It8217;s designed to widen the appeal of Fitbit watches, providing the familiarity of the company8217;s popular lifestyle tracking platform with some of the more obvious advantages offered by smartwatches 8211; apps, notifications, music, payments and customisation.
The Fitbit Versa8217;s design couldn8217;t be more different to the Ionic. While the Ionic followed the Blaze with angular design, the Versa picks up curves in a smaller overall package. If you8217;ve been worried that watches are too bulky for your wrist, then it8217;s likely that the Fitbit Versa is going to fit 8211; unless you8217;re after something the size of a penny.
Fitbit was keen to emphasise that it8217;s a unisex design, but we can8217;t help feeling that the Ionic is more masculine, while the Versa is more feminine. It8217;s just a shame that in choosing the smaller design, you8217;re getting a smaller feature set too.
Customisation is very much at the heart of the Versa 8211; as it is with most smartwatches 8211; but less so with fitness devices, such as those from rivals Garmin. Not only does the Fitbit offer the choice of black, rose gold and aluminium colours, but there is a full range of strap materials, colours and styles too.
Changing these straps takes a bit of fiddling, although not as slick and easy as changing straps on something like the Apple Watch, but it8217;s easy enough and brings an instant lift to the look. In many ways, this all makes the Fitbit Versa one of the more adaptable watches out there. You can transform it from pool to playground, gym to boardroom, day to night.
Importantly the Versa escapes looking like a sports watch, a far cry from the older Fitbit Surge, while still hanging onto many of the sporty features you might want 8211; like waterproofing for swim tracking 8211; and the platform, of course, which basically invented the idea of step tracking.
- Colour touchscreen display
- Heart-rate monitor
- Accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter
Its interface is more engaging than Google8217;s Wear OS, but it8217;s fairly simple too. It8217;s not the fastest UI and as it8217;s a small face it8217;s trying to do a lot. Put it next to the Apple Watch and it feels as though Fitbit needs to do more to speed up the responsiveness, but let8217;s not ignore the fact that the Versa is a lot more affordable.
The three hardware buttons about the body provide control, but there8217;s full touch from this display too. The highlight, for us, is the use of detailed photos for the activity screens, like running or swimming. Compare that to Garmin8217;s top-of-the-line sportswatch, the Forerunner 935, and Fitbit8217;s menu system is a lot more interesting to look at.
Of course it8217;s the hardware that really defines the overriding functions of the Fitbit Versa; step-tracking is a big part of the package, enabled by the built-in accelerometer, but with a lack of GPS hardware it has to use motion to detect and provide data for a lot of your exercise. If you have a connected smartphone it can pull the GPS data from there, but as a standalone running watch, this is an obvious weakness.
When looking at your results in the Fitbit Dashboard, you8217;re also not going to get the full set of stats that the Ionic supplies. Essentially, if it8217;s more about sport than smart, then Ionic is a better choice for you.
The back of the Versa features an optical heart-rate monitor which provides more substantial data, not only for backing up your exercise measurement (with heart rate being the best way to measure intensity), but also for 24/7 tracking. Wear your Versa all day and night and you8217;ll have a more complete picture of your heart, from resting lows to stressful highs.
For some, the combination of movement detection and heart-rate monitoring will be enough: if you8217;re tracking 10,000 or more steps a day then the Fitbit Versa is a smart companion; if you do most of your exercise at the gym with no need for GPS, then again you8217;re well served 8211; especially with profiles for a range of different exercise types.
Even if you do take this watch running, you8217;ll get stats that bear some relation to what you8217;ve done, with average pace and distance not being too far from our expected norm. Heart-rate readings did return the sort of averages we expected, however, comparable to other wrist-based devices, so if you8217;re an occasional runner then you8217;ll potentially have all you need in the Versa.
Bluetooth music on your wrist and mobile payments
- Connect to headphones
- Easy Deezer syncing over Wi-Fi
- Fitbit Pay (via NFC)
What the Versa does offer, however, is an interesting music experience. It8217;s boosted by a partnership with Deezer that will not only give you a free trial, but give you an easy route to getting music onto your watch. Fitbit has even assembled some playlists so you can tap and leave it to sync (it needs to be connected to Wi-Fi to do so), but the process is relatively easy.
So too is connecting Bluetooth headphones. Once those headphones are in place, you can listen to music from your wrist with no need for a phone. Sure, Fitbit isn8217;t the only company to do this 8211; Apple Watch, TomTom Spark, most Wear OS watches and new Garmin Forerunner 645 Music will do much the same 8211; but it8217;s a feature that8217;s well worth having for those who like to exercise with music. Just make sure you8217;re paired to a great set of sports headphones.
While Android Pay and Apple Pay are probably familiar to you, there8217;s another mobile payment battle raging in the land of watched. The Fitbit Versa is equipped with NFC and that unlocks Fitbit Pay, meaning you can make payments from your wrist. It8217;s not as versatile as Android or Apple8217;s approach, because the supported banks (in the UK at least) is a lot fewer in number, but you can use your watch for ad hoc contactless payments.
But using all these functions has a cost, and that8217;s in the stamina of the watch. Fitbit says that the battery is good for four or more days, but that8217;s a shorter life than the Fitbit Ionic, most likely down to having less physical space for battery.
In practice that experience holds roughly true: we found that we8217;d often deplete the Versa battery in three days, or less. Longer life can certainly be had of you don8217;t use all the watch8217;s features, but those features are there to take advantage of!
Charging is via a fairly bulky module that you clamp the Versa into. It8217;s not as precise or slick as the magnetic charging option of the Apple Watch or the easy plug-in route the latest Garmin devices. It sort of looks like it was designed to be a stand, presenting the watch while charging, but to us it feels a little too unwieldy.
One of the biggest appeals of Fitbit devices is the app and ecosystem. Fitbit sat on the 8220;lifestyle8221; side of fitness trackers long before other 8220;sports8221; devices realised that things could be better presented.
That8217;s still true in a way, with Fitbit8217;s smartphone app presenting easy-to-digest information at a glance. Again, however, if its detailed workout information you want, then it8217;s bettered by other dedicated sports devices.
The app is also a gateway to a range of expanded features and customisation. Newly added to this model is female health tracking (monthly cycle and fertility calendar) 8211; something we8217;re yet to test but will update in the future 8211; but it8217;s designed to make sure you have another significant element of your health in one app. It8217;s a huge nod to how important Fitbit8217;s female users are to the company.
But the app also gives you customisation options and the ability to add more apps to your watch. Don8217;t get too excited though. While there are some additions, this isn8217;t really the place to find a huge range of familiar company apps. That said, apps for watches don8217;t really seem to be having the huge impact that some might have originally expected and you8217;re well served by Fitbit in all the important areas.
Reminders have become probably the biggest thing that smartwatch owners are using and those are widely supported by Versa. Android users also get smart replies so you don8217;t have to reach for your phone when you get a message 8211; and these can be customised within the app. From an Android point of view we8217;re perfectly happy with the notification experience and how this transfers. We8217;ve not tested it with iPhone yet, but we8217;ll update once we do.