- The Fitbit Versa has a comfortable, sleek, lightweight design
- Built-in music storage that supports Pandora and Deezer offline listening
- Does a great job at tracking your daily stats such as steps, sleep, and heart rate
- Relay incoming smartphones notifications
- Waterproof down to 50 meters and supports pool swimming
- Slow to download songs from Pandora and Deezer
- No GPS chip – just has Connected GPS
- Battery life is average
- Limited 3rd party apps available right now
For $200, the Fitbit Versa does offer a lot…. It’s not perfect, but a lot of people will like this device.
As you’re probably aware, Fitbit makes all sorts of fitness watches and they do it well. Their most recent model is the Fitbit Versa, priced at $200 and actually very similar to the Blaze, but with some serious upgrades. In this post, we’ll go over the Versa’s design specs and talk about what we like about it and where we think the watch could be improved.
Fitbit Versa Fitness Watch Review – Design
The Fitbit Versa is a nice looking smartwatch, though it does look like a smartwatch/fitness watch. They’re not trying to disguise it as a bracelet or anything. It’s just a sleek fitness watch in a square/circle design, which they affectionately call squircle. The bands for the watch are definitely comfortable and are angled downward at 45° so that the watch sits completely flush on your wrist. Here’s a look at that.
The watch comes with large and small sport bands to fit all wrist sizes. You can also purchase other bands in various styles, including leather and metal. Changing out the bands isn’t the most convenient, though. It’s not something that I’d want to do everyday. Overall, the design reminds us of a mix between the Blaze, the Pebble, and an Apple watch. It’s good – practical and proven to work well for convenient daily use.
The display on the Versa is a full-color, sunlight-readable touchscreen. Personally, we don’t love touchscreens, as we prefer buttons for a fitness watch. They’re easier to maneuver than a touchscreen, especially when you’re in the middle of a workout and your fingers are all sweaty. We’re also a little concerned about scratching with this display.
It’s always nice to have a wrist heart rate monitor on your fitness watch, so we’re glad the Versa includes its proprietary PurePulse sensor. We’ve come to a point in the advancement of fitness watches where omitting a HR sensor is a big miss, honestly. It’d be like a phone without a AUX port… oh, wait.
The Versa is waterproof down to 50 meters and supports pool swimming. More on this in a second. As for battery life, Fitbit says the Versa will get 4+ days on a single charge, but that depends heavily on usage. The more you workout and utilize all of the features, the quicker that battery will drain.
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Fitbit Versa – Sports Use
The Versa uses Connected GPS, which means it doesn’t actually have it’s own GPS chip inside. Instead—like the Charge 2 and Blaze—it connects to the GPS from your phone to gather stats and display them on your watch screen. It works and isn’t really a problem, but it does mean that you’ll have to have your phone on you when you go running or cycling, etc.. It does, however, allow you to gather the same stats while you’re running, including distance, pace, and route.
And since you have the wrist heart rate sensor, you’ll get your heart rate data and calories. We also found the heart rate sensor to be pretty accurate for running. It wasn’t spot on, but we think it’s definitely close enough for the average Versa user.
For swimming, the watch is waterproof rated for pool swimming. The watch accurately tracks laps, distance, and pace, but you don’t get HR data. Here’s a screenshot of our workout summary for pool swimming. The Versa was spot-on in a test against my Garmin Forerunner watch, although you get fewer stats with Fitbit than with Garmin.
When we tried it out on a treadmill, the data was close, but not quite right. You’ll have to adjust your stride length in the app to really get accurate data. By default, the watch estimates your stride length after you complete an outdoor run. From there you need to play around with the stride length to get the most accurate distance and pace information while you run on a treadmill.
When using weights, the HR sensor is close, but doesn’t match a chest strap HRM. The Versa’s sensor is better than a lot of other wrist HRMs, though. We were actually quite impressed with how it held up during a pretty intense back and biceps workout. Usually WHRM are 20-30 beats per minute (bpm) off during strength workouts, but the PurePulse sensor was generally within 10 bpm at all times.
You can see that Fitbit was close in terms of average and peak heart rate, but the graphs don’t exactly match. It’s close, but not perfect. If you’re fine with that (I think most people will be), then you’ll be fine with the Versa.
Also, here’s a look at how you navigate the software when it comes to the sports on the Versa.
As you add/replace sports within the Fitbit app, they will appear/disappear from the watch software. I do like how visual the sport apps are. I should note that within the Fitbit app you’ll see a golf app, but it just tracks your activity level. It doesn’t really provide anything specific for golfers.
One area where fitness trackers have been a bit of a letdown is training. Sure, Garmin and others provide training plans, but they don’t really help guide you through those workouts. Enter Fitbit Coach. By default, Fitbit Coach starts with three general workouts. However, you can pay up for a premium plan to get custom workouts that (hopefully) can replace or supplement your existing training regiments.
We first saw Fitbit Coach on the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch. For us, the default workouts were good for when you’re short on time, but without a premium plan, we expect Fitbit Coach to be an afterthought for you.
Activity Tracking with the Fitbit Versa
As we mentioned above, the Versa tracks running, cycling, and swimming, among many others (hiking, etc.). Aside from workouts, the watch also tracks all the basics, including steps, calories, distance, and sleep (and the sleep data is actually really good). It even estimates your VO2 Max and compares your fitness level to others in your age cohort. It’s a really great way to see how you’re doing relative to others. Fitbit is really good at all of the fitness tracking features.
You have a lot of other practical features with the Versa, as well. You can set daily alarms, daily and hourly goals, and can use the app to track weight and diet. You also have the option of joining the community settings for challenges and the like. We’ve said it before, but Fitbit really does have the best fitness app.
Fitbit Versa – Music Storage
One of the newer and convenient trends in fitness watches is on-board music storage. You can store 300+ songs on the Versa by transferring music from your computer. But if you prefer to use a streaming service, you have a couple options. Versa supports Pandora Plus for $5 per month or Pandora Premium for $10 per month. With Pandora, you can add certain playlists and stations to your account, which you can then play from your watch. The Versa also supports Deezer, which is $10 per month for premium. Deezer lets you select stations from your Fitbit and choose playlists that you’ve created yourself.
While the on-board music storage is a nice feature, it does take for-frickin’-ever to transfer music to the device since it’s using Wi-Fi. But, hey. Once it’s done, it’s convenient to have your songs right there. I also don’t think this is really the fault of Fitbit. I think it’s more an issue with Pandora and Deezer. Nonetheless, you won’t want to be switching between stations and playlists on a daily basis. I think about once per week is all I can handle, personally.
As for the connection to Bluetooth headphones/earphones/speaker, it’s generally very good, although in certain instances the signal would cut in/out repeatedly until we switched songs or reconnected. As you can imagine, this was frustrating, but we did experience something similar with the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music. We found that it helps to have the watch on the wrist closest to the side of your headphones receiving the Bluetooth signal (usually the right side of your body). Unfortunately, the Versa doesn’t really offer much support for podcasts.
Here’s our video recap of the music storage feature on the Versa.
Fitbit 3rd Party Apps
Fitbit has an App Store to host 3rd party developers. It’s growing very quickly, but as of this post there aren’t a whole lot of apps available for the Versa. That said, there are a few big names that you’ll definitely recognize, including Flipboard, NY Times, Yelp, Starbucks, United Airlines, and Philips Hue.
More will be added over the coming months. The Fitbit Ionic started with only a few select apps and now there are dozens available for that watch. So far, we’ve found the Starbucks app to be the most helpful. We love coffee and there’s something really fun about paying for it on your wrist.
The special edition of the Versa supports Fitbit Pay, which is essentially the company’s version of Apple Pay or Android Pay. It allows you to pay for goods and services on the go, right from your wrist. Just so you know, the special edition Versa’s are $230 at retail.
So what’s the final verdict with the Versa?
There’s a lot to like, but in true Fitbit fashion, the watch leaves a few things to be desired. We agree that the Versa targets a somewhat different customer than does the Ionic, but we do wish the Versa had GPS. Also, the general slow nature to the software was a bit frustrating, but the biggest thing for us was the snail-like pace when it came to transferring music. Again, we think this is more Pandora’s fault, but it’s still going to frustrate a lot of users. Beyond that, it’s comfortable, super lightweight, and a nice watch overall.