Fitbit Versa review – Your first smartwatch?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

At first glance, one may mistake a Fitbit Versa for an Apple Watch. Like Apple’s smartwatch device, the Versa looks every bit the part of a luxury item. This may be due in part to the fact that the fitness tracker manufacturer is continuing its efforts to expand the capabilities from the days of its earliest products, broadening their scope beyond simple health and activity tracking.

It’s a journey that saw a sizable leap forward with the Ionic, which launched late last year. The Versa comes on like a more refined version than its predecessor – it looks less chunky and is more lightweight and slick – and while it lacks a couple its features it’s also easier on your wallet.

Fitbit Versa Review – Hey, good looking

As we’ve mentioned, the Versa is easy on the eye. The device’s LCD ‘squircle’ face is just the right size to be worn by both men and women and its sleek, minimalist design makes it easy enough to be paired with jewelry.

It’s also incredibly comfortable to wear and after a few minutes, it’s easy to forget it’s on your wrist – well, until a notification reminds you. The only real sticking point is the cheap feel of the plastic straps it comes boxed with, but one can upgrade to leather or stainless steel bands if so desired – although bear mindful that accessories start at R499 and range all the way up to R1 499. The unit we reviewed was charcoal black, but the Versa is available in several other colours too, including silver and rose gold.

The Versa’s three buttons are unobtrusive and small enough that they don’t catch on the wearer’s skin, regardless of how one moves their wrist about. The lone button on the left wakes the screen and acts as a back button, while the two on the right allow users to quickly stop and start pre-set workouts and check notifications on the device.

The screen is easy enough to read at all times, even in direct sunlight, and can be activated with the button, by tapping the watch’s face or by flicking one’s wrist. Incidentally, the Fitibit Versa has dozens of watch faces to choose from once you synchrobise it to the smartphone app – which is compatible with Android and iOS.

Fitbit Versa Review – Stats at your fingertip

Swipe up on the Versa, and you’ll receive a detailed breakdown of the exercise you’ve done so far. It’s easier than constantly checking your phone and the data is presented in a clean column of tiles – you can gain access to the number of steps you’ve taken, your heart-rate and fat-burn. Flick down and the Versa presents the last few messages sent to the smart device it’s paired with.

Unfortunately, you still have to check in with the app if you want information on how much decent sleep you’ve managed to get, but starting sometime this month, women will be able to use the Versa to keep tabs on their ovulation cycles.

Unlike the Ionic, the Versa doesn’t have a built-in GPS, which is a bit of a sore point, but it probably goes some way towards explaining why the Versa is a cheaper buy. This means if you’re a serious runner you’ll still have to take your phone with you if you want to track your running route.

The Versa also offers enough onboard storage for hundreds of songs, and you can pair it with Bluetooth headphones to listen to them. Transferring your music collection over to the Versa is a little fiddly, but the device also comes with three free month’s worth of Deezer.

Among the Versa’s built-in apps, which include music, Deezer, an alarm, a timer and weather updates, it also boasts contactless payment functionality. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this function doesn’t work locally, but Fitbit says it’s currently in talks with local banks to remedy this situation as soon as possible. The Versa is also water resistant up to 50m so if you want to go swimming with it you can, and you don’t even have to take it off in the bath or shower.

Fitbit Versa Review – On your marks

Right, now let’s delve into the real reasons for which most will be interested in picking up a Versa for, its fitness applications.

Out of the box, the Versa starts monitoring your daily movements and even sends you prompts in order to make sure you’re getting screen breaks and at least some sort of exercise in the office.

By measuring your heart rate, calories burned, steps you’ve taken and minutes you’ve spent on the move, the Versa gently prods you into taking an interest in making some progress towards being more active. To wit, after having this device strapped to my wrist for a day, I was no longer using elevators or escalators unless it was absolutely necessary because the Versa congratulated me on the number of stairs I was regularly climbing.

Taking things a little further, the Versa can record a variety of exercise – either at home or in the gym – including running, yoga, swimming, bike riding, weight training, full workouts and interval training. The device comes with a small selection of workouts, but users can download more from the Fitbit store if they’re prepared to crack open their wallet.

Fitbit Versa Review – Very healthy battery life

The Fitibit’s battery charger is an ungainly piece of kit. While the face snaps snuggly into it, the rubber straps cause it to fall on one side, which isn’t exactly ideal. That having been said, though, once fully charged, the Versa leaves the battery life of most smartwatches in the dust; you can get a full four days of life out of this device before you have to recharge it again. Just to put that into perspective, Apple Watches need a full recharge at the end of every day.

Fitbit Versa Review – Verdict

The Versa is an undeniably appealing device, although its lack of GPS and paucity of apps compared to other smartwatches may hold some back from committing to it wholeheartedly. That having been said, its price and its fine fitness functions should appeal to gym regulars and anyone wishing to live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

It might sound as damning with faint praise to call it ‘a smartwatch for noobs’ but in reality, the Versa is a quality item that doubles as both a great fitness tracker and a rather svelt fashion accessory. As Fitbit adds more functionality in the coming months, as it’s promised to do, it’ll become great value for money.