My Fitbit Alta

Submitted by steve on Sat, 03/11/2017 - 13:23

A couple weeks ago on BART, I found a Fitbit Alta on the floor. I showed it to the people around me, and everyone shrugged. The band looked like it had been chewed up by a dog, so that's how it fell off. I downloaded the app, but apparently there's no personal info stored in the device, so I kept it. It's a nice small device, and doesn't look half bad. I haven't had anyone comment on it yet, so it seems to have a low profile visibly.

I ordered a new strap from Amazon (~$8) and a charger (~$12), and set it up on my iPhone. It's a nice little device, providing fitness tracking. It tracks the steps you walk, how far you go, how many calories you've burned (which I guess is pegged to the weight you punch into the phone app), and if you wear it to bed at night, it reports on how much you slept, and how much you toss and turn. It's also a nice adjunct to your phone: it vibrates when you get a call and tells you who the call is from, and the same when you get a text. These features are pretty nice, and you can also set up reminders from the app.

I've been wearing it pretty much nonstop for the last 3 weeks, and it's a lot of fun. I like that at 10 minutes to the hour every day, it buzzes you with a note to the effect of  'feed me' telling you to get up and stretch your legs. And when you hit your daily movement goal (mine is 10,000 steps) it gives  you a pat on the back with a display of fireworks. 

I'm glad I found this; I have flirted with the idea of getting an Apple Watch, but it's been about 10 years since I wore anything on my wrist and I didn't want to spend the money on the watch not knowing how I would react. I hadn't even heard of this device till I found it. In general, I like it quite a bit, and I think it's giving me a wearable fix without having to spend Apple Watch money (or much beyond what I spent on the band and charger. 

I have a couple complaints about the thing. First, the iPhone app is very nice, but it sits in a walled garden -- it doesn't communicate with Apple's Health app, as do many similar apps on the phone. This means that my step counts in Health aren't synced with the Fitbit -- so Fitbit app reports more steps, because I don't always have my iPhone with me. Not a big delta, but still. It also doesn't sync with things like weight; I use Apple's Health app to track my weight, and other apps (such as LoseIt!) can track my weight. But for the Fitbit app to know my weight, I have to enter it there separately. Annoying; I think if you're going to play in Apple's garden, you should fit in, as it were. On the other hand, the Fitbit app is very nicely done.

Sleep tracking is nice, though it feels a bit creepy -- if you think you've gotten a good night's sleep, it's a tad disconcerting to see how much 'restless' sleep you had. Sleep tracking also requires, of course, that you have the thing on. Mostly, after as I said going 10 years or so without a watch, I am still not used to having it on my wrist, and sometimes I wake up in the night, and it's really annoying me, so I take it off. 

The other day Fitbit announced a new version of the Alta, one that includes heart rate monitoring. That intrigues me, so I ordered the new model, and it should be here next week; I'll pass this one along to Margaret. They say the reports it gives you about sleep quality are more detailed with the heart rate tracking, and Fitbit's related exercise app can tailor exercises for your heart rate. Should be fun. I'll post another entry after I've used that one.

So as someone who hasn't tried any other wearable like this, I can give it a pretty positive review. If you're looking for a wearable, this seems like a good one to me.