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Fitbit update adds color always-on watch faces to Versa 2

Better heart rate tracking is also on the way, plus all other Fitbit watches get tweaks, including a smart wake alarm in OS 4.1.

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The Fitbit Versa 2 will get color always-on watch faces.

Angela Lang/CNET

Just days after Google announced it was buying Fitbit in a deal worth $2.1 billion, it will add even more features to its range of smartwatches. Tweaks to sleep and exercise tracking are all part of Fitbit OS 4.1, and although it won't arrive for a few weeks, the improvements look like they're worth waiting for.

All of Fitbit's current smartwatches will get the update: that's the Versa 2, Versa, Versa Lite and Ionic. Here's what's new for all these Fitbits:

  • You'll be able to see all 20 workout types on your wrist rather than having to swap them in and out from the Fitbit app. Plus you can now use Alexa to start workouts with your voice if you have the Versa 2.
  • Smart wake will vibrate the watch gently to wake you up at what Fitbit calls the optimal part of your sleep cycle (within 30 minutes of your alarm). 
  • Your sleep score will show up on the watch in your daily dashboard.
  • Up to five clock faces can be stored on the watch itself.
  • To conserve battery when it's running low, notification vibrations and the always-on display will turn off.
  • Have your calendar on your wrist with a new Agenda app.
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Sleep tracking on the Fitbit Versa 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The update to Fitbit OS 4.1, available Dec. 3, will also bring some additional tweaks specific to this year's Versa 2. Fitbit says heart rate tracking will be improved with a new algorithm that uses machine learning to recognize the heart rate from the optical sensor.

Versa 2 owners will also get color always-on watch faces that can show fitness metrics (the two existing monochrome faces will still be there). You'll also be able to raise your wrist to wake the watch face, without having to press a button or tap the screen.

With color always-on faces, the $199 Versa 2 becomes more competitive with the $399 Apple Watch Series 5. Unlike Apple's watch, Fitbit claims this feature won't affect battery life; you will still get 2+ days. In our review, the Versa 2 gave us just over two days with the monochrome faces before we had to recharge, so stay tuned for additional testing with the color faces.

If you signed up to the $10-a-month Fitbit Premium service, you'll also get a wellness report that shows an analysis of your activity including sleep, heart rate and weight. Fitbit says it was developed with feedback from UCLA and UCSF medical teams. Extra workouts and a new meditation section will also be added to the app for subscribers.

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