on 13 June 2017
Stylish, lots of useful features and will get you fit!
The Alta HR must be preselected in size as it only comes with one size of wristband, so make sure that you know what size you need before you purchase. I tried on a demo device in a store that only had a L and I was worried that this might be too loose as I have very small wrists, but the size S wristband fit me comfortably with another 4 holes to spare. As the Alta HR has a heart rate monitor, it is necessary to wear the tracker directly on the skin. Most of the time I don't notice the device, but after you become sweaty and it starts sliding around sometimes the heart rate monitoring cuts out which can be annoying. Since the tracker is also quite thick I found it a bit irritating during some everyday activities such as driving, but that is because I haven't worn anything around my wrist for longer periods of time in the last 10 years. When I have worn it for a long time, it also becomes slightly uncomfortable and I have to adjust where on my wrist and/or how tight I wear it.
(ETA 11/08/2017) I have now got used to it and it does not become uncomfortable anymore. It still annoys me during driving because when I am wearing long sleeves they sit at an awkward place no matter whether I pull them over the Alta HR or behind it, but since I don't drive a lot it's not a big issue.
There was one night recently where it must have caught on my wrist and I woke up with a painful scab, but as soon as I removed the wristband from this spot and wore it in a slightly different place it was fine, healed up quickly and never happened again since.
The device comes with a moderately long USB charger. It had no charge when I first received it, so I charged it for 20 minutes before my gym session and then charged it properly once I was back home - that took only about 2 hours in total. I bought some spare chargers for work and car, but the length of the supplied one would be sufficient for these as well (if you're allowed to charge off your PC ports at work).
(ETA 11/10/2017) The battery lasts exactly 7 days for me, from fully charged to going red on the app. I am not using notifications and I understand it would be more like 5 if I did. The app will show it as depleted a lot sooner than the actual device though - in either case you will get an email saying you're on low charge once it's in the red. Recharging is quite fast, an hour will add at least 50%-75% of charge depending on whether you charge off the mains or a USB socket on a PC or laptop, 1.5 hours will fully charge it from a PC/laptop. I tend to start feeding it at about 25% remaining charge, so an hour gives me more than enough charge to keep going.
Features & App:
I bought the Alta HR specifically because I wanted a device with a heart rate monitor and a display that was as small and unobtrusive as possible. It automatically picks up all my walks pretty accurately and logs them as walks, but while for the stationary exercise bicycle it counts steps it does not pick it up as cycling and I have to log this afterwards. It specifies that it will pick up outdoor cycling on pavement, so for that it will probably need a certain kind of upper body motion as well (fun fact: piano playing is automatically logged as outdoor cycling too). Anything it doesn't automatically pick up, you can log afterwards in the app and it will give you a good estimate of the calories burned during that time, based on your weight, height, gender, age, time spent and type of exercise, as well as a breakdown of what proportion of time you spent in the fat burn and cardio zones.
Depending on the operating system on your smartphone, you can also set up your Fitbit as a trusted device which means that your phone will stay unlocked when it is used near the tracker.
(ETA 11/08/2017) This does not really seem to work all the time, I keep having to unlock it a lot anyway.
The app really makes the Fitbits shine. I have found it very useful and engaging, as well as easy to understand and use. It tracks everything you need to keep fit, from water intake over weight lost, heart rate, calories burnt, calorie intake, steps taken, distance walked, active hours (with reminders to get up and move), to sleep quality. It also makes it fun to challenge yourself in order to reach your goal - I make use of all the features except the calorie intake and have repeatedly found myself getting up to have another glass of water, walking in circles around my flat or taking an extra walk in the evening in order to reach my desired fitness level for the day.
I had originally bought the Flex 2 due to it being waterproof since I go swimming sometimes, as I just assumed every tracker had a heart rate monitor by default. Since I kept forgetting to switch on the swimming tracker and I felt my data was not giving me enough information due to the missing heart rate details, I exchanged it for the Alta HR. If I had realised that the Flex 2 did not have a heart rate tracker before the purchase, I would have gone for the Alta HR straight away.
(ETA 11/08/2017) Water Resistance:
There is the odd time I forget that I am wearing the Fitbit when I go swimming or showering, so I have briefly fully submerged or showered it three times so far. I noticed straight away every time and towelled it off, and it does not seem to have been affected at all. I also get very sweaty on my wrist during strenuous workouts, but this does not seem to impact the device whatsoever - sometimes the heart rate monitoring cuts out for a bit, but never for so long that the data is inaccurate.
The display can show you:
- Time & Date
- Current Heart Rate & level (resting, fat burn, cardio or peak)
- Step goal & percentage of daily step goal reached
- Reminders to move & how many steps to hit hourly activity goal
- Distance walked
- Calories burned
- Minutes active
- Battery status
Of all these, you can choose which and how you would like them displayed. To switch on the display, turn your arm towards you or double-tap, then tap to cycle through the different features.
I found the display a bit slow to respond at times, both when turning my arm or tapping, this does get annoying but it's not a major problem. I also have would liked to have an option to permanently show the clock, maybe at a lower light level so the battery doesn't get drained so fast.
I would also be thrilled if it was possible at some point in the future to set up water intake reminders. That would probably get annoying for some people quickly, but given how important hydration is (and I frequently forget to drink enough) it would be useful if there was at least the option to do so. Granted, you could just set repeated silent alarms during the day, but you cannot set them to display text.
The tracker will vibrate on certain occasions if you choose for it to do so:
- You can set silent alarms, the tracker will vibrate at the set time and stop once you have either double-tapped or walked 50 steps
- When you hit your daily step goal, it will do a longer, celebratory vibration sequence & firework display
- If you selected to get hourly reminders to move, it will vibrate at 10 minutes before every full hour if you have done less than 250 steps in this hour. If you subsequently hit 250 steps before the full hour, it will vibrate again
(ETA 11/08/2017) Sometimes it will show you how many steps you need to take to hit 250, but not all the time. There is also no way to see how many you still have to take once you've viewed the notification and started walking, which makes it a bit annoying sometimes walking about for what seems like ages until it buzzes.
Device changes within the Fitbit family:
When you change a Fitbit device, delete any alarms you set first in the app, and set them up again in the new device. The old device will retain the alarms and not automatically transfer them to a new device, as I found out when the Flex 2 started buzzing in the taped up return parcel.
Other than that, changing or adding a device in the app is very simple and straightforward, you can even use several devices at the same time and the app will keep your previous progress - it will just show more or fewer features depending on what type of tracker you are using.
Due to the bigger size, specific connectors and heart monitoring function of the Alta HR tracker, you can mainly change the straps but not really anything that will camouflage the tracker itself.
This is an all-round great tracker with tons of useful features for its size. I am certainly glad I made the upgrade and I have found the increase in price from the Flex 2 well worth it due to the increased functionality and more detailed analysis of the fitness data.