It was, by far, the most exhausting press briefing I've ever experienced. But it was also the best way to quickly test out the Alta, which Fitbit is positioning as a fitness band that won't be out of place with more fashionable outfits. Fitbit's also offering a slew of band options, including multiple colors and leather options, and you can choose from silver or gold Alta finishes.
Basically, it's a Fitbit that doesn't look like past Fitbits, which generally aimed for a more utilitarian aesthetic. The Alta, with its slightly curved display screen (just the outer portion is curved, reps say), metal accents and slim profile, is by far the company's most attractive device.
And yet, old problems remain. Fitbit still hasn't revised its clasp design, my old nemesis from past reviews. It's still relying on two prongs that have to fit precisely into two holes. Sure, that makes for a secure fit, but it's also a struggle to put on every damn time. When you're running out the door late in the morning, it's not the sort of hassle you'd want to deal with. I longed for the simpler clasp designs we've seen from competitors like Jawbone and Apple, whose sport Watch band is a cinch to secure.
The Alta didn't feel that much different on my wrist from older Fitbits I've tested, but it was certainly nice to have it strike a lower profile. It felt similar to Jawbone's Up3, which was incredibly problematic, but at least felt good on my wrist. It's using the same plastic material seen in Fitbit's Charge HR and Surge watch, which is smooth on the bottom to make it feel pleasant on your wrist.
Another similarity to the Up3: the Fitbit Alta doesn't have any buttons. Instead, you tap the screen to wake it up, and then tap the sides of the screen to move back and forth between the step counter, time and other options. The screen also wakes up when you lift your wrist, naturally. The Alta also automatically recognizes when you're working out, just like Fitbit's recent devices.
Back to that workout: As I lunged, shadowboxed and quickly learned to hate the name Pasternak, it wasn't long before I forgot I was even wearing the Alta. I suppose that's true of most wearables when you're in the workout zone, though. Once the ordeal was over, I synced the Alta to my phone with no issue. It automatically logged a workout session of 25 minutes, which also burned off 165 calories.
Mostly, it seems Fitbit is targeting the $130 Alta at consumers who wouldn't wear typical health trackers, which makes it a stronger competitor to other stylish offerings from Misfit and Jawbone. The Alta doesn't track your heart rate like the Charge HR or Surge, so serious fitness fans probably won't even consider it. It's no wearable revolution, but the Alta might have the sort of mass market appeal that Fitbit needs right now.