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Fitbit Versa In-Depth Review

Fitbit-Versa-Review

Do you know what happens when you remove GPS and style from the Fitbit Ionic? You end up with a Fitbit Versa. Which is probably the easiest way to describe the two watches. Certainly, the Fitbit Versa can be stylish in the right hands (or wrists), but ultimately the main differentiator is the lack of GPS compared to it’s more expensive sibling.  Both have music storage onboard as well as 3rd party apps, and both can have contactless payments. And you can even swap the bands on both.  So why have two units?

Well, the $199 Versa aims to fill the gap between the higher end $299 (but often $249) Ionic and the companies lower end activity trackers which lack apps and fancy displays.  It also aims squarely at the Apple Watch Series 1, which is often found in the same price neighborhood.  But does Fitbit pull that off?

See, that’s a more complex question to answer. Obviously the sales numbers probably say ‘Yes’, but the reality depends a bit on how you’ll use the watch – and what type of person you are.  Hopefully, I’ll be be able to help you decide within this review.

In this case Fitbit sent over a media loaner Versa to try out – which I’ve been wearing for about a month and a half now.  That’ll be returned shortly along with the handful of bands they put in the box.  After which I’ll go out and get my own via normal retail channels.  If you found this review useful, hit up the links at the end of the post to help support the site.

Unboxing:

Fitbit-Versa-Boxed-Components

Perhaps the most nifty thing about what Fitbit has done with recent products is to include two straps in the box itself. Rather than have two SKU’s, such as a large and small band – they just included both sizes in there.  That also eliminates the problem for small-wristed folks of getting a watch with a clunky-big band.

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Sizing

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here’s the box from the outside:

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Front Fitbit-Versa-Box-Back

Obviously, if you’ve got a different color variant, you’d see that color on the box.  Cracking it open, here’s what you’re looking at inside:

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Contents-Opened

Below the gray bit is a small pile of accessories, that once taken all out look like the below. Except, probably not as organized as the below – since you’ll have better things to do than make them perfectly aligned and centered.

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Charging-Cable

But here’s the full contents on the table:

Fitbit-Versa-Unboxing-Contents

Briefly looking at the various items in there we’ve first got the manual. It covers stuff like not actually wearing it 24×7 unless you’re washing it occasionally (to ensure that Fitbit doesn’t get back in some lawsuits over rashes):

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Manual

Then of course there’s the watch itself – but fear not,we’ll cover that a bunch:

Fitbit-Versa-Box-Watch-Wrapped

And finally, the charging dock. It’s kinda beastly and clunky. I can’t think of a worse charger in terms of either portability or ease of replacement (you can’t remove the cable connecting to it).

Fitbit-Versa-Charger

I’m also not sure why Fitbit needs a new charger for every…single…device…they’ve ever made. Seriously, not one has shared the same charger to my knowledge.

In any case, it is what it is. With that, let’s take a quick look at size as compared to the Suunto 3 Fitness and the Apple Watch (this is a 42mm variant, but you can also get the smaller 38mm variant).

FitbitVersa-AppleWatch-Suunto3Fitness-Front

And here ya go from a thickness standpoint:

FitbitVersa-AppleWatch-Suunto3Fitness-Side

The Fitbit Versa is the thinnest of the bunch, just barely edging out the Apple Watch.  With that, let’s go onto using it.

The Basics:

Fitbit-Versa-Overview

The Fitbit Versa follows the exact same button layout and user interface of the Fitbit Ionic. This includes three physical buttons as well as a touch screen. Two on the right side and one on the left.  Like most other highly colorful screen watches, the display is off unless you press a button or raise your wrist.

Once you do that, you’ll get the home page displayed with the time/date and overall activity metrics for the day.  This includes your steps, calories, and current heart rate.

Fitbit-Versa-Dashboard

You can customize this watch/clock face though via the app store/gallery.  There’s a crap-ton of them, both from Fitbit as well as 3rd parties.

FitbitVersa-WatchFaces-Apps Fitbit-Versa-WatchFaces-Gallery

If you swipe from the top, you’ll get access to past smartphone notifications. This allows you to dig into past notifications and access the details of them in the event you missed them.  Note that this past Monday Fitbit announced the ability for Android users to reply to messages with short responses from their Versa and Ionic watches. Unfortunately, there’s nothing yet for Apple folk (likely due to restrictions within the iOS platform) – other wearable companies have been in the same boat.

Fitbit-Versa-Text-Messages

With a semi-recent change, you can now enable/disable any app to display smartphone notifications on the Fitbit Versa (and Ionic).  It used to be that only Android users could do this, but now iOS users can as well. Previously iOS users were limited to just text messages, phone calls, and calendar notifications. Now however you can use the Fitbit smartphone app to set these up.  This is a bit different than most watches though in that they override the notification center on your phone, where these are normally setup.  So if you install a new app with notifications you’ll need to remember change it in the Fitbit app as well:

Fitbit-Versa-Smartphone-Notifications Fitbit-Versa-App-Notifications

Back on the home screen, you can swipe to the right to access the apps you’ve installed, as well as default apps.  In the case of Fitbit, like most wearable OS’s, apps include functions like workout modes as well as alarms.  Though, in the case of alarms you can access that quickly via pressing the lower right button.

Fitbit-Versa-Apps-Dashboard

Apps do include the pre-loaded apps as well.  Examples include Pandora, Strava, and the Starbucks app.  Some of these apps are fairly full featured, like the Pandora app.  Whereas others like the Starbucks app are basically just ways to load your Starbucks card for scanning at their stores.  And in the case of Strava, it’s not going to show you Strava Live Segments or such, it’s just for reviewing past workouts.

Meanwhile, if you swipe from the bottom you’ll get your Fitbit ‘Today’ page, which is somewhat a combination of what you’d done today, as well as what you’ve done recently. It’s effectively a mini reporting page. I like it, and it’s a much cleaner way of showing the recent metrics around heart rate, sleep and steps than most other units on the market.

All of these metrics can also be seen via the phone app, where you can dig into them in far more detail.  And ultimately, it’s really the phone app and the community around it that drive and retain people into the Fitbit ecosystem. It runs circles around Apple, and is the main reason why Fitbit continues to sell tens of millions of devices per quarter.  I often say that you should choose your activity tracker based primarily on which platform your friends are on.  After all, it’s aspects like challenges and such that drive most people to walk those extra steps.  That’s no truer than on Fitbit’s platform.

Within the app you can easily view the current day’s overview, as well as the steps for the day by the hour as well as past days and months

Fitbit-Versa-App-Steps-Overview Fitbit-Versa-Steps-Overview-Month

This is true of most other metrics too.  Be it stairs, distance, or heart rate.

Fitbit-Versa-Distance-Metric Fitbit-Versa-Heart-Rate-App

Another metric is sleep.  The Versa tracks sleep without you needing to do anything special. It just happens in the background.  The unit records the time you fell asleep, as well as when you woke up.  It’ll also record how often you were awake in the middle of the night to sort out why either one of your two small children were screaming and throwing stuffed animals across the room from their cribs.

Fitbit-Versa-Sleep-Overview Fitbit-Versa-Sleep-Details

I’ve found these numbers pretty darn close, though sometimes it doesn’t always capture me going back to sleep in the morning (for example, after giving a bottle to a baby and then going back to sleep at 6AM).  Still, overall it’s pretty darn close, and I get that trying to figure out the wonky sleeping patterns of a newish baby is tricky.  And for the most part is captures naps as well, which a number of watches don’t.

Along those same lines, we’ve got the 24×7 heart rate metrics.  These are recorded using the optical heart rate sensor on the bottom of the unit, which is illuminated and recording constantly.

Fitbit-Versa-Optical-HR-Sensor

You can view your heart rate at any time on the watch face itself, but also within the app you’ll get tons more detail on how it trends 24×7.  It’s with these trends that you can start to determine your heart rate patterns.

Fitbit-Versa-Resting-HR Fitbit-Versa-Heart-Rate-App-metrics

The most interesting aspect of these metrics is is resting heart rate (RHR), which can generally be used to spot excessive fatigue or incoming sickness.  For example, I know that my daily low resting HR is generally below 50bpm (often in the 40-42bpm range), but if I see it spiking to 61bpm, then that tells I’m probably incredibly tired or about to get sick.  I dive into this in a bit more detail in this post here.

That said, Fitbit has long overestimated resting HR values compared to every other device I have.  They’re usually on the order of 5-7bpm higher than most other devices, sometimes more.  I’ve gone back and forth with Fitbit about this in the past on almost every review, and how they define resting HR values, and ultimately I don’t think we’ll see a lot of progress there.  They did one major shift about a year ago in their calculations, but looking at the Versa, it (still) seems to have regressed a bit in this specific area where it appears to still have my resting HR about 10-15bpm higher than it should actually be.  For example there are many times where I’m awake and my minimum HR recorded by Fitbit that day is in the 40’s, yet the resting HR value is in the upper 50’s.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, from a social standpoint there’s a boatload of feature assuming you have some friends on the platform.  This includes everything from setting up challenges with friends, to specific groups of people in a challenge (such as coworkers or your soccer buddies), as well as taunting people. I like taunting Long, because, why not?

Fitbit-Versa-Friends-Listing Fitbit-Versa-Friends-Taunt

Back last fall Fitbit shared some pretty interesting numbers around social engagement within both their presentation to media, but also then to investors.  The gist of it was that the more friends people had on Fitbit, the more active they were, and the more engagement they had, the more they walked.

So basically, just like real life – having friends is healthy.  Simple, right?

Sport & Fitness:

Fitbit-Versa-Running-Excercise

To begin a workout you’ve got two options.  The first is to swipe left into the apps and open up exercise.  The second is to simply hit the upper right button, once the watch screen is powered on.  That’ll take you directly to the workout screen.  It’s here (above) that you can decide which sport to select.

By default this is run, then bike, and so on.  However, you can customize which sports show up on the Versa via the mobile app (up to 7 of the at a time).  There’s a boatload to choose from.  Here’s the full listing:

Fitbit-Sports-Selected Fitbit-Versa-Sports-listing

Like the Ionic, note that openwater swimming isn’t one of those sports. Swim refers to pool swimming, not lake/pond/ocean/river swimming.  In that mode the GPS doesn’t have an openwater mode to be able to compensate for the GPS signal dropping out each time you bring your wrist under the water, so the tracks or distance wouldn’t be too useful.

For each sport you swipe to within the watch, you can tweak settings via the little ‘gear’ icon in the upper left corner.  This includes bits like auto-lap settings, as well as which metrics are shown.  From a data metric/page standpoint the way Fitbit works is that you can customize two portions of data on the screen: Upper and lower.

Fitbit-Versa-Customize-Data-Fields

However, the middle stat you can also change mid-workout at any time by simply tapping the screen, which rotates through a boatload of other metrics (technically you can customize which metrics it scrolls through, effectively keeping it to a single metric).  This definitely isn’t anywhere near as customizable as Garmin/Suunto/Polar devices, but is roughly inline with Apple’s approach (stock workout app anyway, 3rd party Apple workout apps have far more customization).

Next, if we were to choose run as an example, you’ll notice it says ‘Connecting’.  This is connecting to your phone to access GPS from your phone.  This is the core difference between the Fitbit Ionic and the Versa, the Versa lacks GPS in the watch itself and instead uses what Fitbit calls ‘Connected GPS’.  This simply means it depends on your phone’s GPS for distance.

However, there are some exceptions to this.  For example, when running it can also use the accelerometers internally to determine distance/pace.  So if you don’t have your phone on you, you’ll generally get fairly accurate distance/pace (not perfect, but usually pretty good).  Inversely, if you’re out for a bike ride, you’ll get zilch for distance/speed without your phone.  That’s because the Versa doesn’t connect to any external sensors (not cycling sensors, not heart rate), so it 100% needs that phone connection for determining where it’s going.

Once connected to your phone, it’ll show that it’s ready (usually happens within a few seconds):

Fitbit-Versa-Connected-GPS-Ready

Once that’s done you can press the lower right button to begin, at which point it’s tracking your workout.  By default the screen will be off, however, you actually can change that for workout mode to have the display always-on.  Just beware it burns through battery pretty significantly.  I’ve mostly done this for runs (not rides), because I find that the Versa wrist-raise doesn’t work as well as the Ionic one (or anywhere near as well as the Apple Watch does).

As you run (or ride or whatever), you’ll have all your stats available to you.  You can iterate through the different metrics by simply tapping the screen.

Fitbit-Versa-Running-Mid-Run

If you’ve got automatic lap configured, you’ll get those lap banners shown as well. Now I’ll discuss GPS accuracy and related down below briefly, so I’ll dive into those pieces there (which, is definitely worth understanding).  Same goes for heart rate metrics.

By and large though all of this works fairly well, and isn’t complex either.  One of the main benefits of going the route of the Fitbit or Apple Watch is that things are simplified.  There’s just less opportunity to end up in some bizarre menu mid-run like you would have on some other more full-featured sports watches.

Once complete, you’ll hit to pause and then end your run:

Fitbit-Versa-End-Run

After which you’ll get a workout summary.  It’s fairly basic compared to the advanced metrics you’d see on a Garmin/Suunto/Polar unit, but it does the job.

At this point, everything is synced to your smartphone app via Bluetooth Smart, and then onwards to any 3rd party sites you might have, like Strava (that would also make it visible within the Strava app on the Versa).

If it’s an outdoor workout and you used GPS from your phone, you can look at the tracks of it using the companion smartphone app.

Fitbit-Versa-Workout-Complete Fitbit-Versa-Summary-Stats

Alternatively, you can see these same stats on the Fitbit website in a bigger screen format:

Fitbit-Versa-Workout-Page

Now everything I’ve discussed above is mainly related to free-form workouts.  Ones where you just danced to your own beat and ran or worked out as you saw fit.  However, Fitbit also has coached workouts, which you can find via the ‘Coach’ option:

Fitbit-Coach-App

These are guided workouts that include step by step instructions for each piece.  Do note that you’ll want to ensure to update the Fitbit Coach app separately, since oddly updating the Fitbit itself doesn’t actually update their built-in app.  In any event, once opened, you’ve got three workouts you can use:

Fitbit-Versa-Coach-Workouts-Default-List

These workouts show little videos of what you’re supposed to be doing and then a timer for each:

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It works well, but the default app only contains three workouts.  Instead, you need to buy-up to the paid variant, which is $39/year.  Now oddly, Fitbit does a super-poor job of promoting this.  At no point when opening the stock Coach app does it say ‘Btw, did you know we have a premium upgrade’?  Or at least, I never remember seeing it.  Nor does it have a dashboard tile on the default Fitbit mobile app that would lead you off to the paid offerings.  They’ve got an entire website page for it, but if I’d never had seen the feature mentioned in media briefings, I’m not sure I’d know to go off and find it (specifically the paid version).

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Once you purchase it, it’s actually fairly extensive (yes, I purchased it).  You’ll start by selecting the workout track that you want to suffer through:

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From there it’ll have you select your athletic level, after which it’ll give you a fitness test.  At this point my fitness tests were all based around core workouts, rather than something straight cardio-driven such as a run.

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For all the workouts you’ll whack that pink button to load them up.  This includes selecting music to go along with it:

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But here’s where it may surprise you: These are loaded not from your watch, but rather, from another device (such as a tablet or a computer).

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At least by default. Once you complete a personalized workout, then they’ll start syncing to your watch, where you can execute them from the ‘Coach’ Versa app like the three sample workouts.  Do note that the Fitbit Coach app is actually a separate app too on your smartphone that you need to download.

I’m not actually opposed to that, because in some ways the phone is a better way to view these workouts than the watch.  Sure, the watch is on your wrist, but if you’re trying to get in a specific position that involves your wrists it’s tough to do that and still look at the (not-always-on) screen.

In any event, the depth of Fitbit’s Coach platform is pretty strong.  They appear to have learned their lessons from the Fitstar acquisition a couple years back, specifically in relation to Fitbit Blaze and how useless the implementation was there.  One can quibble about whether or not Fitbit Coach should be a separate app or part of the main Fitbit smartphone app, but ultimately the implementation itself is good.

Music:

FitbitVersa-Headphones

The Fitbit Versa follows in the footsteps of the Fitbit Ionic in having 2.5GB of space for internal music storage.  This allows you to connect any sort of Bluetooth audio device, such as headphones or a speaker, and playback from your wrist.  Fitbit has their own headphones as well, which have some minor advantages when paired to a Fitbit Versa or Ionic watch (I dive into those more here).  But in short, the main benefit is that it can concurrently connect to your watch as well as your phone, enabling you to take calls seamlessly while still being connected to your watch.  Most other headphones have a single-connection limit.

The Versa supports two categories of music playback – offline storage of your own music, and two streaming services: Deezer and Pandora. In the case of the streaming services, you aren’t streaming the music live, but rather an offline/cached copy.  You can configure these streaming services via the settings on the mobile app inside the media portion:

Fitbit-Versa-Music-Overview Fitbit-Versa-Music-Settings-Watch

In the case of Pandora, for example, you can specify up to three stations from a predetermined list of stations that are considered most popular.  Once selected these will cache on your watch via WiFi, however, the sync will only occur when you’re plugged into the charging port.

In terms of getting your own music onto the watch, that’s a bit more complicated.  For that, you’ll need a desktop computer (PC or Mac).  From there, you’ll download the Fitbit app and get all logged in.  You’ll also need to be on the same WiFi network as your watch (a hotel network won’t do, it can’t have any sort of ‘I agree’ type prompt).

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From there you’ll need to put your watch into music transfer mode, which allows it to receive music via WiFi.  Once that’s done you’ll add folders of music that the Fitbit App can oversee, to do that simply tap the ‘Add Folder’ option:

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All of which gets you whatever slim bit of music that you’ve actually recently bought and have files for:

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You can easily create playlists as well, which are generally speaking a better way to manage music on a wearable, where your ability to navigate is reduced. To transfer music over you’ll tap the little circle shown next to the album or playlist, and then eventually it’ll finish ‘Preparing to transfer’ and actually transfer it.  No part of any Fitbit music transfer experience is an instant gratification type thing, it seems like a lot of hurry up and wait.

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Eventually you’ll get it over there though, and then on the watch itself you can crack open the music app. This is where you can play the music, as well as pair to headphones.  It is cool that the Versa can manage multiple saved Bluetooth devices.  This way you can save pairings to a variety of devices you might have (car, headphones, Bluetooth speaker, etc…).

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Finally, regarding Spotify – many have wondered about that.  Thus I refer back to a conversation I had with Fitbit’s CEO last summer.  I asked why they shifted from what was previously some relationship with Spotify to Pandora.  You’ll remember Pebble had tied the knot on a Spotify streaming deal for their planned Core device.  Once Pebble was acquired by Fitbit, they killed off the Core – but I had hoped we’d see the Spotify relationship surface down the road.

The very diplomatic answer from CEO James Park at the time was that the music industry is ‘challenging’ at best.  Though his eyes said to me ‘I want to punch myself in the balls over the music industry’.  I suspect he probably still does, almost 9 months later.

Apps & Fitbit Pay:

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Likely the most significant aspect of the Fitbit Ionic release last summer was the 3rd party apps platform.  Second to that was inclusion of contactless payments, called Fitbit Pay.  Both of which are available on the Fitbit Versa, though only the higher level Versa ($229) includes Fitbit Pay.  The base model doesn’t have contactless payment (NFC) technology inside of it. In my case, my unit was a non-Fitbit Pay one, though you can basically just read my Ionic review section on it to see how it works (or watch my Ionic video on using it).  Do remember that you’ll need your card’s issuing bank on the list to make it work.  Also, keep in mind that the Fitbit Ionic is routinely on sale at $249 (including right now), usually every other month or so at worst.  So at only $20 more than the Versa with contactless payments, you’ll get full-blown GPS too.

On the app front, everything here mirrors that of the Fitbit Ionic.  To that end you end up with a pile of both Fitbit developed apps and 3rd party developed apps.  Functions like ‘weather’ on the Fitbit watches are technically standalone apps.  Same goes for the Strava integration, also an app. Both of which are default/stock apps.  Whereas you can dive into the app store and download other apps.

Fitbit-Apps-Store Fitbit-Apps-Store-Details

Like most wearables, you’ll see a blend of pointless apps and mildly useful apps.  As is usually the case, many of these apps just don’t work all that well on the small screens. Their purpose in life not yet sorted. Still, there are some promising ones, mostly aiming to avoid having to crack open the phone.  For example, the newish Yelp app can find walkable spots to eat around you, and then give you hours and location information and a mini map:

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Whereas the New York Times app isn’t terribly useful since it just gives headlines…the same headlines you’re likely getting smartphone notifications to your wrist on anyway.  Not to mention that all the app does is give you a single line about the article.  Of course, reading a full article on your wrist isn’t practical, but a paragraph summary certainly would have been.

DSC_4495 DSC_4496

I’m not so much picking on Fitbit here, as the vast majority of wearables have this challenge (Garmin, Apple, and Samsung included).  Wearable apps have to do something to either best what you can do on your phone (such as being useful during a workout where a phone is less ideal), or they have to do something the phone can’t do itself.  For example, we see some apps leveraging movement on your wrist for different exercise recognition.  Or others pulling 3rd party sensor data that makes sense during a workout. All of which are great uses.

But when I look at apps like the United Airlines and Nest apps (of which I’m frequent phone app users of both), I don’t see any real value in their wearables apps. It takes less time for me to get to the same information on my phone than it does clumsily swiping through the menus and waiting on my wrist.

Still, apps on wearables are without question the future, it’s just that they need to continue getting better at not poorly duplicating what the phone is already telling me (and faster than the wearable).  And again, this isn’t so much a Fitbit issue as it’s just as applicable to Apple, Garmin, and Wear OS apps.

Heart Rate Accuracy:

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Heart rate accuracy is both highly objective and highly subjective at the same time.  On one hand it’s actually relatively easy for me to compare against other sensors (chest and optical) concurrently (as I’ll show you).  But at the same time, some of that is luck. It’ll depend very heavily on factors like placement on your wrist (seriously, this is huge), as well as skin tone, hair, and wrist ‘thickness’.  No different than other optical HR sensors really.

In general, Fitbit has come a fair ways over the years in their optical HR sensors.  They used to be acceptable for steady-state efforts, but would have significant delays for intervals (if they picked it up at all).  And riding a bike in the past? Pointless when it came to their sensors.  But things have changed, and like most players in the space they’ve had years to fine tune algorithms.

Which is really why things are getting better. Certainly sensors are improving, but ultimately it comes down to companies finding the edge cases where the algorithms fail and fixing them.  And eventually after you fix enough edge cases you gain critical mass.

In any event, let’s get on with the data.  In my case, I was always using 2-3 additional devices to capture heart rate data. Generally this consisted of another optical HR sensor on the other wrist, plus a chest heart rate strap, and then occasionally an upper-arm optical HR sensor like the Wahoo TICKR-FIT or Scosche Rhythm 24.

First, we’ll take a look at yesterday’s run, since that’s the freshest run I have. Now, in this unfortunate case the Fitbit Versa battery unexpectedly died 20 minutes into the run, so I didn’t capture the full 10K run.  Fear not, plenty other data to look at though. In case you’re wondering why the battery died, I started off the run with battery level at ‘Medium’, but had set it for ‘Always On Display’, which means the screen is always visible for my run, since I find the wrist-raising detection on the Versa sucks.  Regrettably, I neglected to remember that having a fully charged battery is basically required.

In any case, here’s the data comparing to the Scosche 24 (Optical arm band), the Suunto 3 Fitness (optical wrist sensor), and the Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap.

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As you can see, the first 60 seconds are a bit of a mix as the various sensors ramp up. This isn’t all that uncommon and usually I don’t worry too much as long as they are roughly trending together – as we see here. It’s when a given sensor entirely lags behind that’s more concerning (such as stays constant at 80BPM while others are at 140BPM).  But again, that didn’t happen here.

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After that point, things stabilized and the rest of the run, insofar as the Fitbit was concerned, was actually rather boring: It was spot-on.

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Then we’ve got another run, this one in beautiful Kansas. It was actually a rather cold morning, just about the freezing point.  I froze my ass off as all I packed was a t-shirt and shorts for running.  All in the name of science…or something.

On the run, I had a Wahoo chest strap, the Fitbit Versa, and a beta Suunto 3 Fitness unit.  For whatever reason, the Suunto 3 Fitness had a rough go of things that morning, so much so that the graph was distracting, so since it was beta at the time, I’ve removed it from the below chart (you can still find it here though).  Once that was taken out, here’s what’s left:

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This was actually a rather hilly run, and thus the HR has some solid ups and downs.  As you can see above though, it tracks perfectly. That one random dip of the TICKR-X chest strap was some sort of drop, not sure whether it was connectivity related or not. Clearly it wasn’t measurement related though given the way it shows up.

Looking at some of the rollers on the course, the heart rates match quite nicely as I go up and down the hills.  You see here this from 140bpm up to 171bpm for example.

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Overall things are looking much better than past Fitbit devices have for me.

Next, let’s take a look at a ride. After all, everyone loves riding their bikes.  Here’s a comparison between a Fitbit Versa, Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap, and a Suunto 3 Fitness over the course of a 2.5 hours ride:

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Well crap.

That’s a giant dumpster fire from all involved.

You can see the TICKR-X is the most logical of the bunch, roughly floating steadily in the middle.  There was virtually no point on this ride where my HR should be above about 160bpm (as the TICKR-X confirms).  Whereas the Suunto 3 Fitness was lost in space, and the Fitbit was lost underground.

I could analyze the above, but there’s really no point whatsoever. It’s a complete cluster with both the Fitbit and the Suunto being totally wrong the vast majority of the time (like 80-90% of the time).  And not a little wrong, a lot wrong.

For fun, here’s another ride:

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Nah, no different, still a mess.

The moral of the story here is stick to running with the Versa, not so much cycling.  Which, is honestly the case with many watches out there from an optical HR sensor standpoint, outdoor cycling continues to be very difficult for them.

GPS Accuracy:

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Now you may be wondering – ‘GPS Accuracy? How’s that possible? The unit doesn’t include GPS!”.  And that’s true.  But what’s also true is that ultimately it’s not entirely your make/model of phone that dictates whether or not your tracks on the Fitbit Versa are accurate.

Like most companies and apps, Fitbit takes the GPS signal from the phone and make some decisions based on that.  And in fact, it was these very decisions that delayed this review (significantly).  Most frankly put: I’ve had a hell of a time getting accurate distance from the Fitbit Versa.  Not because the phone was giving inaccurate tracks – in fact, it was giving astoundingly perfect tracks.

Rather, Fitbit was overriding that data with empty/useless data.  Now I say ‘was’, because between a combination of recent Fitbit Versa firmware updates, Fitbit iOS App updates, and iOS updates, the problems seem to have gone away.  Still, I want to briefly outline them in case they surface again.  Note that I spent considerable time with Fitbit’s engineering group tracking down these issues.

In short, the challenge was that when the Versa would lose Bluetooth connectivity to the phone it would stop accumulating distance on the watch depending on the sport.  In the case of cycling, this was logical because the Versa doesn’t pair to any sensors.  So it needed that GPS data to know where it was.  But what happens when it reconnected? Well, instead of using the distance from the phone (which was tracking the entire time), it just gapped that section.  Thus I had some rides that were 34 miles in length, and due to dropouts would only be a few miles long recorded in the app.  But the kicker? The track was flawless.  Check out this ride and note the distance (only 10 miles listed), despite actually being about 29.50 miles of distance.

image

In running/walking the effect is slightly less visible because the Versa (like all Fitbit units) will fail-back to wrist-based accelerometer pacing.  Thus it can get pretty close to your actual pace/distance using accelerometers.  So you’d notice a slight variance from the actual GPS distance, but probably not enough that most people would be upset.

In any case, I think all of that is solved now. Or at least it hasn’t happened in the last few weeks (whereby it happened to me almost every ride previously.)

So, here’s where things stand now from a recent ride using an iPhone X in my back jersey pocket (cycling).  Without having to pull open the analyzer, I can tell you the distance was within 1% of the Edge 520 Plus (dedicate GPS). This is also now plainly visible on the Fitbit site, showing the track where I went as well as correct distance value.

image

If we do indeed open up the Analyzer, we’ll look briefly at the first part of the ride leaving the city. Here things look virtually perfect between the various units.  Once out in the farms, it remains the same.

image

As you can see, things are pretty good.  Of course again, the GPS data is largely driven by the phone you have, and in general the iPhone X gives very good GPS data.

For example this run in Kansas. It’s rather straight-edged (the route, perhaps Kansas too), you can see the three device tracks overlay perfectly.

image

Even as we zoom in, there’s no meaningful variance on the corners. One unit might go a few meters one direction, then the other a few meters in a different direction, but overall things look very nice.

image

Looking at another activity, here’s yesterday in that park run, at least until the Fitbit Versa’s battery died mid-run, we’ll see more of the same.  You can see the tracks overlays very closely. There’s a bit more variance in the GPS here, because I had the phone in a Spibelt, which doesn’t have as good a GPS location as an armband.  I did think it was mildly interesting that the Fitbit Versa and Suunto 3 Fitness units gave different GPS tracks, despite having the exact same GPS source (they both use ‘Connected GPS’).  Again illustrating that companies can tweak the data coming off the phone to achieve what they believe is the most accurate result.

image

At a high level things are roughly the same, but as you dive down into the park, you’ll notice the differences:

image

I wouldn’t say that any unit did exceptionally well on the northern side of the park, they all seemed to have some rough spots in there through one of the two passes.  The Suunto Spartan Trainer probably laid the closest track down, but only did so on one of the two passes, the other pass it was off in the bushes.  No idea why everyone was so weird there.  And you’ll see that the Fitbit track (in green) along the bottom is reasonably close like the others, though it loses the plot once the battery on the Versa died.

As with other phone-based ‘Connected GPS’ solutions, I’m not going to dive super deeply in a GPS section, since ultimately you’re paying less for not having a GPS sensor.  Thus trying to evaluate the device based entirely on that is a bit misguided.  But of course, if it was doing as I noted earlier, then it also makes the device useless – which is a big problem. At this point though, I’m good with where it’s at, so no complaints there.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Comparison:

I’ve loaded the Fitbit Versa into the product comparison database, which allows you to compare it against other products I’ve reviewed.  For the purposes of the below chart, I’ve compared it against the Apple Watch Series 1, the Garmin Vivoactive 3, and the Fitbit Ionic.  But you can make your own comparison charts easily using the full product comparison database here.

Function/FeatureFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated December 10th, 2018 @ 6:44 amNew Window
Price$199-$229$269$269
Product Announcement DateMarch 2018Aug 28th, 2017Aug 31st, 2017
Actual Availability/Shipping DateApril 2018Oct 1st, 2017September 2017
GPS Recording Functionalityvia phoneYesYes
Data TransferBluetooth SmartBluetooth SmartUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART
Waterproofing50m50m50 meters
Battery Life (GPS)N/A10 hoursUp to 13 hours GPS
Recording Interval1-second1-second1s or Smart Recording
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerN/AYesYes
Quick Satellite ReceptionN/AGreatGreat
AlertsVisual/VibrateVisual/VibrateVibrate/Visual
Backlight GreatnessGreatGreatGreat
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYesYesYes
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesYes
MusicFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Can control phone musicYesYesYes
Has music storage and playbackYesYesNo
Streaming ServicesPandora, DeezerPandora, Deezer
PaymentsFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Contactless-NFC PaymentsYes (with certain editions)Yes
ConnectivityFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Bluetooth Legacy (pre-4.0) to PhoneNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart (4.0+) to Phone UploadingYesYesYes
Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)YesYesYes
Live Tracking (streaming location to website)NoNoYes
Group trackingNoNoNo
Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)NoNoNo
Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)NoNoNo
CyclingFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for cyclingYesYesYes
Power Meter CapableNoNoWith some Connect IQ apps
Speed/Cadence Sensor CapableNoNoYes
Strava segments live on deviceNoNoNo
Crash detectionNoNoNo
RunningFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for runningYesYesYes
Footpod Capable (For treadmills)No (but has treadmill functionality)No (but has treadmill functionality)Yes
Running Dynamics (vertical oscillation, ground contact time, etc...)NoNoNo
Running PowerNo
VO2Max EstimationYes, via appYes via appYes
Race PredictorNoNoNo
Recovery AdvisorNoNoNo
Run/Walk ModeNoNoYes
SwimmingFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for swimmingYesYesYes
Openwater swimming modeNoNoNo
Lap/Indoor Distance TrackingYesYesYes
Record HR underwaterNoNoNo
Openwater Metrics (Stroke/etc.)NoNoNo
Indoor Metrics (Stroke/etc.)YesYesYes
Indoor Drill ModeNoNoNo
Indoor auto-pause featureNoNoNo
Change pool sizeYesYesYes
Indoor Min/Max Pool Lengths10m/y-100m/y10m/y-100m/y17M/18Y TO 150Y/M
Ability to customize data fieldsYesYesYes
Can change yards to metersYesYesYes
Captures per length data - indoorsYes
Indoor AlertsYes (distance)Yes (distance)Yes
TriathlonFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Designed for triathlonNoNoNo
Multisport modeNoNoNo
WorkoutsFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Create/Follow custom workoutsNo (Premium Coached only)No (Premium Coached only)Yes
On-unit interval FeatureNoNoSorta (2 preloaded ones, but no customization)
Training Calendar FunctionalityNoNoYes
FunctionsFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Auto Start/StopYesYesYes
Virtual Partner FeatureNoNoNo
Virtual Racer FeaturenoNoNo
Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)NoNoYes
Day to day watch abilityYesYesYes
Hunting/Fishing/Ocean DataNoNoNo
Tidal Tables (Tide Information)NoNoNo
Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)NoNoNo
GeocachingNoNoNo
Weather Display (live data)YesYesYes
NavigateFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)NoNoNo (but some 3rd party apps can)
Markers/Waypoint DirectionNoNoYes (to pre-saved spots)
Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)NoNoNo
Back to startNoNoYEs
Impromptu Round Trip Route CreationNoNoNo
Download courses/routes from phone to unitNoNoNO
SensorsFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Altimeter TypeBarometricBarometricBarometric
Compass TypeN/AN/AMagnetic
Optical Heart Rate Sensor internallyYesYesYes
Heart Rate Strap CompatibleNoNoYes
ANT+ Heart Rate Strap CapableNoNoYEs
ANT+ Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoYes
ANT+ Footpod CapableNoNoYes
ANT+ Power Meter CapablenONoNo
ANT+ Weight Scale CapablenONoNo
ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)nONoNo
ANT+ Lighting ControlnONoYes
ANT+ Bike Radar IntegrationNoNoNo
ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)NoNoNo
ANT+ Remote ControlNoNoNo (Yes for VIRB camera control)
ANT+ eBike CompatibilityNoNoNo
ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)NoNono
ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)NoNoNo
Shimano Di2 ShiftingNoNoNo
Bluetooth Smart HR Strap CapableNoNoYEs
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence CapableNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Footpod CapableNoNoYes
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter CapableNoNoNo
Temp Recording (internal sensor)NoNoNo
Temp Recording (external sensor)noNoYes
Compatible with Firstbeat HR toolsNoN/A-
SoftwareFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
PC ApplicationPC/MacPC/MacGarmin Express
Web ApplicationYEsYesGarmin Connect
Phone AppiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/WindowsiOS/Android/Windows
Ability to Export SettingsNoNoNo
PurchaseFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLinkLinkLink
Clever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programLink
DCRainmakerFitbit VersaFitbit IonicGarmin Vivoactive 3
Review LinkLinkLinkLink

Again, don’t forget you can make your own comparison charts using the full product comparison database here.

Summary:

Fitbit-Versa-Overview-On-A-Log

Overall the Fitbit Versa seems to do a relatively good job at taking the vast majority of the Ionic and simply placing it in a less expensive offering. It lacks the GPS of course, and the base model also lacks Fitbit Pay.  But depending on your bank, that may not matter anyway.  In terms of apps, music, and overall fitness features – it continues to be a solid bet. And this week’s announcement soon to be enabled of female-focused health metrics leads the way in an area that nobody else is doing natively (without 3rd party apps).

Of course, the device is hardly perfect. From a price standpoint, it sits in a weird spot where you’re only the occasional Apple sale away from being priced equal to the Apple Watch Series 1 units, which certainly out-app Fitbit by a huge margin, as well as generally being more stylish.  Which gets to the second point – the band on the Fitbit Versa is as cheap as bands get. Sure, I thought the Ionic band felt cheap and stiff, but this beats that somehow.  And while the unit is certainly durable, no element of it says trendy/sexy/fashionable.  While some disagree about the Ionic design, at least it had a design. The design of the Versa just says…shrug.

But if we set my lack of fashion preferences and sales aside, for today’s money, there aren’t really any better options.  At $199 you won’t find another mainstream option with music, GPS (connected or otherwise), as well as the host of fitness features behind it.  Nor will you find the greater Fitbit platform, which is ultimately why tens of millions of people buy Fitbit devices each year, and why despite many people saying Apple would spell the death of Fitbit – it simply hasn’t happened.  Fitbit’s blend of fitness/health/social apps and platform is very good, by and large market leading.

Simply put: You won’t go wrong with the Fitbit Versa, even if it means you need to pick up a more stylish band for it.

Wanna Save 10%? Or found this review useful? Read on!

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pick up the Fitbit Versa (or any accessories) from Clever Training. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

Fitbit Versa (select dropdown for size/style)
Fitbit Flyer headphones (select dropdown for color)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit (all colors shown after clicking through to the left) or accessories (though, no discount on Amazon).  Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships there too and you get the 10% discount.

Thanks for reading!

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42 Comments

  1. Bsquared

    The Fitbit app is nice, however there are a few glaring omissions:
    – Miles on the dashboard is step-based miles (no cycling miles)
    – if you run, you can’t get weekly/monthly/etc summary of running miles (its all step miles)
    – if you primarily cycle or swim, you can’t display daily miles or yards on the dashboard

    Fitbit is still very focused on steps.

    • Bsquared

      Ray, one issue I had with Ionic was the lack of general purpose multitasking, has this been addressed on Versa? For example if I start a workout, and then need to set a timer, I have to stop the workout. In other words, its not possible to switch between any two random apps.

      Another issue I had with Ionic was notifications, we have an extended family group text and a lot of photos are shared. I couldn’t see those on Ionic, and some emojis were missing too. Has that been fixed?

    • No different unfortunately in terms of multitasking, that’s all the same. I don’t use a ton of emoji, though the common ones I use did show up properly.

      I’d say in general from a ‘non-fitness’ perspective, the Apple Watch is still king in things like texting and such. The nuance there is incredible.

      Fitbit is indeed still very focused on steps (or calories in some realms), and to a large extent that seems to work well for that audience. It doesn’t mesh as well with the endurance sports crowd, but that’s OK.

  2. Frans

    “At $199 you won’t find another mainstream option with music, GPS (connected or otherwise), as well as the host of fitness features behind it” you state in the summary. Whether Huami (Xiaomi) is a mainstream option one can argue, but the Stratos is certainly a promising one. I know you have one, can we see a review shortly? I’m really curious about your verdict.

    • As @Frans #3 says the STRATOS comes in to play as an alternative as far as music goes. but maybe also some of the lower end WearOS watches start to play ball too like the Ticwatch. Just like Fitbit, Wear OS supports some online music services…the STRATOS does not…just drag and drop mp3 files.

      WearOS probably wins over FitOS for the overall app offering…at least for now.

      fitbit Pay – I bought the cheaper model and yet the PAY stuff worked. Maybe they forgot to turn that functionality off? or maybe a Geo thing?

      Strap – yes. Strappy McStrapFace. They set the bar low and still failed to hit it. And to all other readers YES it does warrant a whole paragrpah in DCR’s summary as it will be virtually impossible for anyone to use that strap 247.

      Your GPS revelations explain a lot…nice work. Taking that point on you say “will fail-back to wrist-based accelerometer pacing.” … in my experience the wrist based acceleromer was DIRE and pretty much always at least 30 secs per km too slow. Readers should note that GPS seems to be required to both export data and/or to sync with STRAVA.

      I think you mostly used an iphone? My android was dire as far as connectivity went..

    • Yeah, I used an iPhone. Connectivity was horrible until about two weeks ago, since then between a combination of Versa firmware updates, Fitbit app updates, and iOS updates, it’s mostly settled. Though oddly trying to take pictures of the Yelp app this afternoon I was having some connectivity issues again. But at least during workouts it’s finally happy.

      That’s ultimately why this review wasn’t published over a month ago – I couldn’t get a single workout to work properly. I think the WDR (wrist based detection) will likely vary quite a bit person to person. In my case it was off by only about .03-.05 per mile, just enough that it didn’t look horrible, but also just enough that I noticed it.

      As for the non-mainstream players, indeed, it’s tricky. I’d agree that in some circles you’d count the Xiaomi as mainstream, certainly they have the unit sell-through. But in other circles they aren’t even at the table. Part of the challenge with classifications like mine (or anyone’s) is really almost a discussion of whether or not a brand would be mentioned by a sales person if you walked into a Best Buy or such. Certainly Best Buy sells plenty of random things, but not all things sell well.

      There’s also a number of wearables that do really well on IDC type charts not so much because they’re actually being bought by people, but because they’re being bundled with phone deals. So this skews the numbers considerably, because in some cases those units either aren’t being used at all, or only briefly. So things like app stickyness metrics are broke, complicating matters for app/platform developers in terms of deciding whether there’s an audience on that device or not.

    • Frans

      There are two compelling arguments in favour of the Stratos, first one is obvious the price, no other dedicated sportswatch comes close in terms of specs, but the other is more interesting: since the OS is android based, there is allready a serieus community of XDA developers working on custom ROMS for the watch. That means the development of the functionality isn’t sole dependant of the manufacturer, like it is with Garmin or Suunto. But would I really like you to test it and hear if it has any merit as an alternative to the traditional brands. Sorry for being persistant, will you write about it in the near future?

    • It’s definitely on my list to dig into more deeply, but I don’t have a unit in my hands at this moment. I bought a bunch of the Amazfit units this past winter and haven’t ended up doing much with them.

      So trying to get better about actually having a concrete plan for a review (in terms of time/bandwidth) before I start buying more toys (since I buy so many things I never end up writing about), as well as ensuring there’s at least some interest in it (which, there appears to be). On the bright side, at $142, it’s not exactly the most expensive item I’ve bought for reviews but never bothered to write up something on (link to amzn.to).

      In the meantime, I’d look at The5KRunner’s very recently published review of it: link to the5krunner.com

    • Frans

      Oké, fair enough, I’ll wait and see. Sorry for ‘polluting’ the Versa article (the5krunners review I already stumbled across)

    • Dan G

      Count me as another who’d like to read a DCR review of the Stratos. I have read reviews elsewhere but people come here (DCR) for a reason.

    • Jason M

      Thanks for the amazon link for the Stratos. At that price, I can’t pass it up. Hope you get credit for the sale!

  3. Ricardo

    What in the name of god are you doing up there?
    Sorry…someone had to do it 🙂

  4. Dizzle

    Thanks for the very in depth review. I own 3 Pebbles and was waiting for someone to actually do what you just did with exhaustion. To reward you for this review I purchased a Versa thru the links you provided… And thanks for the 10% off. Keep up the great content.

  5. Matt

    Style my butt. Ionic is ugly. Versa without style is the ionic.

  6. Jane

    The standard version of the Versa in Europe comes with Fitbit Pay

  7. Steve

    What’s swim stroke rate accuracy like?

  8. Michael L

    Its not that apparent to me who is the aim of this product. Gamin VA3 is for 249USD now and something like Xiaomi BIP is for 80USD and oh by the way, it also includes a GPS. Versa is more like a solution in search of a problem.

  9. Lara

    One thing is for sure, I cannot even consider a smartwatch that needs to be charged once every 24 hours and that is why Apple Watch or any watch for that matter is not even on my radar once I find out that is the situation.

    I like the Versa, as a woman, because it is light on my wrist, very light, the battery last 4 days with regular use and it is waterproof. It is the first smartwatch I even considered because those things were a requirement for me to even consider a smartwatch and it was the first smartwatch that has all those properties together. And I really like the Fitbit stuff. I used the super small one before and than also had a regular watch on. Now I just use this.

    I agree it just looks like eh. I changed the band to a cheap metal mesh band with magnet closure i got on Amazon and that band is soooo much better than I expected and so worth it.

  10. jenns

    I’ve been searching for the perfect fitness tracker/running watch for the past 6 months, and have recently purchased (and returned my Versa) so I thought I would add my thoughts:

    *I’ve so far tried out the Forerunner 35, Apple series 1, Charge 2 and Vivoactive HR so my comparisons are based on those devices*

    Pros:
    Small size – I’m female and it is the only watch (besides the Apple Watch) that is low profile enough to comfortably slide under shirt sleeves and not feel ridiculously huge on my wrists.

    Clear, vibrant screen that was easy to read when running and working out

    Super accurate sleep tracking (Both the Charge 2 and Versa tracked everything, including naps and inconsistent sleep schedules wonderfully).

    Cons:

    Connected GPS just doesn’t work on the Versa consistently. It worked fine on the Charge 2, but the watch struggles to stay connected to to the phone’s bluetooth (constantly actually, not just during runs) and thus cannot be relied on. Looking through the Versa forums, it seems like this is a super common issue. Again, this worked flawlessly on the much older Charge 2 (but because the face on the Charge 2 is so small, it was almost impossible to read the display while running.

    Music is a pain to load, so much so that it seems silly to even include this as a feature

    Notification handling is weird at best. Garmin and Apple do so much better with this.

    Like a lot of other comments, I just don’t really get who this watch is geared to. It’s not horrible but it certainly seems like it was released way too early with too many bugs not worked out.

  11. Fabian Coello

    ” Though, in the case of alarms you can access that quickly via pressing the lower right button….”
    Actually the buttons (right up and right bottom) are mapped to the items on the first page of the apps. If you rearrange the icons (long press on them) the will map also the shortcut button press to those on the first page.

    This works on the Ionic, so I’m pretty sure it will be the same on the versa.

    Great review. In general I’m disappointed with what fitbit could do with the Ionic / Versa. (coming from the great Pebble). I keep my Versa only because of the fitbit friends and challenges, but I always use my Fenix 5 as a main watch

  12. Davis

    With more and more devices offer HRV metrics, do you believe optical sensors are becoming accurate enough to provide valuable information?

  13. Thomas

    It’s not just cycling that wrist-based heart rate measuring struggles with. They struggle with virtually every sport that includes the use of your hands. So, everything but running, nordic walking, hiking and (European) football. For cross-country skiing, for instance, it took me one day to revert back to a chest belt. I then measured both sources for a while and didn’t have a single activity where the watch (a FR 935) recorded accurately from the wrist.

  14. MirkoSurf&Run

    Can you add a graphic ruler in the satellite map in DCR Analyzer when you want to analyze the GPS track?
    I mean the little line 0 – 10 meter like you see in the map of Garmin Connect, so you can better understand how the distance varies when you zoom in.

    • Mirko –

      Ask and you shall receive!

      The DCR Analyzer now includes the ruler. Though, it won’t show up in these screenshots here of course…but it’s live on the site now. 🙂

      Cheers!

  15. Vincius

    Had an Ionic for 6 months. The lack of apps, support for external heart rate sensor – as I’m not fortunate enough to have solid readings on optical sensor -, and even the low quality of their sports mode(aside from running and biking, the other sports are basically the same profile with different names) helped in my decision of giving that away and acquire a Garmin device.
    My humble advice is: do not buy it.

  16. Mike

    For the minivan driving soccer parents who company has a deal with fitbit.

  17. Rob Montgomery

    Tried the Versa, felt kind of blah about it. Kind of ugly, cheap feeling, etc…At the same price point, I’m digging the Suunto 3 Fitness. Connected GPS works great. If the Suunto app had the same maturity as the Fitbit app does, it would be an absolute winner. My only grips with the S3F is pretty insane calorie burn estimations and pretty generous step counts (sometimes double what Fitbit or Garmin gives me). I don’t need the music (if you are connected GPS, you have it on your phone anyways).

  18. L D A

    Hi Ray,

    Is the Versa still counting steps while cylcling like other Fitbit devices did in the past?

    Thank you for this review.

  19. Stefan

    On which firmware version was the GPS test performed?

    The current version 32.32.10.20 should have fixed some issues.

  20. Ralph

    I like my Versa for everything except connected GPS. Even with the firmware update it keeps disconnecting from the phones Bluetooth. I went back to using my Garmin VAHR for GPS activities and use the Versa otherwise.

  21. Chris

    I’m a casulaty of the community.
    I’m an ex-athelte (while the kids are young and I’m in my “work prime” I’m taking a little time for other focuses.) I love the detail and data of the Garmin devices, but in my stage of life I just don’t have the need for that level of detail in my day to day. My wife/friends are on Fitbit, so the community aspects are huge being on a Fitbit device. Coming from pebble/old old Garmin (310xt) it was a bit of a fresh start, so I chose the spiritual successor to my beloved pebble… Throw in the community aspects and I jumoed full into the fitbit ecosystem (scale and all)
    Hard for me to know that for the technical aspects of the watch and ecosystem for a few $ more, Garmin is far and away better (vivoactive 3)
    But alas, for me we are taking about an occasional jog, swim session or ride (one of those a week if I’m lucky) I’m training for no more than a 10k any time soon.. so linking with my buddies around the world for a step challenge is what I’ve got, and for the step master or general athletic person, it’s a great choice (still feels beta in many ways)
    I’m sure in 3 or 4 years when the career is less demanding and the kids are more self sufficient I’ll jump back into specific training and get away from step count and into heart rate zones and the data I love from the Garmin universe.

    Oddly enough… The versa doesn’t have a heart rate zone indicator on it’s sports settings. I would have thought this would be an easy implamentation and a great feature. Once they sort out notifications and get some more apps on board, then it’s going to be a solid day to day watch.

  22. David- Canberra

    Thank you. I was thinking of trying the Versa for cycling because the HRM on my Apple Watch 3 is sometimes dropping out, But I actually think it performs better than any of the devices you’ve tested here.

    As of today, it looks like the only way to get accurate HRM whilst cycling is use something in addition to a fitness watch. Fingers crossed Apple make a new sensor for the Apple Watch 4, surely they can’t use a sensor from 3 years ago?

  23. nahuel

    Hello, I want to start with a smart watch with health options, sports and notifications, we had the Fitibit Versa and the Amazfit 2? Any recommendation?

  24. Bsquared

    Ray,

    A little problem with your “why Fitbit continues to sell tens of millions of devices per quarter” as they are only selling a few million a quarter. And its been going down – from last quarterly report: 2.2M for 1Q2018 vs 3.0M for 1Q2017.

    • Good point, should read ‘per year’, not ‘per quarter’. 2016 was 22.3M devices, 2017 was 15.3M devices – both in an Apple Watch environment.

      The challenging part with comparing quarter to quarter is comparing release cycles. Q1 2017 saw the launch of the Fitbit Alta HR (albeit just barely, but bookings occurred in that quarter), as well as new products in the back half of 2016 that bled into early 2017.

      While 2018 saw zero new products until April (with the Ionic being introduced in August 2017). Given they only saw a .8m decrease for having zero new products to pitch in Q1 2018 is actually not too shabby.

      Obviously, the wider share of wearables is going to more and more companies. It’s not so much that overall wearables demand is down, but that there’s simply more companies in the space. In fact, Q1 2018 saw wearables continue to grow YoY. But now Fitbit is competing against far more entrants than before (including Apple).

  25. TS

    Excellent review. Thanks.

  26. Jennifer M

    Did you by chance swim with it? I purchased mine with the intent of tracking swims (in addition to other features) and now awaiting the replacement after it died during the first time I used it for lap swimming. This doesn’t seem to be an uncommon problem according to posts on the fitbit community forums. I get the sense that Fitbit is trying to brush the issue that the watch isn’t as water-resistant as they claim under the rug, as many people are on their 2nd or 3rd replacement and/or have given up using it during a swim/ in water with no real solution in sight. (Customer reps have actually suggested drying the watch in rice for 24 hrs and manually logging swims, among other paradoxical advice) I would suggest adding a swim review to any watch that claims to be swim proof to better aid your readers.

    • Yup, I wore it a ton swimming – all without issue. Most of my swimming at this pointing the year was openwater though, so it wasn’t too useful from a review standpoint because the unit tracks it. But I wore it in the water anyway just to ensure it survived.

  27. Brian Davis

    Hello, and thanks for another good review. My wife is coming from a vivoactive version 1, and I am looking to get her a nice upgrade. We use android, so the Apple watch is out, so I am considering this fitbit, or a vivoactive 3. I have the vivoactive 3, and it has been my favorite so far. It looks sharp, and does everything pretty well. I also had multiple fitbits, and I like their step count algorithm better. I am a teacher, and I lose many of my steps in the day because I may not be walking continuously for 10 steps as the Garmins require.

    Anyway, she isn’t an avid runner more than a couple-few times a week, and she always has her phone with her, so the lack of GPS isn’t a factor for the versa, right? Any other thoughts? The Versa is priced right about the same as a Vivoactive refurb right now.

    Thanks,

    Brian