Fitbit Versa and Versa Lite: Full Review
The new Fitbit Versa is making waves in the world of wearables. We’ve had ours on this whole week and, so far, we’re pretty impressed.
Fitbit’s launch of the Versa couldn’t have come at a better time for the company. Their first smartwatch go-round with the Ionic was mostly a disappointment, with consumers taking issue with its bulky size, strange design, and high price tag. The Versa addresses the size complaints with a sleek design reminiscent of the Apple Watch.
It is replacing the well-loved Blaze, but luckily the Versa is staying at the Blaze’s price point and is offering some significant upgrades. Let’s dive into our full review of the Versa.
Updated: July 4th, 2019
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The smartwatch is from Fitbit, after all, so the tracking functionality is as expected from the fitness wearable giant. This means that you can expect:
- Activity tracking, including steps, active minutes, and calories burned
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Automatic exercise tracking
- Connected GPS (connect via smartphone)
- Extensive sleep tracking, including time and sleep stages
- Cardio fitness score
For tracking, the Versa features an optical heart-rate monitor, a tri-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, and altimeter.
Additionally, the Versa comes with a range of features that make it an exciting wearable device. Some of these include:
- Water resistance to 50 meters
- Smartphone notifcations
- 4+ day battery life
- Phone-free music
- NFC payments (on special edition)
- App store
Essentially, the Versa has taken all the good stuff from past wearables and created the smartwatch that consumers actually want. There are a few things in the works that aren’t available right now — namely, women’s health tracking and quick responses to texts — and Fitbit seems optimistic that there are even more possibilities in the future. The app store is fairly bare-bones at this time, but it’s a new launch, so that’s not unexpected.
With the onboard music feature, Fitbit Connect guides you through transferring your saved music on your PC to the Versa. It can hold up to 500 songs. If you don’t add music to the Versa, you can still use the watch to control music playing via your smartphone. Like the Ionic, you can also download playlists from Pandora or Deezer if you have a subscription to those services.
Early on, Fitbit explained that quick responses are coming, but they will only be available for Android. No word on if iOS devices will eventually have this feature, but for now, only Android phones connected to Versas will have this option (and no definitive word on when this is happening either).
The most significant issue with the Ionic was the design: it was large and odd, and it was overwhelming on small wrists. Fortunately, the Versa is not that way at all. In fact, it’s perfect for small wrists in particular. It has the square face most common on today’s fitness watches, and it’s very lightweight and sized appropriately.
The full color LCD screen is vivid and clear, and the size seems just right for everything you’d need to do with it. The face size is: Width 1.34″ diagonal; Screen Size 0.94″ x 0.94″.
The classic band (included with all watches) is made of flexible, durable elastomer.
The watch comes in 3 classic colors: black, rose gold, and silver; as well as 2 “special editions”: charcoal woven and lavender woven bands.
Fitness & Wellness
Of course, the Versa really shines as a fitness watch — that’s not surprising due to Fitbit’s ongoing excellence with fitness technology.
The dashboard is comprehensive and clean to look at, and you can get basic info easily on the watch simply by swiping up. The app dashboard also lets you customize some additional info (most extras you’ll have to enter manually), such as water intake or food logs.
- Floors climbed
- Active minutes
- Calories burned
- Whether you move every hour
You’ll get reminders to move each hour, and the Versa encourages you to hit 250 steps per hour. You can customize reminders (start and end times; which days) or turn them off.
Activity tracking is essentially the same on the Versa as it is on the Ionic (and any of Fitbit’s most recent trackers) in that it happens automatically and picks up when you’re exercising. You can store up to seven exercise shortcuts on the watch, with options like swim, treadmill, interval workout, yoga, and plenty more. Some of the activities use the connected GPS.
On the Versa there is an option called Coach, which has a few options for guided workouts like “10 minute abs.” You can also add Fitbit Coach, the app, for $40 a year to get access to a wide variety of guided workouts right on your wrist.
The Versa is also useful in tracking overall wellness. There is one watch face called “Mood Log,” for example, that lets you track your mood and energy over a 12-hour period. This helps you see
patterns in your mood or energy levles and just helps you be more in tune with your overall sense of wellness. There’s also the “Relax” feature, which isn’t new, but is nice for facilitating a few moments of zen throughout the day via guided breathing and a chance to decompress.
Eventually, the wellness features will be even more robust for women in particular. The female health tracking feature that should be available sometime soon will offer comprehensive data tracking and the opportunity to see your health trends. The feature will reportedly allow you to track cycles and symptoms, which will help women estimate both menstruation and fertility.See Best Price
Fitbit’s sleep tracking capabilities have always been top-notch, and the Versa continues this tradition. For anyone deciding between/switching from the Ionic, this is much better in terms of comfort for overnight wear.
If you’re new to Fitbit, here’s what you can expect from the Versa’s sleep tracking.
Your device will automatically detect when you fall asleep and when you wake up. In my experience, this has always been accurate, regardless of the device. If, for some reason, there is any discrepancy in wake up/fall asleep time, you can adjust that in the app. The Versa will determine your sleep stages — REM, light, deep, and awake — based on movement and heart rate. You’ll see details about when your Fitbit determined you to be in various stages, as well as a breakdown of the percentage of time you spent in each stage. “Awake” is always a little surprising, as most of the time you don’t know you’re awake when the Fitbit says you are. (Check out this forum post for some useful info).
You can also rely on your device and the app to help you get on track with a regular sleep schedule. Simply set a bedtime reminder and your Versa will let you know when it’s time to go.
Apps & Interface
The Fitbit app is one of the best — if not the best — fitness apps available.
The main page shows you an overview of the day and you can navigate to previous days to see totals. Clicking on any area will give you a more in depth overview. You can customize the layout, which tracking areas you want to add to it, and so forth. Overall, the interface is extremely user-friendly, which is one of the big reasons why we like it so much.
In terms of smartwatch apps, the Versa functions much like the Ionic in that you can add apps to the watch itself. The app store is fairly limited right now, but there are plenty of great fitness apps as well as some useful daily apps like the New York Times and Starbucks.
The interface of the watch is simple, too. Simply swipe up to see today’s stats, swipe right to get to apps, and use the three buttons for various navigation options. For example, press and hold the top right button to get to your notifications.
Even factoring in the Ionic, smartwatches are still pretty new to Fitbit. The Fitbit app store is still budding, with only a small fraction of the number of apps available on the Apple Watch in comparison. Developers have had the ability to develop apps for just a few months, so there will continue to be more and more apps options available in the coming months.
In addition to the standard Versa watches, there are two options of Special Edition Versas that is about $30 more. This extra money gets you a snazzy woven band and an NFC chip. That means you can take advantage of contactless payments via Fitbit Pay.
Fitbit just added a more simple, streamlined, and affordable variant of the Versa to their product offering in the form of the Lite. Similar in design to the standard Versa, the Lite uses a single navigation button and trims away a few of its features to deliver a more entry-level device at an improved price. Gone are its stair climbing tracker, swim lap tracker, and WiFi connectivity (which means no on-board music storage and play without your smartphone handy). While these features will matter to some, every other fitness and health tracking function is left untouched, meaning its still a function-packed device for a modest $159.95 entry price. It also comes in a few more interesting colors than the standard and special editions. Alongside two silver/aluminum versions, it is also being offered in blue and in purple, which we suspect is an IP plating over aluminum.
How does it compare to the Ionic?
We’re working on a comprehensive comparison article pitting the original Fitbit smartwatch up against the Versa, but for now, here are a few of the key differences to make note of:
Price: The Versa retails for about $100 less than the Ionic.
Design: The biggest difference to most shoppers comes in the form of the shape, size, and look of these two. The Versa is much smaller and more conventionally attractive. It also fits smaller wrists better.
GPS: The price difference comes primarily from the the on-board GPS included on the Ionic. The Versa only has connected GPS.
How does it compare to the Blaze?
The Versa and Blaze have the same initial retail price (the Blaze, now that it’s discontinued, can be picked up at a discount), but the Versa offers a fairly significant upgrade. For starters, the Versa comes in a sleeker, more smartwatch-esque style. It provides slightly better screen resolution and is a bit more lightweight.
But some of the biggest differences are as follows: The Versa is water resistant to 50 meters (the Blaze is not at all) and the Versa is more smartwatch in that it has the app store and other smartwatch features. It’s a major win over the Blaze, which says a lot because the Blaze was a solid fitness watch.
Should you buy the Fitbit Versa?
There are very few reasons why we wouldn’t recommend the Versa if it’s something you’re considering. One of the few downsides is really a problem with Fitbit overall, and that’s the lack of integration with Apple Health and Google Fit. It does lack built-in GPS, but the price reflects that lack. It’s priced well and it looks good.
Some early reviewers have noted bugs and connectivity issues, but that seems to be isolated to devices themselves that will be covered under a return policy or warranty.
The music capabilities might be a bit disappointing compared to some other smartwatches (like Apple), but the storage and Pandora compatibility seems to be a pretty sweet deal for this price point. However, do be prepared for possible syncing issues and/or it taking a long time to load music.
Here are the key reasons the Versa is a great fitness smartwatch:
- Priced well
- Style is nice
- Tracking capabilities are top-notch
- Basic smartphone functions are useful
- Water resistant to 50 meters
- 4+ day battery life
And a few areas that it falls short:
- Doesn’t integrate with Apple Health
- No on-board GPS
- Can be buggy/slow to make changes
- The charger is not great