Road Test: Fitbit Versa
With Christmas approaching soon, I figured it’s a good time to finally get this review online as it’s right up there on the health and fitness technology must-haves list for this year which means it would make a fantastic present. The Fitbit Versa has been around since mid-April and I had all intentions on doing a video review but I’ve been incredibly slow off the mark with this one – so apologies! A video review is still in the plans.
I’ve previously done reviews for the Alta HR, Blaze and Ionic models, and as one of the most widely know fitness-related tech brands you’ll probably already have an idea of what Fitbit is all about, so let’s just skip to what makes this offering my fave watch to date. It’s barely left my wrist since I got it in April!
The sales pitch
This is Fitbit’s latest offering out of their two smartwatches, the Ionic – which was released just last year – being the other one. The Versa retails at $100 less; so what’s the difference between the two?
Short answer: The GPS.
Everything else about these watches software-wise is pretty much the same, and reportedly so is the app functionality that goes with it. The key difference is that the Ionic has built-in GPS while the Versa has connected GPS.
In English that means:
Built-in GPS is just as it sounds. The GPS (navigation system that tracks the distance you cover and your pace while wearing the watch out and about) is built into the watch itself.
Connected GPS links the Versa with the GPS on your phone to determine your distance and pace. The theory goes that the phone is doing all the hard work here rather than the watch, which also means your smartwatch battery should last longer.
This typically matters more to people who, for example, train for running events, as built-in GPS is supposed to be more accurate and give you a better idea of your statistics.
As with other Fitbit models, the Versa automatically tracks activity, exercise and sleep. Other key functions include
- On-screen coaching
- Music storage (300+ songs)
- Wallet-free payments
- Notifications and preset quick replies (when connected to your smartphone)
- Water resistant up to 50m
This is what I’ve been waiting for when it comes to the aesthetics of a smartwatch and fitness trackers. Interestingly, I actually favoured the lower model/tracker-only Alta HR compared to the high tech Ionic for everyday wearability as I found the Ionic too big on my wrist.
This is partially what’s driven the design of the Versa as it’s primarily geared towards women.
The straps are better fitted with the watch itself to provide a closer fit to a smaller wrist. The watch face itself is narrower which means it doesn’t take up so much space (that’s what happens when you don’t need to put GPS into it!), and it’s lighter in weight.
The Versa comes with both a small and large wristband in the pack, and is available in four colours – black/black aluminium, peach/rose-gold aluminium (what I have in my pictures on this post), grey/silver aluminium, and white/black aluminium.
On the Ionic I always used a rather ‘boring’ functional screen that was relatively basic, but as you can see from my image below I couldn’t resist this much more glamorous floral watch face with the Versa! You can swap them out using the phone app, and since it has been opened up for developers there are a LOT to choose from.
It has a 4+ day battery life which is pretty typical of a smart watch.
What is a smartwatch and why is it so cool?
Smartwatches are like the watch world’s equivalent of a smartphone; they have touch screens and are typically designed to include computer and/or cellphone functions so you can do everything on your wrist without having to whip out your other devices.
Most of the key features I talked about in my review for the Ionic still stand with the Versa, but there are a few things that I’ve found are worth mentioning as I’ve worn this Fitbit by far and above more than the other models I’ve owned, and with that comes a bit more experience for the review.
Water resistance and wearability
My main issue with other models in Fitbit’s range other than these two smartwatches was the lack of water resistance. Because they are designed to be worn all day every day to track movement and sleep, I’d often forget to take it off before getting into the shower – but that’s no longer a problem with the Ionic and the Versa.
I thought the water resistance to 50+ metres meant I’d be taking it into the pool a lot; but to tell the truth I’m so scared of something happening to ‘my precious’ I still remove it before swimming (as I don’t usually do laps anyway, it’s always more of a recreational swim!). The big difference has actually been that I don’t need to worry about it when I’m bathing the kids. Boring I know! But when you’re wearing your watch so much, that legitimately makes a big difference.
The main problem I found with this Fitbit was I actually ended up with a dermatitis-type rash on my wrist and had to stop wearing it for a month or so while it cleared up, but I don’t blame that on the watch or straps at all. The only reason I got it was because I NEVER took my watch off (and you are actually supposed to take it off on occasion to let your skin breathe, and make sure your skin/the watch is dry after swimming etc.). At any rate, that’s an indication of how much I love it. I wear it All. The. Time.
The look and feel
I know I said it earlier but I have to say it again. The Versa is just so darned PRETTY! I love it I love it I love it.
Wallet free payments
I mentioned this with the Ionic and I’ve loaded my details but I’m still yet to use this function; though I love the premise of it! If you go for a run and don’t want to cart around your wallet with you for that reward coffee at the end (or a taxi back home if you ran too far!)? Add your debit or credit card details to your Versa and make purchases anywhere that accepts wallet-free payments.
Female health tracking
This had only just come into play at the time of the Versa release but was being rolled out to both this and the Ionic. The interesting addition of women’s health tracking means you can track periods and predicted ovulation via the app. Hormonal/endocrine health is a key marker of overall health from an holistic perspective, which makes this a huge deal for those of us with hormonal issues (like myself with PCOS), and could be useful if trying to get pregnant.
The smartwatch itself I would shout my recommendations from the rooftops I seriously love it that much.
I find some difficulties with the charging cradle – which you have to sit the watch in. Without removing the straps it’s a little cumbersome as the straps hit the surface it’s sitting on if they’re still curled from wearing the watch, and it constantly falls off the side table where I leave it. This may just be me being lazy as I ‘straightened’ them out for the pic below and it sits perfectly…
The Blaze you had to remove the hardware/watch face from the straps and insert it into a clip-in cradle which was difficult to do in quick turnaround if you just had to grab your watch and go. The Alta HR requires you to insert the tracker into a clip-on charger which needed the pins to align and could be a bit tricky. The Ionic has a plug that’s magnetised and latches on which has been my favourite option to date. I do find it interesting each model is different when it comes to this. Fingers crossed for wireless charging one day in the future!
Music-wise it connects with Deezer, and I know this is a partnership thing which can’t be changed from a user perspective but unfortunately I – like many people I know – use Spotify. It will be interesting to see if any additional apps come out to recognise this in the future or if this is a permanent fixture.
I still have hopes that there will be a built-in option to alter the interval timer as it’s preset on 30 seconds of work/10 seconds rest for 14 rounds. As a personal trainer I frequently mix this up with my clients depending on goals, training activity and fitness levels, and as HIIT is a popular style of exercise right now I think this would be a great addition to the software. I haven’t found a separate app to install yet that does this (though there might be one already out there!).
To sum up
The Fitbit Versa is what I’ve personally been waiting for in a smartwatch; functional, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. If you’re happy for the difference in GPS functionality, and you’re after a watch that will help you with your health and fitness from a more holistic approach, this one is for you!
For more information on the Fitbit Versa (RRP $349.95), visit www.fitbit.com/nz/versa.
Product provided for review by Fitbit
Images / NZ Real Health