What I Like and Don’t Like About the Fitbit Alta HR

I’m not a stranger to Fitbits.  I’m actually wearing my third one.  Last May, I replaced my Fitbit Charge HR, the older model, for a new Alta HR.  The reason for the replacement was because the Charge had fallen apart, the second one of that model that had fallen apart on me.  I have no problem saying that the original Charge was not made well.  The straps bubble and eventually separate from the main device.  Kind of an inconvenience, but a problem that Fitbit will take care of.  The company very gladly sent me a replacement.

When it was time to replace my second charge, I came across the new Alta HR and really liked the design of it.  The slimmer look AND a heart rate monitor, that’s all I really wanted.  Plus the straps were detachable so right away I thought that would solve the problem I kept having with bubbling straps.  I bought it instead of calling in to complain about my second Charge HR.

Besides the overall look, the Alta HR had a few differences.  First off, no side button to toggle workout timers on and off.  Next, no altimeter but I already knew about this and knowing how many ‘flights of stairs’ I seemingly walk a day wasn’t necessary information that I needed to know.  I was fine with that omission.  It took me a few months before I realized that I could still time my workouts, but only through the app instead of the side button that I was used to.  It’s a little inconvenient having to open the app and wait for everything to load and then click through to the workout timer.  But, an inconvenience I am willing to go through because I really like to know my specific work out stats.

Those two things were the only initial differences to me between the Alta HR and the Charge HR.  A few months go by, however, and I’m starting to notice that my heart rate is hardly ever in cardio zone.  I went from a heart rate of 140 plus to staying around the 100 mark during High Intensity Fitness classes so I was starting to wonder, “How much have I really cut back in the workout department?”  (It was around this time that overall I was feeling pretty lousy.  I seriously cut back on my exertion levels for the sake of needing to feel normal again.  I was exhausted, always; I ached everywhere, always; my mood and emotions were all over the place; and I was suffering from random unexplained ailments.  My body needed a break so I quit going 120% at the gym.  But I didn’t think I had dropped down to 20%, I knew at least my heart rate should be higher than that.  I was still taking a HIIT class after all!)  Either my aerobic endurance had gotten so good, or my FitBit Alta HR was not working right.  I did a little bit of online investigating.

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with a strangely low heart rate while working out with the Alta.  From what I read, it seems its size is part of the problem.  It has such a small surface area that it doesn’t do the best job of accurately keeping track of your heart rate.  The sites I read suggested switching it from the wrist you regularly wear it to the other one while working out.  The idea being that it tends to be a little looser on your normal wrist and when you switch sides, it sits tighter thus leaving less room to budge and giving a better reading.  I did this and it worked, kind of.

My heart rate WAS getting up there when on my right wrist, but I often find when I am in class and I want to see where it is, I get a reading like this, which is no reading at all.  Very often this happens actually.

Heart rate missing and this while I am actually wearing it.

So now, ten months of having the FitBit Alta HR, it needs to be replaced.  About two months ago, the bands did start to deform.  No bubbling, but right where it attaches to the main device, the plastic is lifting up.  Also, it suddenly quit charging and started resetting over and over again.  I called FitBit and it’s been deemed defective, but they actually won’t replace it this time since I bought it from an ‘unauthorized retailer.’  That unauthorized retailer will replace it, but who knows when it will come into stock again, if ever.  So I am here patiently waiting for a replacement, but I am more leaning on buying myself the newer HR Charge.  After ten months of using the Alta HR, I don’t really like it.  The size is the only thing I like about it, but the size is the thing that makes it not work like I want it to.  I like keeping track of my steps, but even more I like keeping track of my heart rate.

Any other Fitbit users out there?  Which model do you have, and do you like it?  How about former Fitbit users that are now Apple users?  I’ve also considered switching brands altogether.  What say you?

*Edited to add: You can find my original Fitbit Charge HR review here.

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