I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Versa smartwatch for a month. I’m impressed. So impressed, I even took the step of using Fitbit Pay.
Let’s back up a step. I’ve been using the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch since October last year. Before that a Fitbit Charge 2, preceded by a Fitbit Alta and it in turn by a Fitbit Charge HR. Those last three are principally health trackers rather than smartwatches. They count your steps. Some measure your heart rate. They calculate how far and fast you’ve moved. And they sync with an app on your phone to keep all that data. Add the Fitbit Aria 2 smart scales, and you’re pretty much covered with health tracking.
The Fitbit Ionic and the Fitbit Versa do all that tracking stuff too, but they add smartwatch functionality via the Fitbit OS and a smartwatch screen. The main differences between the Versa and Ionic are:
- Price: the Versa is $299.95 compared to the Ionic at (now) $399.95. You can probably save a few bucks by shopping around.
- Styling: the Ionic seems more workmanlike, with sharp edges. It looks big. The Fitbit Versa is rounded and neater looking. The body is 11.3mm thick versus 12.5mm thick.
- GPS: the Ionic has built-in GPS. The Fitbit Versa doesn’t. It can still track you and record your exercise course on a map, but only if it’s connected to your phone which will supply the tracking coordinates.
The screen is almost an inch – 24mm – square and nicely colourful. You can select from amongst what seem like hundreds of watch faces. Many of these display other information as well, such as your daily step total, or even weather (drawn from your phone).
The Fitbit app stores all the data, and you can also access this through your little personalised section of the Fitbit website, or on the app on any of your devices.
Amongst the exercises that it tracks – including your heart rate – is swimming. It’s rated to 50 metres immersion. It can also keep track of your sleeping patterns, and show you notifications from your connected smartphone. Plus it supports payments (see below on that) and music playback (and see below on that too).
The unit comes with the small band fitted, but a longer strap is also included so it can fit bigger wrists. I used the longer band. There was still a good 50mm of length available for those with rounder wrists.
You use the Fitbit app to set up the Versa. The app searches for it via Bluetooth then asks you to select a Wi-Fi access point and provide a password to connect it to Wi-Fi. Then it downloads updates and feeds them via Wi-Fi. Or perhaps it just instructs the phone to do the download. These things are rarely clear.
But there was the not uncommon heart-in-mouth stage involving three failures of the app to detect the watch. I followed the instructions after the second failure – switch off and on Bluetooth in the phone and reboot the watch – and it failed a third time. The fourth time, though, the app found the phone almost instantly.
I do wish you could use multiple Fitbit smartwatches. Adding the Fitbit Versa to my profile eliminated the Fitbit Ionic. I could see myself exercising with the latter and saving the former for occasions where a little more style is in order. You can have either the Versa or the Ionic combined with regular Fitbit trackers. Just not both together (nor two Versas or Ionics together). Changing this is a popular request on the Fitbit forums.
The Fitbit Versa charges via USB power. Remember how Apple stuck with the 30 pin connector for a good decade and has stuck with the Lightning connector ever since? Clearly that’s not Fitbit’s philosophy. It seems to have a bespoke power connector for each device. Every single one of the Fitbit devices I’ve used has had a different charging arrangement. The Fitbit Versa uses a cradle and spring-loaded clip. It’s easy to use, except that it has insufficient weight to stay flat when the natural curvature of the bands is pushing it up.
The Fitbit Versa is comfortable to wear, and its display is easy to read. I found its tracking numbers seemed to accord with common sense and my experience with other Fitbit devices. I counted out my steps on a couple of occasions, and it seemed accurate for those as well.