My old smart fitness watch was dying: weak battery life and erratic step counting. It started going berserk on stair counting when I walked up an escalator. It stopped synching via BlueTooth with my iPhone after an iOS update. Time to get something new.
Fitbit Versa Review
I didn’t want to spend more than $300 and it had to work with my phone. The Versa costs $249.94 (more if you want a fancier wristband). My first fitness watch was a Charge which was a good beginner model but I want the notifications from my phone. I’m often in meetings where I have to turn off my phone and getting call and text notifications on watch is very useful for me. My old Microsoft Band would even let me reply to text messages when I had my Windows Phone but that didn’t work when I upgraded to an iPhone. The Fitbit Versa lets you see text messages but not reply. If you’re a text titan, you might want the higher end Ionic which allows you to reply to text messages if you have an Android.
One of the first things I noticed wearing the Versa was how much lighter it is on my wrist. All my previous fitness watches were heavy enough to be uncomfortable when sleeping. This one, so far, has only irritated me one night.
The Versa was very easy to setup and sync with my phone. Once you charge it, the setup takes another 30 minutes or so (something the setup dialog actually lets you know). You need to set up a Fitbit account if you don’t have one already. Luckily I still had my old Fitbit account details in my password manager which saved time. While there is a desktop dashboard you can log into online, most of the details you want can be accessed quite easily from your smartphone.
Setting up the BlueTooth synching was seamless. Getting my previous smartwatch to do this always involved a lot of swearing and praying. The Fitbit Versa hasn’t needed to be reintroduced to my phone once. Great timesaver. And it hasn’t been draining my phone battery either. I was expecting to lose about 15% more battery life on the phone and it’s been closer to 8% a day.
What about the Versa battery? Fitbit says the battery lasts about 4 days. So far, that’s what I’ve been getting out it. Big improvement over my Microsoft Band which might make 1.5 days without needing to charge.
Is it waterproof? Sort of. Fitbit says the Versa is good for 50 metres. Not the watch for someone doing a lot of swimming. Okay to accidentally wear in the shower or while doing dishes.
Quirks and Annoyances
My biggest annoyance is with the auto recognize exercise feature. By default, it only recognizes the activity as exercise after you’ve been doing it for 20 minutes. You can change that in the dashboard to 10 minutes but it’s annoying to have to add those missing minutes per session if you’re tracking how many hours you’re doing. The auto recognize feature recognizes elliptical activity but does not recognize a stationary bike. You can try to force it from the watch to record being on the bike but it squawks about needing the phone to know where you’re going. It’s an odd omission given that every gym has a stationary bike.
Then there’s the Female Health portion of the dashboard. Remembering that Fitbit data is stored in the United States and is subject to U.S. lawmakers, I opted out of the app. It just gave me visions of a Trumped up version of The Handmaid’s Tale.
The Versa almost has too many apps. Generally everyone is app exhausted these days and I wish manufacturers would figure that out. Less is more. It would be nice if you could get rid of the extra apps you don’t want.
If you are app happy, swim lots and need to track where you’re going, the Ionic is probably a better choice. The Fitbit Versa is a good entry level smart fitness tracker.