll need to dig out your phone to continue reading any essays you're sent, and it's not possible to answer or reject calls - only see who is calling.
Fitbit Alta review: Performance
Fitbit devices tend to be up there with the best when it comes to accuracy and performance. The Alta does a good job, even if it isn't perfect.
In terms of step tracking, the Alta very slightly overestimates in comparison to the Charge HR, which we have found to be accurate almost to the step. We wore both devices for the Moon Walk, which is a walking marathon, and where the Charge HR measured 47,922 steps, the Alta recorded 48,163 - so we are talking a minor difference, especially over such a vast distance.
The Alta's distance accuracy is less impressive though. Given the walk was an official marathon 26.2 miles, the Fitbit Alta recorded just 22.73 miles. It isn't as inaccurate as some activity trackers out there, but four miles is quite a significant discrepancy.
Calories burned accuracy is more difficult to determine, especially without any heart rate data, although the Alta came in around the same as the Charge HR. Where the Charge HR measured 3,252 calories burned, the Alta estimated 3,297. We wouldn't take either as gospel, but given the Alta doesn't know heart rate and the Charge HR does, the Alta does a good job.
Sleep tracking isn't a feature we are overly fond of on any activity tracker, except possibly the Jawbone UP3. The Alta does offer it for those who want it, even if the data presented isn't as rich as the likes of Jawbone or a dedicated sleep system, such as the Withings Aura. Fitbit records time asleep, sleep schedule and sleep quality, the latter of which includes times awake, times restless and duration of times restless and awake.
In one instance, in comparison to the Withings Aura Sleep System, the Fitbit Alta recorded us sleeping from 01:49am to 07:33am, with Aura claiming 01:41am to 07:34am - so they're pretty much on par.
If we dive a little deeper, the Alta claimed we were asleep for 4 hours and 26 minutes, while Aura claimed 5 hours and 46 minutes. The Alta claimed the rest of the hours it recorded, 1 hour and 18 minutes, were spent in restless sleep, which almost matches the 1 hour and 33 minutes Aura claimed we were in REM sleep. Overall, the Alta appears to do a pretty good job when it comes to sleep tracking, even if the data is limited.
Fitbit Alta review: App
The Fitbit app and interface is one of our favourite features about Fitbit devices. It is simple, effective and easy to navigate. It's been revamped recently too, so looks and functions better than earlier iterations.
There are four tabs at the bottom of the Fitbit app, comprising Dashboard, Challenges, Friends and Account. There is also a "+" in the middle, which offers quick access to things such as tracking an exercise, logging food, adding a friend, setting an alarm and logging weight.
The Dashboard is where the party is at. This is where a summary of your day appears, including steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and active minutes, all of which can be rearranged by tapping on Edit in the top right hand corner. A tap on each of the metrics will give you a rundown of your history for that particular measurement.
In the top left-hand corner of the Dashboard, you'll find a small picture of Alta along with the battery indicator. A tap on this will launch the settings for your tracker - including options like which hand you're wearing it on, which clock face you want, what you want your main goal to be, what you want Alta to greet you as. You get the jist. This is also where Smart Notifications can be toggled on or off and where reminders to move can be tailored.
Within the Challenges tab, you'll find specific challenges to keep you motivated, while the Friends tab allows you to compete with your buddies and family members.
Account is the last tab but also one of the most important. It is here you can edit your profile, change your goals, link third-party apps such as MyFitnessPal, and alter things such as stride length for better accuracy. You can read our Fitbit tips and tricks feature if you'd like more details on how to do specific things on your Fitbit device.
The Fitbit Alta sits on the fence compared to the wider activity tracker market. It misses out some key features, such heart-rate monitoring, elevation data, GPS and waterproofing.
However, for basic activity tracking the Alta is fabulous. Accuracy is good overall (if you ignore the distance measure, but step-tracking is fine), Smart Notifications are useful, the OLED display is lovely (and way better than that in the Flex), and the app is great.
In terms of personality, especially with one of the new accessory straps attached, the Alta is easily Fitbit's most stylish tracker to date. However, it is just a little too basic in functionality terms for us to give up on our trusted Charge HR just yet.