The world of smartwatches seems to be the battle of the last man standing as of now. While Apple seems to be leading the space right now with its Watch, there aren’t many smartwatches powered by Google’s Wear OS in the market – and some brands like Motorola have given up on the segment already. Similarly, companies like Nike and Basis (which was acquired by Intel) have also left the smart wearables category. Sure, there’s Samsung, but its smartwatches are known to work better with its own Galaxy lineup of smartphones. On the other hand of the spectrum is Fitbit, which is continuing to bring some interesting fitness-centric options in this segment. Thanks to its acquisition of Pebble, the watchmaker is also focusing on UI and apps to offer a wholesome experience to users. While the Ionic (review) was the first smartwatch after this buyout, the brand also launched a slightly affordable option in the form of the Versa. With a starting price of Rs 19,999, I believe that the brand’s second smartwatch is perhaps the best buy at this price. Intrigued? Read on to find out why I think so.
Specs at a glance
- Measures 39.35 x 39.35 x 11.24mm
- Weighs 38g
- 1.34-inch display, with a resolution of 300 x 300 pixels
- 2.5GB internal storage
- 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, altimeter, ambient light sensor
- Heart-rate monitor, SpO2 sensor
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and NFC
- Water resistant (up to 50m)
- Li-po battery
Here’s a disclaimer first: I’m not a big fan of smartwatches… and not because I don’t like keeping my wrists empty. It’s because after using quite a few smartwatches over the years, I’ve never figured out their value proposition as devices that reduce the number of times you need to reach out for your smartphone. Add to it the fact that most of these watches need to be charged every other day, that too with proprietary chargers, and it becomes a bigger issue. With the Versa however, things were a little different… thanks to its simplistic UI, better-than-average battery life and superb fitness tracking features. I’ve been using it for a considerable time, and don’t leave my home without it.
Design and display
The Fitbit Versa features a conventional design with a squarish display – or squircle, for the lack of a better word – as the square display has rounded corners. While the display isn’t bezel-less, the bezels don’t look massive.
With a weight of 38g, the watch doesn’t weigh your wrist down, which is surely a plus point. The device isn’t feel too thick either, thanks to the tapered edges… even though the frame measures 11.24mm. What this means is that I can wear the watch the entire day, even to bed and don’t feel fatigued. Thanks to the aluminium casing, the Versa is solidly-built as well and can easily sustain minor falls and nicks. It’s waterproof as well for a depth of up to 50m.
Keeping things simple, the Fitbit Versa features all the controls on its edges. Towards the left, you’ll find the back key, whereas the right side has two buttons for the exercise mode and opening the Alarms app by default. The buttons offer a tactile feedback, and can be used to wake up the screen, while the right keys can also be used to start and finish the exercises. Long-pressing the left button brings up the music playback control and quick controls for notifications and screen wakeup. Of course, you might not need to use these buttons as you can also interact with the touchscreen, which works like a charm. A simple swipe towards the bottom brings up the notifications, while swiping upwards brings the Today screen that displays all the stats. Swiping towards the left takes you to the menu.
Speaking of the screen, it’s a 1.34-inch panel with a resolution of 300 x 300 pixels. The display is sharp and offers good colours, with its 1,000 nits brightness making it easier to read outdoors. A layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protects the panel.
At the back of the Fitbit Versa, you’ll find the heart-rate monitor and the charging pins. Here you’ll also find the ability to change the straps of the smartwatch. Along with the official ones from Fitbit, you can also go for generic 22mm straps. The strap features the conventional clasp design, which helps in keeping the smartwatch in place.
The smart aspects
Of course, this is the biggest moat for a smartwatch, and the Versa doesn’t disappoint. The device offers almost everything you’d be looking for in a smart wearable – from the ability to get notifications to running different apps.
You can change watch faces, which are available from Fitbit as well as third-party developers. While most of them are free, some are available as trial versions only and you’ll need to shell out money to purchase them. As far as apps are concerned, the Fitbit library isn’t as vast as I’d have liked, though you can get apps like Flipboard and Uber.
Fitbit’s Versa works well with both Android and iOS platforms, though for some reason, I struggled with setting up the watch with the former. However, once it’s set up, the watch works without any issues whatsoever. The app is user-friendly and offers all the information in an easy-to-read manner. The main screen offers all the fitness stats, with the tabbed navigation allowing you to look for challenges, guidance, Friends and notifications. To configure the device, you simply need to tap on its icon that lets you change Clock faces, install apps, and tweak other settings.
If you’re wondering how the Versa differs from the Fitbit Ionic, you should know that the former misses out on GPS tracking, which means it needs to be latched to your phone if you want to go out on a run (the company refers to it as Connected GPS).
The Versa can also be used to store music locally or via Deezer (which doesn’t work in India). The device offers 2.5GB storage for the same, although transferring songs is rather complicated as you need to use Fitbit’s desktop app.
As much as I liked the smart capabilities, what if I tell you that there were times that I disabled the Bluetooth connection to save the battery (will be discussed in the next section), and yet continued wearing the Fitbit Versa for its fitness tracking. Yes, that’s how much I liked the accuracy and versatility of the watch.
The pedometer is quite accurate and does a good job of making sure it doesn’t log false movements, the ones that happen when you’re sitting in a moving vehicle or moving your hands. The calorie counter also seemed to be on point, and while I don’t consider myself an athlete, I tried various exercise modes on the Versa such as Cycling and Swimming. Along with providing a reading of parameters like time, laps (in the case of swimming), calories burned, messages like ‘Nice job!’ also acted as a motivating factor.
While we’re on the topic of motivation, I believe if you’re looking for a smartwatch / fitness tracker to help you stay fit (considering 2019 is coming up, I’m sure fitness would be among the biggest resolutions for the most out there), then Fitbit’s Versa is a great option. The app has a community feature, which allows you to set daily / weekly targets and compete with others. Adding a bit of competitiveness can certainly do wonders to one’s morale. I also liked the hourly nudges of moving at least 250 steps (though if you find this annoying, the option can be disabled). If you want to improve your fitness further, then you can also opt for Fitbit Coach subscription, which will set you back by Rs 489 per month or Rs 2,499 annually.
While you can enable various exercise modes yourself, the Versa is intelligent enough to start the respective mode automatically if you’ve been active for more than 15 minutes. In my usage, the feature worked well in cases like swimming, but not so much while playing squash.
The sleep tracking of the Fitbit Versa is also quite accurate, and it identifies different levels of sleep too – light, deep and REM (rapid eye movements). The heart-rate sensor also works in the background to monitor the heart rate constantly, though I keep this option turned off to conserve battery life.
One of the biggest highlights of the Fitbit Versa is female health tracking features, allowing women to track their periods and menstruation. While I couldn’t put it to test (duh!), reviews across the web suggest that the feature is basic and could be improved further to offer more insights.
As I’ve mentioned above, one of my biggest gripes with smartwatches have been their abysmal battery. While the Fitbit Versa isn’t the ideal watch I’d have liked it to be, it still offers decent battery life letting you go on a two-day trip without carrying the charger. With the heart rate monitoring enabled and the device tethered to a smartphone, the device can last around three days. And if you switch off these features, then the battery can easily last a little more than four days. Thankfully, the device can be juiced up quickly with the bundled charger… charging fully in about 90 minutes or so. Although on the downside, you’ll always need to carry the proprietary charging cradle with you.
The base variant (which I’m reviewing) of the Fitbit Versa is priced at Rs 19,999 (available for lower on e-commerce stores), while the one with the leather band will set you back by Rs 21,999. Even though the smartwatch space isn’t as crowded as the smartphone segment, you’ll still find some notable options such as the lower-priced Amazfit Stratos (review) or the Samsung Galaxy Watch (review), which is priced slightly higher. Of course, if money is no bar, the Apple Watch is the pinnacle.
Everything considered, if you want a capable smartwatch that works well with both Android and iOS along with offering accurate fitness tracking features, then the Fitbit Versa won’t disappoint.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Practical and lightweight design
- Accurate tracking
- Good battery life
- Smooth user experience
- No built-in GPS tracker
- Proprietary charger
- Limited app support
Photos by Raj Rout