When you don’t keep in mind Pebble, it’s simple to put in writing off Fitbit’s Versa as an affordable Apple Watch knockoff. It has the identical sq. physique as Apple’s dominant wristwatch. Its measurement strikes an ideal steadiness between the 42mm and 38mm sizes. You may gown it up with an analogous sequence of steel and leather-based bands. And it is available in rose gold.
However spend a bit of time with Versa and also you’ll see that it’s not as a lot of an imitator as it’s Apple Watch’s first actual competitor. Granted, that’s not saying all that a lot. Fitbit shut down Pebble earlier than Apple Watch hit cabinets, most Android Put on/WearOS watches have been lifeless on arrival, and Fitbit’s personal Ionic smartwatch was too buggy and expensive to noticeably problem Apple Watch. However Fitbit’s new $200 wearable is the Pebble Watch we at all times needed, combining health acumen with technological smarts right into a glossy, engaging bundle.
It nonetheless has a heavy give attention to health and well being, after all, however Versa is a one thing of a watershed product for each Fitbit and the smartwatch business, a real life-style product that rights lots of Ionic’s missteps and proves that Apple Watch isn’t the one sport on the town.
A design for all sizes of wrist
When Fitbit launched its Ionic wearable final yr, it was a little bit of a disappointment. Whereas it predictably excelled at health monitoring with multi-day battery life and on-watch teaching, it was greater than a bit of underwhelming as a smartwatch. Too huge to attraction to anybody aside from bulked-up athletes, Ionic and its app-starved Fitbit OS was most actually originally of what appeared to be a prolonged work in progress.
However lower than six months later. Versa is just about every thing Ionic isn’t. Whereas Fitbit has fortunately caught with its sq. form, the lugs that prolonged aggressively above and beneath Ionic’s display screen are gone, leaving a squat sq. physique. With out the additional body, Versa’s bands connect on to the sides of the watch physique, giving it a extra pure wristwatch look. The similarities to Pebble Time and Apple Watch are inevitable, however Versa remains to be very a lot its personal machine.
Like Ionic, Versa is available in three colours, however the black, silver, and rose gold right here really feel a lot softer than Ionic’s grey and burnt orange. It’s each thinner (11.2mm versus 11.4mm) and shorter (37.6mm versus 38.6mm) than the female-friendly 38mm Apple Watch, and its decidedly non-athletic aesthetic makes it look extra like a trend assertion than a health one. The place Ionic is extra at residence on a treadmill or triathlon, Versa is, properly, versatile sufficient to be worn to a enterprise assembly or an evening out. And maybe most significantly, it received’t look ridiculous on a tiny wrist.
At simply 23 grams, Versa can be extremely mild, even when utilizing one of many heavier steel hyperlink bracelets. Swapping the bundled sport band for one of many 16 leather-based or material ones Fitbit is promoting is simple sufficient, with a small lever that controls an ordinary 22mm watch pin. Although Ionic’s snap-on system is much superior, as is Apple’s slide-out mechanism, Versa’s band choices are engaging and inexpensive, significantly the steel hyperlink band that Fitbit is promoting for $100. It’s not as luxurious as Apple’s Space Black link bracelet, however it’s additionally $450 cheaper.
Versa’s show is on the small measurement at 1.34 inches—and barely off-center attributable to Fitbit’s insistence on placing its title on the entrance of the machine—however it’s extremely shiny and crisp. The bezels are a bit of chunkier than those on Apple Watch, and and not using a black-friendly OLED display screen, you’ll discover them a complete lot extra on Versa.
The edges of the body characteristic the identical three-button structure as Ionic, which might be one button too many. Two shortcut keys are a little bit of overkill, particularly since you actually don’t actually need to make use of the buttons for navigation anymore. Swipes and faucets register a lot faster on Versa than Ionic, and Fitbit has tweaked the interface so it’s way more intuitive and touch-friendly.
A health tracker with a give attention to well being
As a health tracker, Versa is just about Ionic with out on-board GPS, however for the worth, the shortage of a devoted monitoring chip isn’t a shock. (Apple’s Sequence 1 watch doesn’t have GPS both.) Extra bothersome is the absence of NFC on the bottom mannequin. If you wish to make funds utilizing Fitbit Pay, you’ll must spring for one the $230 special-edition fashions, accessible in graphite or rose gold with woven bands.
In any other case, every thing else is right here, together with on-watch coaching, specialised train monitoring, and superior coronary heart fee monitoring. It runs the identical Fitbit OS as properly, whose library of apps have been tremendously expanded from the early days of Ionic. Whereas it’s nonetheless nowhere close to as strong because the Apple Watch retailer and even Samsung’s Gear retailer, you’ll discover a first rate choice of apps, together with Yelp, The New York Instances, Philips Hue, and Nest, in addition to a number of fitness-related apps. There are 550 apps and clock faces accessible for Ionic, with about half of them accessible for this assessment and the remaining on the best way, Fitbit tells me.
Like Pebble, Fitbit’s apps are decidedly specialised and largely single-featured—for instance, the Starbucks app remains to be only a place to retailer your loyalty card—however I can see a equally passionate neighborhood constructing round it as Versa grows. Fitbit has began the ball rolling with its personal Fitbit Labs part, which incorporates extra specialised, nonessential titles, similar to Suppose Quick, a psychological agility sport, and the upcoming New Mother and father app that lets mothers and dads observe diaper adjustments and feedings.
Apps load way more shortly and effortlessly than they did when Ionic launched, and I didn’t obtain any error messages when switching clock faces. That’s an necessary enchancment, as a result of customers are going to need to swap out their faces rather a lot. Whereas penning this assessment, I counted greater than 50 types to select from, lots of that are professionally designed with clean animations and up-to-date stats, and Fitbit says a whole bunch extra are on the best way.
Fitbit’s spectacular sleep monitoring is on show right here too, although the shortage of a devoted app means you’ll should log into your dashboard to see the outcomes. Fitbit has added a nifty At the moment display screen that exhibits your each day stats by swiping up from the underside of the display screen. Whereas it isn’t as visually polished as Apple’s Exercise app, it’s a sensible technique to see steps, targets, flooring, distance, and exercises. And coming quickly, ladies can even be capable of observe their menstrual cycle on this display screen, an necessary piece of Versa’s characteristic set that isn’t fairly prepared but.
Interval monitoring offers Versa an necessary distinction over Apple Watch. Whereas Apple offers ladies a technique to observe their cycles utilizing Well being or varied third-party apps on the iPhone, Fitbit will likely be baking it extra deeply into its ecosystem, pushing it to Versa and prominently displaying it within the Fitbit app. Girls have lengthy been underserved by the smartwatch, and Fitbit’s complete strategy with Versa is a breath of recent air.
The killer characteristic is battery life
Versa’s battery life is about the identical as Ionic, however it’s much more spectacular in such a small bundle. I wore Versa together with an Apple Watch Sequence three whereas listening to an hour of music, two half-hour exercises, six hours of sleep, and plenty of notifications, and right here’s what was left after 24 hours:
Fitbit Versa: 75 %
Apple Watch: 38 %
That’s not a small distinction by any stretch. These numbers put Ionic’s battery life at precisely 4 days, however I reckon most individuals will be capable of push it right into a fifth. The largest battery suck was music playback, however even then, I misplaced simply eight % after an full hour of listening, as in comparison with 14 % on Apple Watch.
When it’s essential to cost it, Fitbit has launched one more plug with Versa, and this one is rather less moveable than Ionic’s magnetic cable. The watch comes with a small cradle that opens once you pinch the edges and shuts to carry the watch in place. It is a good piece and I preferred it higher than Apple’s inductive puck, however some open air fanatics may miss having the ability to toss a easy cable into their bag on prolonged sojourns.
Notifications on Versa mimic those in your cellphone, so until you spend a while managing them on the Fitbit app, you’ll in all probability be getting a fairly constant stream of buzzes. You may set default message, calendar, and e-mail apps from those put in in your cellphone, and notifications from these apps will obtain a level of prominence, however the system isn’t practically as strong or refined as Apple’s. You may’t work together with notifications in any manner (even when a Versa model of the originating app is put in in your watch), they usually sometimes duplicated or didn’t present up in any respect.
Fitbit has not less than promised to deliver Android fast replies in a future replace, however for probably the most half, notifications on Versa or every other Fitbit smartwatch won’t ever be central to the expertise. I can dwell with that, although I wouldn’t thoughts Fitbit including voice management or teaming with Amazon to deliver Alexa to Versa. The dearth of any kind of assistant is a obtrusive omission within the age of AI, and it could make an excellent addition to Versa 2.
Do you have to purchase a Fitbit Versa?
The $200 Fitbit Versa is hardly an ideal smartwatch. It’s lacking GPS and NFC, has a small library of apps, and doesn’t have any kind of voice management or AI assistant. Nonetheless, it has three necessary issues going for it: it’s small, it’s engaging, and it has an excellent battery. Plus it prices $50 lower than the most cost effective Sequence 1 Apple Watch.
When you aren’t an Apple devotee, Versa is a no brainer, however iPhone customers who don’t need to spend $350 to $400 on an Apple Watch Sequence three ought to take a tough take a look at Fitbit’s new smartwatch. And since it really works throughout a number of platforms (iOS, Android, and any remaining Home windows Cellphone customers) you received’t be caught with a bit of costume jewellery in the event you swap.
Again when Apple Watch was only a glimmer in Jony Ive’s eye, Pebble was exhibiting the world what a smartwatch may and ought to be. That spirit could be felt throughout Versa. And one thing tells me it’ll make a a lot larger dent within the smartwatch panorama than a pebble would.