Editors' note, Oct. 31, 2019: Thanks to its $200 (£200, AU$325) price, long-lasting battery and compatibility across Android and iOS, we've awarded the Fitbit Versa 2 an Editors' Choice. It's one of the best examples of a hybrid fitness tracker and smartwatch you can buy. Our review, originally published Oct. 13, follows.
It's been a long week of work (and workouts) but the Fitbit Versa 2 ($179 at Walmart) hasn't missed a beat, thanks to a battery that lasts and lasts. After almost a month wearing the Versa 2, we can safely say this is Fitbit's best watch yet. It has a bright AMOLED screen and great fitness tracking features, and Alexa now lives on your wrist. But it still has its limitations.
We praised the original Fitbit Versa because it was the best fusion of fitness tracker and smartwatch you could buy for less than $200. A year and a half later, there's far more competition: Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2 ($180 at Amazon) looks sleeker, Garmin's watches come with GPS and many health features, plus the is now the same price at $199.
Compared to the Apple Watch, on the Versa 2 you get the advantage of built-in sleep tracking that's pretty good, plus compatibility across Android and iOS. But it does lack GPS. For that, you'll need to look to the (now two-year-old) Fitbit Ionic ($193 at Amazon).
Scott Stein and Lexy Savvides both wore the Fitbit Versa 2 for several weeks; this is a joint review.
Design: Good enough
The Apple Watch ($399 at Apple) is slick and beautifully machined, if a little too shiny and squircle-ish. The Fitbit Versa 2 does its best to emulate that, but it's also just fine for everyday use. Wearing a Fitbit Versa 2 next to the Apple Watch Series 5, one could almost be mistaken for the other from a casual distance.
The Versa 2 feels comfortable, although its straps are still a pain to attach. The at-a-glance fitness watch faces often pack enough stats to be helpful too, but swapping faces requires loading them up from the phone app, which is tedious.
A speedier processor means scrolling apps and swiping down for notifications, or up for a daily fitness stat rundown, is smoother. It's not as smooth as we'd like, but it's better than it used to be. A new pull-down-based way to access quick settings makes it faster to silence notifications or pull up music remote controls.
One significant improvement over the first generation is the color AMOLED display. Text is legible and it's bright enough in outdoor situations, although the always-on display could be a touch brighter when in workout mode.
Fitness tracking is fine, but there's little to entice upgraders
We used the Versa 2 for several workouts: runs, bike rides, Pilates and a spin class. It's always been comfortable to wear regardless of the activity. Compared to the first Versa ($160 at Amazon), which had three physical buttons, it's now easier to start and stop workouts with the single button and touch screen combination on the Versa 2.
But apart from that small tweak to the physical design of the watch, there's not much else that's changed when it comes to workout tracking between the original Versa and Versa 2. The Coach app is still available to give you workouts on your wrist, although you do have to install it on the watch from the Fitbit app.
For your own workouts, the 15 goal-based exercises let you set a desired target, like calories or distance, and you get an alert on the watch once you hit them. But there aren't pace alerts (like the Apple Watch offers) that notify you if you are faster or slower than your desired pace. You can, however, see your pace on the screen during a run.
You can also customize the workout screen to have the metrics you want to see displayed front and center. The heart rate reading shows you what heart rate zone you're in, such as cardio or fat burn.
Heart-rate tracking during all our workouts has been fairly consistent with readings from other fitness trackers we have used previously, although we haven't yet tested the Versa 2 with a chest-strap to compare results.
We would have liked an even brighter setting for the always-on display during workouts, which would help a lot with visibility in direct sunlight.
It's also a shame that there's no built-in GPS, so you have to take your phone with you to track distance and route information. For that, you'll need to look to the Fitbit Ionic. If you're a runner or like doing outdoor workouts without being tied to your phone, connected GPS may be a deal-breaker.
But Fitbit's big strength over any other watch or fitness tracker has always been the Fitbit app: it gives you a clear, easy-to-understand breakdown of your exercise metrics and it's a lot more simple to interpret than competitors like Samsung's Health app or even the Apple Watch through the Activity/Health apps. It's also a lot more social.