Five Reasons the Fitbit Alta HR is the BEST Activity Tracker for 2017 (and 3 reasons it isn’t)

As more features continue to blend the smart watch versus fitness wearable devices into a nearly single category, it is hard to stand out.  But device after device, Fitbit continues to be the market leader, this time with their Fitbit Alta HR.  Here are five reasons you should get one in 2017, and 3 reasons maybe you shouldn’t.

For the past year (and then some), my wife and I have worn Apple Watch (Series 0) devices.  We’ve both been talking about ditching them for various reasons, and decided it was finally time to move onto other hardware.  And after some time with a few different options, we’ve come to find the Fitbit Alta HR takes home the gold.

In case you were wondering, my personal second place award goes to the Withings Steel HR.  It is a solid device, with on-board heart rate monitoring and a small window for scrolling alerts.  But the heart rate monitor was inaccurate, and the device did not show text previews.  I’d not discount the Steel HR, but it just isn’t as nice as the Alta HR.  Here are a few photos of the Withings for reference.

Five Reasons to LOVE the Fitbit Alta HR

  • Compact Heart Rate Monitoring
    • Compared to other activity trackers on the market, the Alta HR is truly one of the smaller to offer multi-day battery life AND heart rate monitoring in such a small form factor.  Other devices can do this, but most are bigger, and pale in comparison to the 5+ days of battery life you’ll get here.
  • Interchangeable Bands
    • Beyond just the options sold by Fitbit themselves, there are tons of 3rd party sellers providing options to enhance your device.  (Example)  This is a great way to personalize your Alta, and keep things fresh & clean!
  • Call, Text, and Calendar Alerts
    • Though this feature is more common than ever in activity trackers, nobody has the reliability of a polished app interface like Fitbit.  With the Alta HR you can dial in the alerts you want, and turn off the ones you don’t.
  • Automatic Exercise Recognition
    • Dubbed “SmartTrack”, Fitbit’s programmers have figured out a way to have the device track your exercise the moment you start working out.  Forgetful about telling your device you started a run?  Don’t worry, with the Alta it is automatic, you never need to do anything but wear it!
  • Sleep Tracking
    • Though I’m still personally on the fence about the usefulness of this feature, and the lack of actionability is somewhat annoying– the fact of the matter is that some people love to track their sleep.  And many devices in this segment still don’t offer this feature.   Fitbit has improved some of the metrics you see during sleep in their newer devices/app, making for some cool data.

..and 3 things that annoyed us about the Fitbit Alta HR

  • Proprietary Charger Cable
    • Even though the device can give you up to 7 days of life (we found about 5 average), when it does come time to change it you have to track down a cable that is unique to the Alta HR.  Don’t lose your cable — they are $20 to replace!
  • Plastic Screen Scratches Easily
    • Not unlike most other devices in this market segment, the whole thing is made of plastic.  This means the screen can easily scratch.  It would be nice to see some other material options but we get that the cost become a factory.  If you’re worried about this, consider a screen protector.
  • No Manual Activity Tracking
    • Odd as it may sound, one of the features in the first list  is also a negative here.  But we found some activities didn’t trigger the automatic workout detection, making us wish that the Alta HR had some way to enter that mode manually for those rare occasions and sports.

Final Thoughts

It is pretty hard to find any sizable faults in the Fitbit Alta HR.  My wife says she doesn’t really miss the Apple Watch, save for some of the more advanced notification features it had offered.  Right now smart watches are still falling short of expectation, and the whole market is struggling a bit.

But if you’re thinking about getting into your first activity tracker, or upgrading from an older unit, we can’t recommend enough the Fitbit Alta HR device.  It is truly the best one offered by Fitbit today, and our favorite across all brands for Spring/Summer 2017!

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Published by

Ari Jay Comet

Sharing my life experiences. Interacting with technology. Digital self-expression. Binary is black, white, and many shades of grey.

4 thoughts on “Five Reasons the Fitbit Alta HR is the BEST Activity Tracker for 2017 (and 3 reasons it isn’t)”

  1. Can you comment on HRM accuracy of the fitbit Alta HR vs dedicated devices like the Polar H7 or Wahoo Tickr? I’ve read that the dedicated straps provide more accuracy and reliability (reliability in relation to how the devices perform under running conditions i.e. I’ve heard that the optical sensors on something like the fitbit Alta HR will stop working when you sweat). HRM is the primary function I am focused on so dedicated device might be the obvious choice, but I prefer the convenience / comfort of a wrist device… Glad I found your blog, thanks in advance for the feedback.

    1. Leo, welcome to the site. In my experience, movement and sweat can impair the accuracy and ability of a wrist based HRM to function properly. That said, some are better than others. For wrist based HRM, my favorites are the Apple Watch, and the Fitbit products. I’ve been less impressed with the Polar & Garmin products in those arenas. But my testing is far from scientific, I’ll be the first to admit.

      Still, chest straps are almost always your best bet, with forearm sensors a good secondary backup. Your wrist is good only in that it is a logical place to wear a device, but it isn’t the most accurate or reliable.

      If you decide to go with a chest strap, my two favorites are:

      Polar H10
      http://amzn.to/2qX4Cw0

      Wahoo Tickr
      http://amzn.to/2qWKmbR

      Both have the ability to use your phone’s bluetooth to run the necessary app. Frankly I like the Polar app better, but the Wahoo price point is obviously a bit better. Can’t go wrong with either. Best wishes!

      1. Ari, Thank you for the quick response! So one more question now. Is the H10 ($90) worth the extra $40 compared to the H7 ($50) and the base wahoo Tickr ($50)?

      2. For most people, the extra costs are likely not worth it. That said, the Polar app feels more polished and pretty, whereas the Wahoo app is adequate. Also the Polar app has advanced features that only work if it detects you’re using their hardware. For the average consumer the Tickr remains the most solid purchase for value and versatility.

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