By George Rosenthal
Fitbit has launched its new watch, the Versa. Priced at around $199, the Versa is designed to compete with the Apple Watch, and at its core, it does just that. The Versa performs well as a smart watch as well as a fitness tracker. It works with Apple, Android and Windows devices.
The watch features Fitbit Today so you can check your daily health statistics and check them against your goals. There are also guided move reminders and breathing sessions. Fitbit fans will notice the Versa has a different look than the older and more expensive Ionic. It has a wider, square face with metal finishes. It is sleeker and thinner than the Apple Watch and comes with a standard rubber band with more strap options.
The touch screen is more responsive than the Ionic. There are three buttons to handle shortcuts for music controls, notifications, exercise start times and alarms. All buttons are customizable to your individualized preferences.
Versa has decent battery life. Fitbit says you can get four days of running time from the device. You can take it to bed, check the time, set alarms and track your sleep. It even has a vibrating smart alarm to wake you up.
Software has been updated. Those with the iPhone and OS will notice fitness tracking stats include more data. You can scan weekly progress, see recent workouts and observe your resting heartrate. Unlike other Fitbit versions the Versa is waterproof.
Fitbit has created some options for the watch with its own app store called the App Gallery. It can be launched from the Fitbit app. 50 app options are available. You can choose to change the watch face, monitor the news and stock market. Others can control your lights and help you pay the bill at Starbucks.
Some of the watch faces are attractive and others are not. If you like variety you may be disappointed as you can only store one at a time. Changing faces also takes some doing. The Fitbit app is a slow loader. It can require the watch to be connected to Wi-Fi through a manual connection from the app running on whatever phone you are using.
While cheaper than the Apple Watch Series One, the Versa does have some areas where it falls short of the more expensive competition. You cannot answer phone calls. Responses to texts can only be made through a compatible Android phone.
Versa only has 2.5GB of onboard music storage. Tracks in most cases have to be downloaded from a computer. This pales in comparison to Apple Watch’s syncing with Apple Music. Some other brands do a better job in this area as well.
Apple Pay is widely known and widely used. Fitbit also has a pay option but it may be difficult to find banks and institutions it supports. There is no Siri, no microphone, and no automatic call-to-action assistant. The find-my-phone app on the Apple Watch is not included. Maps are missing and there is no onboard GPS. Runners and athletes may wish to still opt for the more app complete Ionic or Apple Watch Series 3.
Still the Versa has much on the plus side. Most will find it attractive, comfortable and fun to wear. It provides a nice alternative for those willing to forgo the added features, and the price, of the Apple Watch and other higher-end competitors.