Fitbit Versa 2 Review: Wellness pro, but smart watch amatuer

Fitbit are now as ambitious in the world of smart watches as they are dominators of the fitness industry. Ever since 2017’s Ionic product line started the brand who had been, up until that point, only known for fitness tracking wearables started to move towards something bigger and better. They made the mistake of trying to go their own way and provide a stark and unnecessary contrast to the Apple Watch, but they soon learned from that and leaped into the Versa.

Now the acclaimed watch has a sequel, and it looks to push Fitbit further down the smartwatch path than ever before. Although you’d be mistaken if you thought Versa 2 wasn’t still primarily a Fitbit wearable. The wellness-forward approach syncs up perfectly with current trends and widespread health consciousness, but augmenting those functions with a bit more smarts doesn’t go astray.

Design

The key bump here is a fantastic, vibrant and clear 1.4-inch 300×300 AMOLED screen, looking great against the smooth bevelled edges which are more pronounced than before. Basically, it looks more like a modern Apple Watch which isn’t at all a bad thing. There’s even always-on display (toggled via settings) now, meaning you won’t have to even touch to watch to get a visual display of time and activity progress.

Although you’ll still need to press a button (or tap the screen) to truly wake the device up, if you’ve opted for the always-on setting. If not, you’ve got the raise-to-wake feature to make your experience as seamless as possible.

The display itself is easy on the eyes, even when the sun is glaringly bright. I had no issue using this thing indoors and outdoors in various settings, from Sydney to a recent trip in New Mexico. Although the bezels are thicker than I would like, they are successfully faded by the AMOLED, which is another advantage of the upgrade.

Solid and lightweight, the watch is comfortable to wear, although the silicone rubber wristband that it ships with needs to tightened more than it should in order to really fit around the wrist.

Gone are the three buttons that made the original Versa seem a bit clunky, replaced with just one physical button on the left side of the watch for “select” and “back” functions. Most of the functionality is via a series of taps and swipes, so streamlining this aspect was a smart choice.

On the back you’ll find an unobtrusive heart rate sensor and four pogo pins meant for charging the device via a proprietary charger. I don’t like proprietary chargers and neither should you, but until Fitbit take advantage of USB-C then you’re stuck with having the keep the cable safe at all times.

Voice Commands & Smart Experience

Under the hood is now a microphone to help Versa 2 offer some voice control. This unfortunately doesn’t double as a speaker so you won’t be able to use this as a speakerphone for any Android phones, but you can dictate text accurately in order to reply to any incoming tests. Oddly, you can’t actually send a new message via your voice, only as a response.

The mic also attempts to play well with Alexa, accessed through simply long pressing the side button. You’ll get the basics here, like controlling other Alexa-enabled devices, asking for the weather and setting timers, which holds up the smartphone side of what the Versa 2 is trying to be. Because there’s no speaker, Alexa’s action will show up on the screen as text, where applicable. Obviously, you’re not able to tell it to play music or even activate it via any wake words – the only way to bring Alexa up is via the physical button (or touchscreen).

You also can’t play Spotify, but you can trigger Spotify on another device (like your phone). That saves you picking up your phone, but other than that, the inclusion is largely useless.

Given Versa 2’s attempts at streamlining the entire process, the limited functionality with Alexa and Spotify does feel like a big oversight.

Fitbit Pay is another big part of the smartwatch experience, and for the most part it works without issue, as long as you find somewhere the supports it. You’ve got a problem with adoption here, and Google are winning the race when it comes to that.

Fitness Tracking

This is Fitbit, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a smooth and refined fitness tracking experience. The Versa 2 certainly delivers on that, perhaps pushing forward as Fitbit’s best wearable for those who want a complete picture of their wellness profile.

Much like the Versa, you’ve got an always-on heart rate monitor and sleep-tracking, including the new and impressive “Sleep Score” which sums up your nuanced sleep quality with a simple number that’s easy to remember, record and track. There’s also SmartTrack to automatically detect and record activities, comprehensive cardio readings, guided breathing sessions, and more than 15 exercise modes, amongst other things. It’s the most well-rounded and thoughtful fitness tracking experience available.

I will say with the SleepScore, some more information about the qualitative meaning of the score would have been appreciated, as well as tips on how to improve it. All you’ve got here is a one sentence summary telling you the very basics (“fair”) of your score.

Although getting more quality information is just a matter of penetrating Fitbit’s new paywall. Now the brand has introduced a subscription-based Fitbit Premium membership. It’s cheap, but it’s still on ongoing cost. In return, you do actually get in-depth information about your Sleep Score as well as other useful things such as guided workouts and personalised health reports, all aimed at helping you realise that achieving a wellness goal really isn’t as hard as it seems.

The subscription also unlocks the full benefits of Fitbit’s wider community, with challenges rolling in via the service. Outside of the subscription you still have access to this, but in a limited capacity extending to news, tips, and surface-level motivation.

Fitbit are also reliable when it comes to substantial updates, the promising of which is a forthcoming alarm set to wake up at the optimal point during your sleep cycle, based on your personal history.

Battery

Versa 2 has the best battery life of a Fitbit that I’ve tested. There’s no question about that. They promise five days, and they meet it consistently. Seeing as I regularly forget to leave this charging overnight, the battery has become one of my favourite tweaks between the Versa models. It doesn’t have the mind-blowing uncharged longevity of a Huawei, but still enough to satisfy anyone.

Verdict

Fitbit still haven’t quite taken the Versa into smartwatch territory on the level of Apple, Samsung and Huawei. That’s fine, they still trump everyone else when it comes to fitness, which is usually the reason people go for the brand anyway.

This makes the Versa 2 both very valuable, and kind of disappointing. Valuable because it’s so affordable compared to the aforementioned brands, yet it still borrows some of the most essential Smartwatch capabilities and does a reasonable job at them too. Disappointing because it doesn’t fully commit to its hybrid potential, instead trusting that the comprehensive and best-in-class fitness tracking will be enough to justify a purchase. And it is, I’m just not sure it’s worth an upgrade if you already own a modern Fitbit device.

Upping their own standards has worked against them, giving them a goal they largely fail to achieve. There’s no doubt that the Versa 3 will address this though.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights: Best fitness tracker out there; much better display and overall better design; fast and responsive operating system; Fitbit Premium is affordable and worth it; great battery life; better sleep tracking system.
Lowlights: The wristband can be a bit uncomfortable at times; not enough smart features to play well in the smartwatch industry; no speaker; no quality information about SleepScore unless you pay.
Manufacturer: Fitbit
Price: $329.95
Available: Now

Review based on a unit supplied by Fitbit. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are that of the writer’s.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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