Fitbit Versa Review: A Fitness Smartwatch For Everyone

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A slimmer, more modern-looking smartwatch from Fitbit that still tracks all of your fitness activity.

Fitbit announced its second smartwatch, post-Pebble acquisition, earlier this month, in the new Versa. This is a much smaller footprint than the Ionic that Fitbit debuted last year, and it shows. For one, the battery life is a day less than the Ionic, and two, there's no NFC for Fitbit Pay here. It's also about $100 cheaper than the Fitbit Ionic, so there are definitely some features missing here. But the real question is whether the Versa is the better fitness watch over the Ionic? Let's find out.

Specs

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Fitbit doesn't typically announce specs on its products, and that's also the case here for the Versa. We do know that it does have a variety of sensors included, like a three-axis accelerometer, a three-axis gyroscope, an optical heart rate monitor, an altimeter, ambient light sensor, SpO2 sensor, vibration motor, WiFi and NFC antennas. Now the NFC antenna is only in the special edition models, as the regular Versa does not have NFC for Fitbit Pay. A bit surprising, but you will have to pay an extra $30 to get Fitbit Pay functionality on the Versa.

Otherwise, the Fitbit Versa does run the same software as the Ionic, which means it does have more apps at launch than the Ionic did. That includes the likes of Strava, Starbucks, Pandora, Deezer and many more. There are also a slew of new clock faces available here. The Versa does also support tracking swimming, as well as the usual workouts. Fitbit says that the battery life on the Versa will last around four days on a single charge.

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In the Box

The unboxing experience of the Fitbit Versa is similar to really any other Fitbit tracker. Slide open the box and you're greeted with the tracker on one end, and paperwork at the other end with the charging cable and another band. The Versa comes with a small and large band in the box, while other bands are available for purchase, separately. Nothing too fancy here, from Fitbit, but it's still packaged quite nicely.

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Hardware

One look at the Versa and you'll think that it's a Pebble smartwatch. It does look very similar to the Pebble smartwatch, but as Fitbit's chief designer explained last week, it did not base this off of a Pebble smartwatch (even though it acquired Pebble recently). The Versa is a much smaller smartwatch than the Ionic that the company debuted last year. It also has a different aspect ratio display, compared to the Ionic, but more on that a bit later. The Versa has a really clean look to it, even with the Fitbit logo on the front, below the display. Fitbit used a squircle design here on the watch, even though the display is a square. This gives Fitbit places to add sensors, as well as more battery inside the Versa. It does sport chamfered edges on the front and the back, which look really nice actually.

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Similar to the Ionic, the Versa does also have three buttons – one on the left side and two on the right. They function pretty much the same as the Ionic, seeing as it is running the same operating system. Underneath the Versa, you'll find the heart rate and SpO2 sensors, as well as the pins for the charger. The bands or straps, on the Versa are interchangeable as well, and Fitbit actually made it quite easy to swap them out. Leaving a pin that works as a lever almost, to swap them out. So you can swap the silicon strap out for a metal mesh or a leather one when you want to dress up and look nice.  Of course, those bands are sold separately, starting at $29 and running up to $99.

Fitbit is selling five SKU's of the Versa, there are three regular Versa models and then two special edition models. For the regular models, there's black & black aluminum, peach & rose gold, and gray & silver aluminum. The special editions are Charcoal woven & black aluminum, and lavender woven & rose gold.  The regular models sell for $199, and the special editions are $30 more at $229.

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The Versa does look really nice, and if you own the Ionic, then you may not even realize you're wearing the Versa, as the difference in size and weight is that big. It is a bit thicker than some other fitness trackers out there, but compared to other smartwatches, like Wear OS-powered (formerly Android Wear) smartwatches, it's much smaller. While it's not a smartwatch first, it does still offer plenty of smartwatch features to keep users happy here.

Software

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The Fitbit app hasn't changed a whole lot here with the Versa. There's no new tiles, added in the app. It still tracks your steps taken, stairs climbed, calories burned, your sleeping pattern and much more. There is a new feature that Fitbit did announce with the Versa, though it is not yet available. And that is "Female Tracking". And it's just what it sounds like, allowing females to track their periods in the app, and Fitbit will be able to tell you when to expect the next one, if it's late and much more. It's a feature that will be rolling out to all Fitbit trackers, but with the Ionic and Versa, you'll be able to see as a screen on your wrist.

With Fitbit OS 2.0, there are some changes on the Versa, compared to the Ionic. Now if you swipe up from the bottom of the watch, you'll be greeted with your data for the day. With the Ionic, this only showed your steps, calories burned, etc for the day. But with the Versa, you can see your step counts for the past 7 days, and you can swipe over and see your average resting heart rate for the week as well. And see how it differs on the weekend compared to during the week. It's not a huge change, no, but it is a nice one to keep you from needing to pick up your phone and check your stats.

The upper right-hand button on the Versa is a quick shortcut to tracking exercises, and these are customizable through the Fitbit app. So you can choose your favorite exercises and rearrange the order as well. But this allows you to quickly track an exercise while you're at the gym. Meanwhile, the bottom button on the right is for setting an alarm quickly. Since the Fitbit Versa (like other Fitbits in the past) vibrate your arm, it's a gentler way to wake up rather than your phone blasting at you in the morning.

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There are also a ton of apps available for Fitbit OS 2.0, however a number of them that were built for the Ionic need to be updated for the Versa. So Fitbit is waiting on developers to do that, and this is due to the different aspect ratio on the Versa. Although most of the major apps are already updated for the Versa, including Starbucks. There are over 550 apps currently available on the Fitbit OS 2.0 platform, with plenty more coming. There are also a ton of different watch faces you can choose from. So whether you want something that shows a lot of stats, or something that's plain and simple, Fitbit and its developer community has you covered.

Fitbit seems to have worked pretty hard with the Pebble team on its software. Pebble smartwatches were known for having plenty of features, but not too many. Having the right amount that didn't overwhelm users, but gave them everything they wanted. And that's what Fitbit OS 2.0 does right now. It has quite a few features on your wrist, but not a ton like Wear OS and the Apple Watch have. Which means the platform will likely get used more than those more traditional smartwatches. Of course, there are some things that need to be changed, like the transitions. When swiping up to see your stats for the day, there's a pretty long transition to get into your stats. And the same goes for getting into settings, alarms and everything else. If Fitbit could shorten those transitions, it would likely be a better experience, seeing as it currently makes it look like the watch is lagging or just slow, when it isn't (and definitely shouldn't be, since it's brand new). So there's little things there that should be fixed in upcoming updates, but nothing major wrong here.

Fitness Tracking

The fitness tracking on the Versa is really nothing new, but like the Ionic and the Flex 2, it does also have the ability to track your swimming. So if you are someone who does do a lot of swimming, that's going to be a great feature for you. During our testing, we did find that it was pretty accurate with measuring how far you've swam. Now when it comes to calories burned, that's another story, and frankly, calories burned is never going to be 100% accurate on these fitness trackers. This is because it is taking your heart rate into consideration here, and that is never 100% accurate since it is measuring it from your wrist and not your chest. So keep that in mind when looking at calories burned on the Versa and other fitness trackers.

Fitbit does have the Fitbit Coach available on the Versa, which allows you to get a quick workout in, even if you aren't at the gym (or maybe don't have time to get to the gym). This allows you to do different bodyweight exercises, and your Versa will walk you through each one. It also offers up walking and running coaching, to help push you to the next level. Fitbit Coach is available for free, but there is also a premium version that gives you more features.

Now you don't need to sign up for Fitbit Coach to be able to track your exercises with the Fitbit Versa. You can also track things like weight lifting, running, biking, and so forth. Pressing the upper right button on the Versa, you can begin tracking that. Now it's important to note that this works better with cardio exercises than weight lifting, since it's not tracking how much weight you have lifted. But it'll show you the time you've been working out, your steps (depending on the exercise), and your calories. There may be a few other metrics shown, depending on which exercise you are doing. But the Versa is pretty accurate when it comes to fitness tracking, and it's right on pair with the Ionic and even the Nokia Steel HR fitness tracker, which is definitely a good thing.

One of the main reasons that Fitbit wanted to have a large enough battery in the Versa to last a few days, was to track your sleeping. This is something that all of its fitness trackers do actually, and it works really well. It is able to tell when you go to sleep and wake up, but also the different stages of your night of sleep. Which is also a good thing here. This information helps you determine how well (or not well) you've been sleeping. It's not something everyone will buy this fitness tracker for, but it is a great feature to have available here.

Battery Life & Connectivity

Fitbit quotes the Versa as lasting around four days on a charge. Now typically when Fitbit quotes a specific number of days, it actually turns out to be about a day less. But so far in our testing, that doesn't appear to be the case. The Fitbit Versa has lasted us four days and still had a bit of juice left over. Now, battery life is going to be subjective – like with any electronic – and if you are doing more exercising, or using more apps, or syncing it with your phone more often, battery life will likely be a bit less. But for the most part, you should be able to get a good three to four days of battery out of the Versa which is nice.

With the Ionic, Fitbit went with a magnetic charger, which mostly worked fine, but it would disconnect from the Ionic from time to time. With the Versa, Fitbit has decided to go with a cradle for charging. It works really well, and still allows you to see the time while it's charging which is really nice here. It hasn't fallen out of the cradle at all, and that's due to the fact that it has arms that wrap around the Versa to keep it in place – similar to the Alta and Charge 2's charging cable.

Wrap Up

The Fitbit Versa is the company's second attempt at a true smartwatch, and the company has improved in quite a few areas. Making the smartwatch smaller, slimmer and better looking, but also adding more apps to the platform. Of course, some of those aren't yet available but they will be soon. There are still some areas that Fitbit could improve on, and likely will before the Ionic 2 and Versa 2 make their way to store shelves. But if you were looking for a good looking fitness smartwatch that can track all of your fitness activity, you'll have a tough time finding something better than the Versa.

Buy the Fitbit Versa Buy the Fitbit Versa (Fitbit.com)