When Fitbit introduced their Alta fitness band last year, we were excited about the prospect of a slimmed down device with the same potential for great designer accessories. Fitbit has delivered on the promise of the latter, but the lack of a heart rate monitor was a big trade-off. Not so this year, with Fitbit announcing the Alta HR.
The Alta HR isn’t any different in appearance from the Alta, which is good news — looks were a strength for the fitness band. It still has a water-resistant central unit with an OLED screen that can display basic fitness stats and smartphone notifications, and can be paired with existing Fitbit Alta wristbands. But, as before, fitness tracking isn’t quite as robust as it is with larger Fitbit devices — if you’re just relying on the band during workouts, you’ll have to trust automatic workout detection instead of being able to start and stop workouts.
The good news is that automatic workout detection should be improved by the new heart rate sensor. The small optical sensor on the inside of the device can handle continuous heart rate tracking. Interestingly, despite the added draw of the heart rate sensor, Fitbit has upped battery life projections from five days with the original Alta to seven days on the Alta HR.
The new heart rate monitoring won’t just help with automatic exercise detection. Fitbit is also making some changes to their sleep tracking algorithms, which will be pushed out in a software update this spring that will coincide with the release of the Alta HR. After the update, the band will be able to track sleep more accurately, including light and deep sleep cycles. We’ll have to put this to the test, though — it still bugs me that a lot of sleep trackers will claim to detect sleep, including changes in sleep cycle, while they lay dormant on my desk. Hopefully Fitbit has taken a step forward here, for their sake — the company is facing class action lawsuits over the accuracy of both their heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking.
The Fitbit Alta HR can be preordered now for $150 and will ship in April. At launch, it’ll be available in black, blue grey, fuchsia, and coral, with black/gunmetal and soft pink/rose gold available as special editions.