Gamers aren't all fat slobs
Stereotypes. We probably all fit into one sort of stereotype based on our features, pursuits or nationality. Asians are good at maths (and bad drivers), cyclists love wearing Lycra and sipping coffee and blondes are unintelligent. Gamers too, are stereotyped as large, fat balding men with Coke-bottle glasses that sit in dark rooms to play games. I do apologise if I’ve just described one of our readers, but for most of you - along with those other examples – the stereotype aren’t at all valid. Gamers such as myself do have other pursuits to keep us well rounded individuals (hopefully, not in the physical sense) and for me, that involves keeping fit. I cycle, take walks with my family to the local parks and play a range of sports.
Fitbit and other fitness-tracking devices have allowed consumers to do just that – track their fitness. And with their increasing popularity, those companies that are trying to win over consumers have been adding more and more features to their increasingly fashionable designs. We were lucky enough to be sent one such device, Fitbit’s new Alta fitness wristband, in order to test its features on an athletic gamer. No one at Hooked Gamers fitted that description, so it fell on me to give it a test run.
The first thing I noticed about the Alta was the fact that it was easy to access straight out of the box. I’ve had the Fitbit Charge for a while now, and recall that I basically had to destroy the packaging in order to access the wristband. There is no such problem with the Alta packaging. The outer sleeve slips right off, giving simple access to the Alta inside a compact box casing. The package includes a wireless dongle (for PC connectivity) and a charging cable that features a new somewhat robust looking clip-on design. Those currently with a Charge or Flex will notice a change to the cable style an immediately notice that their old charging cable will not work with the Alta.
Apart from the design, there aren't a heap of new features to the Alta, but one new feature I did like (although it could be annoying if you're in a meeting) was the 'reminder to move' feature. If you've been a little too idle within the hour, a small vibration gives a little reminder to get up and meet a small goal of 250 steps in an hour. In my case, it often involved making myself a cup of coffee, so I'm not sure if I'm better off for it. This, as well as other features can be turned on or customised as you require, through the smartphone or online app. Another new feature is the SmartTrack recognition. This feature automatically recognizes and records various activities such as walking, running and a range of sports. I found it was a great way to see how well I performed from one contest to the next, in the same way AFL players where those GPS tracking devices.
App and software connectivity
The Smartphone App (as well as the online version) are really simple to use. As well as displaying all the vital stats - steps, distance travelled, calories burned, flights of stairs walked up, and active minutes - the App allows you to customise your Alta. Notifications of phone calls and text messages can be received on the device, and various display settings can be chosen to suit your needs. Tapping the device will display various statistics, and the App allows which stats appear and in which order.
The App, like with other Fitbit devices, also allows you to connect with friends and then compete with them to see who takes the most steps in a week. Badges are also earned from completing certain activities such as walking 20,000 steps or walking up fifty flights of stairs in a day. As a gamer, there's nothing like completing an achievement.
The Fitbit Alta that we reviewed came with a standard rubberised wristband in Black, although Blue, Plum and Teal are also available. Other, more stylish premium bands are also available (Blush Pink leather, Graphite leather and Stainless Steel) for the more discerning consumers. Although the black version suits me fine, ladies may be more interested in the premium Blush Pink or Stainless Steel models to suit their attire, especially when having a night out - those dance steps at the nightclub count to your daily total. The sleek design does make the band feel more like a bracelet or one of those silicone wristbands that get worn for charity rather than a watch, and as such may not appeal to everyone.
I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the Alta. As an owner of the Charge model, I found that for every hundred steps I took, it would be out by about four paces (normally short changing me). The Alta, on the other hand, counted out perfectly on all but one of the dozen or so tests that I completed. The same goes for when I was jogging. Unfortunately, like other models, the Alta doesn’t really work for cyclists as the minimal movement created when holding onto the handlebars doesn’t seem to register (unless going over bumpy terrain). Instead, I did the old trick of attaching the device to my shoe laces which then accurately calculated one step per rotation.
I have to admit, I do like the Fitbit Alta. The sleek design and opportunity to replace the band is a definite plus. So too, is the larger screen, even if it can be a fingerprint magnet and is more subject to scratches. The battery lasts about five days before needing to be recharged which is fairly normal, but the addition of the Move Reminder feature and the SmartTrack recognition does add some added value to the device. The accuracy is what has sold me over its predecessors, though. I'd still like to be able to count steps (or rotations) whilst riding without having to attach the device to my shoe, but for a device under $200, it is well worth it, especially for those gamers looking for something a little more stylish.