Has Fitbit crossed the border to the fashion world with latest design?

Fitbit's new Alta device is sleeker and shinier than the company's older models.

Gregory Bull/AP Photo
A man walks between two screens displaying new smart watches from fitbit at CES International, January, 2016, in Las Vegas. Thousands of gadget companies from around the world gather this week in Las Vegas to show off their latest items.

Fitbit released its newest fitness tracker, called the Fitbit Alta, on Wednesday. The new wearable fitness device could be the leading edge of a technology trend that blurs the lines between form and function.

When Fitbit was founded in 2007, its devices were very simple. The first Fitbit technology featured a wooden box and a circuit board, instead of the sleek colored band that characterizes the wearable fitness monitor today.

Now, Fitbit has gone the extra mile. The company’s newest release is not only inoffensive to the eye, but could also be considered downright fashionable.

Unlike some of the device’s older models, the new Fitbit does not have a elastomer (or rubber) wristband. Instead, it features a stainless steel or leather band that comes in a variety of colors.

The Alta also features a touchscreen, and can sync to smartphones. Like some of the company’s other trackers, the Alta tracks exercise and sleep patterns. In terms of functionality, Alta is very similar to other Fitbit devices.

The company has gone to some lengths in recent months to convince customers of the device’s utility, while meandering ever closer to the fashion world.

In January, Fitbit released the Fitbit Blaze, one of its more expensive trackers with a resemblance to the Apple Watch. The Blaze has a clock face and interchangable bands. After years of functional designs, the Blaze was one of Fitbit’s first nods to fashion.

“One of the first things we learned in this industry is that fitness is personal,” said Fitbit CEO James Park in a press release, “and if something isn’t your style, you won’t wear it.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, former NFL player Tony Gonzalez extolled the versatility of the Blaze. Mr. Gonzalez, who now works for Fitbit, claimed that the company’s new product could easily transition “from the practice field to the red carpet.”

With Alta’s release following quickly on the heels of the Blaze, Fitbit appears to be chasing the fashion trend. Other wearable fitness tracker manufacturers have also noticed the wind changing.

Early this year, Misfit released its Ray fitness band. Like Fitbit’s Alta device, the Ray is sleeker and shinier than its older siblings. The tracker can also be removed from its band, allowing it to be worn as a necklace or otherwise personalized.

Fitbit refuses to be left behind as fitness trackers become more personalized. The company has had a longstanding partnership with the fashion designer Tory Burch.

Priced at $129, the Fitbit Alta is not the most expensive product in Fitbit’s arsenal. The larger Fitbit Surge and the Fitbit Blaze are both more expensive than the sleeker, more attractive Alta.

Given the device’s popularity, it is surprising that Fitbit stock has dropped over the last year. The company’s IPO did astoundingly well, with stocks selling for approximately $32 per share. Wednesday, the stock is worth just under half that amount at $15.91 per share.

Fitbit still controls 79 percent of the fitness tracker market. President Obama wears a fitbit. Perhaps the sleek and shiny Alta will spread the trend to more fashion forward figures.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.