Smartwatches and me have one thing in common. We’re both trying to find our purpose in this world.
Most smartwatches piggyback on the fitness bandwagon. But really, if you’ve gotten accustomed to charging the device every day or two, we feel for you. For the rest of us aimed at shedding those cheesecakes inside us, fitness trackers are the way. While they aren’t the smartest tool in the shed and rarely ever pretend to be, they do make their smart counterparts seem like certified geniuses.
The enlightened of you wondering if there’s an in between device have come to the right place. Fitbit promises to plug all holes that plague smartwatches with the stamina of a fitness tracker via the Versa. Well, almost. Is it the answer for those who want to have their cake and burn it too? If only things were so simple….
Design: A safe middle ground
Smartwatches aren’t just for savvy weight watchers. They’re for everyone. With that rock solid belief, FItbit brings forth its second smartwatch ever, the Versa. And that pitch starts with its design. Its friendly squarcle (square + circle) face is welcoming to users of all kinds. Moreover, it clearly establishes its gender-neutral appeal ensuring brawn-talk isn’t restricted to the boys club.
Even fashionistas haven’t been excluded courtesy the generous collection of bands to suit all kinds of settings. Fitbit’s been extra careful to price these well to make them realistic buys. It isn’t the last word in build quality, but when you’re paying half the price of an Apple Watch, it appears far above acceptable standards.
Three handy hardware buttons on the side save you from smothering the touchscreen mid-stride. Slap one onto your wrist and immediately you’ll appreciate its featherweight 38 grams. Smartwatch smarts with tracker loads are a dynamite combo. It could feel more premium, but obviously at a price. As is, it’s mighty fine.
Swapping out straps isn’t the smoothest experience. Keeping with the universal theme, you get a small and large strap in the box to suit all sizes. However, Apple’s mechanism is a doddle in comparison. Unless of course, you work out all the nuances. Then again, you’d have to be obsessed to do this often enough for it to be an obstacle.
Screen and controls: a slightly bumpy ride
Let’s get the specs outta the way, shall we? It’s a 1.34in 300x300 screen you’re looking at on the Versa. Fat bezels surround the display but it isn’t compromised in terms of colours or brightness in any way. What it does lack is the ogle-factor of OLEDs. But who wants the battery drain that comes with, right?
To start with it seems like the buttons on the right launch the exercise app, which makes sense, and alarms, which doesn’t. But they actually run whatever sits on the first top and bottom apps on the app page. And you have to fiddle with these in the Fitbit app on your phone. It's all a bit finicky, but feels fine once you've invested some time in setting it up.
Software: youthful inexperience
The Fitbit smartphone app is your go-to guy for all tasks. While shedding much of the load off the watch, it makes the app absolutely critical to its functioning. It also quickens a lotta processes that seem to slow down when swiping the Versa’s screen. It isn’t appallingly slow, but it does show its age in the company of elite rivals.
Apps aren’t galore here either. There’s Deezer, Strava, Starbucks, Philips Hue and some basic extra trackers for telling how much water you drink. Fitbit told us there are over 700, but loads of these are watch faces. As with all kinds of software, it’s only a matter of time before it’s brought up to speed via a mere download.
Features: getting smarter but missing gps
Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Versa does not pack its Ionic sibling’s built-in GPS skills. Instead it’ll leech off your phone’s GPS capabilities instead. Is that a deal-breaker? Unless you’re adamant on abandoning your phone during workouts, absolutely not.
Still, if you're just after a waterproof watch to log basic exercise stats, track your sleep, serve up phone notifications and generally act on autopilot, then the Versa is a strong new candidate. It’s an efficient activity tracker just like its siblings, excitedly encouraging in its goal completion animations.
It does falter sometimes with its heart rate monitoring skills. Running can divulge accurate results for the most part on the watch but dive deep into the app and things could occasionally appear a tad inconsistent. These obvious software issues are a mere bug fix away from absolute glory.
Its smartwatch smarts also seem nascent at times with the option to read notifications without being to respond to them. These chinks in the Fitbit OS armour are bound to iron out over time. Despite its smartphone dependency, it never deprives you of your tunes. Fitbit claims storage space for more than 300 songs should you choose to leave your beloved smartie behind.
Battery life: plenty of juice
Here’s where the Versa leaves all its peers in the rearview mirror. You get over four friggin days of battery life on a single charge. We’ll be damned if any competitor conquers anything in the vicinity of that claim. It’s a claim we can confidently vouch for too.
You could credit its superior stamina to the lack of GPS, but it’s a small price to pay. It could single-handedly convert those crippled by charging rage to its delightful ways instead. I really can’t stress enough on the freedom of having to revisit the charger much less than any other alternative considering how much we’re surrounded by these devices.
Fitbit Versa verdict
Is it all that it’s cracked up to be? If only that were the case. What the Versa turns out to be instead is an ideal compromise between smartwatch smarts and fitness features. Moreover, it lowers the cost of admission to the smart world to a figure that’s easy to digest.
Superior sports tracking comes at a price if you’re willing to pay it to competitive brands. But the sheer versatility of the Versa make it a strong case to argue with. As a starving writer looking to get fit without having to resort to theft, I know where my money’s going.