The technology business loves a good game. There have even been suggestions that the global smash-hit Pokemon GO could assist with obesity levels in the young. Perhaps, but the phenomenon of gamification is now part of our technology lives. Reaching fitness or exercise goals is a challenge to our human nature, so wearing a device that gently reminds us to move more, or sharing our results with friends and family online helps reduce some of the pain, whilst helping us to make the gain.
Fitbit are one of the dominant players in the fitness tracker business. Their new device, the wrist-worn Alta is a mid-priced device that will monitor steps, calories burned, distance covered, active minutes and sleep. Your stats and progress will displayed on your wrist, and in the free Fitbit app for smartphones.
When I unpacked the device the first striking feature is how beautifully designed this tracker is. It’s the best looking fitness tracker I’ve seen and is roughly the same size as bracelet and available in four colours and three sizes. In the box there was also a charging cable and Bluetooth adapter dongle that would let you connect the device to your laptop or PC if you don’t have a compatible smartphone.
After downloading the Fitbit app to my phone and creating a Fitbit account, I put the device on my wrist. The band pairs via Bluetooth with your mobile phone so they can communicate and exchange information. The Alta has a good sized easy and easy to read OLED screen that will relay notifications from your phone. The screen can be oriented horizontally or vertically and you’ll receive notifications of Phone calls, texts, and calendar reminders. It’s a useful feature, but only as a quick reference so the device doesn’t really double as a second screen for your phone.
There is no button on the device, so you interact with it by tapping the device. This should be a clever idea, but I found it occasionally didn’t respond but that may have been due to my strap being a little large. Once on, you forget about the device and get on with your day. The device is monitoring all the time and you do find yourself checking after a few hours how you’re doing.
After a few days of use you begin to get a feel for how much activity you do ordinarily as you review the activity charts on your phone or laptop. The Fitbit app is exceptionally good with data presented in an easy to read form with numbers and charts that make sense. After a few days I set some activity alerts that prompt you to move more, in my case every hour, in order to get me towards a personal goal.
Fitbit say the Alta recognises some exercises automatically, using a new feature called SmartTrack, and it recognised my running but it seemed to have trouble with some weight exercises. The alarm functionality of the device works well and I found the gentle morning alarm feature really useful.
The sleep tracking feature worked well and gives a good overview of how much, and how well, you slept measuring not just sleep-time but quality of sleep by indicating the number of times you were awake during the night as well as how restless you were. I found this as useful as the activity tracking features and by the end of a week I had started to retire a little earlier to bed.
There is no heart-rate monitor on the device, which probably rules it out for those who do an amount of cardio activity. It’s also not waterproof but will resist the sweat and splashes during ordinary use.
More info: fitbit.com