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Wednesday
May232018

Review: Fitbit Versa

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Fitbit has been on a path to refine its fitness tracking devices and software and develop a more multifunctional general-purpose smartwatch that will suit a wider number of users.

The Fitbit Versa, which be the evolution of the Fitbit Ionic and the Fitbit Blaze before it, offers a friendly and more familiar look that's neither too masculine or too feminine.

This is a refreshingly lightweight watch and its easy to forget you're wearing it. The range of bands is nowhere as wide or as funky as Apple’s, but it is decent and runs the gamut from sporty rubber to fancy leather and even metal bracelets. I use the grey rubber band during the week and dress up the Versa with navy blue Horween leather case on weekends.

The minimalist squircle design makes it easy to mistake the Fitbit Versa for an Apple Watch but the vast selection of watch faces will quickly prove that this is something else entirely. 

Fitbit provides a nice range of watch faces, but if you want other information like weather and location, there's a good selection of third-party watch faces that can suit your needs.

All the strengths of a Fitbit product; namely cross-platform functionality, multi-day battery life, excellent fitness and sleep tracking, as well as a focus on exercise and coaching are all built-in and very easily accessible. 

Instead of a cluster of diminutive app icons, we get a straightforward interface with around 5-screens of app icons, four to a screen. The UX is easy on the eyes, uncluttered and easy. 

Now the Apple Watch still rules in ease of band attachment and removal, sadly Fitbit's bands are easy to remove but challenging to install, specially if you have larger or fatter fingers. 

Feature set


The Fitbit Verse’s biggest asset is the range of exercise modes (15+), undisputed 24/7 health and fitness tracking functionality and that it is backed by one of the most comprehensive software solutions. 

I've used the Fitbit Versa connected to my iPhone X, my Essential Phone running Android and even my Windows PC. It is also attached to my Fitbit Aria 2 smart scale. 

As a gym companion, the Fitbit Versa shines as an unobtrusive tracker. I simply choose which machine or exercise I want to engage in and it tracks it. There's an option to use the coaching functionality to complete shorter and more targeted workouts. Tracking is quite accurate as it is quite like the readings I can get from the gym machines I am using. 

The built-in 'Relax' app is surprisingly useful and helps you control your breathing to wind down. I almost always end up more relaxed and yawning by the time the 2 minutes are up. 

At the end of the day, the Fitbit Versa will tally up all my activities and send of some celebratory fireworks which is a great motivator.

I like that the Fitbit Versa is waterproof, that it can measure and determine the length of a pool and track your swimming activity as well. It's nice to know you don't have to baby this smart watch, which is surprisingly durable despite being thin and light. 

As a smartwatch

Fitbit has been trying to make a compelling smartwatch for a few years now. With the addition of all the IP they absorbed from the Pebble acquisition, it looks like they are well on their way with the Fitbit Versa.

The Fitbit Versa is light on apps but that's okay, apps are distracting. It does have a good dozen or so apps that make sense (Starbucks, Philips Hue, Flipboard, Pandora (wasted nonsense in Canada) and a growing list of others. 

Notifications were a black hole with the Fitbit Ionic and the Versa. While you could get notified of emails, messages and texts, there was really nothing you could do about it except read the title of the text of the first few characters. 

Notifications are hit or miss. Sometimes they arrive just as quickly as they do on my smartphone, other times I get a 'Nothing New Here' response, even if multiple messages and text have popped up on my smartphone.

A recent update enables the sending of around 5 canned responses plus the option of creating your own response. It works, but it isn’t as smooth as with other smart watches. 

My sentiments on how good the Fitbit Versa is as a smartwatch haven't changed. If you're coming from a Fitbit fitness tracker, its a definite step up and a much smarter and more capable wearable.

If you're coming from an Apple Watch or even a two-year old Wear OS device or a Pebble, then the smartwatch features of the Fitbit Versa will feel like Fisher-Price versions of what you are used to. 

There are hints that the functionality will get better, but I find it offers the bare minimum as far as apps and functions. Again, this isn't a knock-on Fitbit, but while they excel at making fitness focused trackers, they still have a way to go to create a truly smart wearable. 

Less is more


This isn't a bad thing. Specially now that we're becoming more conscious of how we are spending out time on devices. The focus on 'being present' and 'unplugging' has never been more prevalent and the Fitbit Versa fits nicely into this lifestyle trend.

As someone who travels for work and who tries to maintain some semblance of being active, I love the Fitbit Versa’s 4-day battery life and the fact I don't need to pack another charger if I'm away for a few days. 

The Fitbit Versa is a great example of refinement, in form and function of Fitbit's smartwatch aspirations. It's a top-notch tool for tracking fitness and health, one that can be used in runs, when swimming and 24/7 for excellent sleep tracking.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5

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