Fitbit Versa 2 review: A $200 smartwatch and fitness tracker with a battery that won't quit
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 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 looks sleeker, Garmin's watches come with GPS and many health features, plus the Apple Watch Series 3 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 .
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 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 , 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.
On top of workouts, the Fitbit app also offers female health tracking. After having used it for a few months, it seems fairly accurate if you have a regular cycle. But to log your cycle or see additional details, you'll need to pull out your phone and launch the Fitbit app.
Sleep tracking is nice, but sometimes stressful
This is a very comfortable watch to wear to bed -- we found it worked best after turning on sleep mode manually from the quick settings menu to silence notifications. You'll need to swipe down from the top of the watch, then tap the settings toggles and hit the crescent moon icon.
From the Fitbit app, you'll be able to see a sleep score at the end of each night that breaks down the quality of your sleep based on time spent in different sleep stages. A subscription to Fitbit Premium (see below) will also give you extra data on your sleeping heart rate and restoration. But for nonsubscribers, the app doesn't offer that many useful recommendations on how to improve that sleep score or reduce restlessness.
Over time, however, especially using the Premium subscription service, the feature's grown on us. It's helped identify and address our sleep achievements and deficits, at least a bit. Fitbit's progress on sleep tracking feels even more notable considering Apple's complete avoidance of baked-in sleep monitoring on the Apple Watch. Sleep info's become one of the things that Fitbit does most interestingly, and its deeper breakdown of stats feels like a glimpse of where the future of sleep tech could lie.
A smart wake feature looks at your sleep patterns and wake you at an optimal time with vibrations on your wrist, which is a nice touch. Fitbit now also lets Versa 2 owners access the past week's worth of trends in the health metrics dashboard within the app so you can see metrics like breathing rate or heart rate variability. Premium subscribers can view 30-day trends.
Fitbit Premium: $10 a month is a lot
Speaking of subscriptions, do you need yet another subscription service in your life? Fitbit hopes so. On top of additional details on your sleep, this subscription ($10 a month or $80 a year stateside; £8 a month or £80 a year in the UK; $15.49 or $125 in Australia) also gives you nine guided programs to help you eat better, sleep better and start running, for example.
We followed one of the nutrition programs called Understanding Calories to log meals and help develop some healthier habits, but didn't find it offered a significant advantage over a free tool to log food such as MyFitnessPal. (The recipes looked yummy, though.)
Still, it's a nice option to have. But the most intriguing feature for Fitbit Premium users may be a personalized coaching tool at an additional cost that promises to help manage weight loss or diabetes, for example.
Battery life is among the best
Compared to something like the Apple Watch, one of Fitbit's big advantages is battery life. Without the always-on display active, we managed to get five-and-a-half full days before needing to charge. With the always-on display turned on, that reduced to just over two full days.
We're now resigned to the fact that every Fitbit has its own unique charger, and the Versa 2 is no different -- unfortunately, it's not backward-compatible with the original Versa charger if you're upgrading. More annoying is the cable that feeds into the charger doesn't sit flush with the base of the unit, so your watch can never sit flat on a surface when it's charging.
But the fact that this watch can last most of a week on a single charge is great. It makes charging an occasional thing, not an everyday one, and that's exactly how smartwatches (or any watches) should be.
Say hi to Alexa
Arguably the most significant addition to the Versa 2 is Alexa, although it's not as fully fledged as you might expect. You can ask it basic questions, control smart home gadgets and set timers. There's no speaker built-in, so you'll have to make do with reading responses from the screen. It's not particularly fast.
Connections to your phone are also limited, so you won't be able to send messages with your voice via Alexa, for example. (You can, however, respond to text messages on Android with your voice.)
And you can't use your voice to start a workout on the Versa 2 yet either. Alexa understands different accents and it had no problem with Lexy's Australian accent, plus supports multiple languages (German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese).
Other Versa 2 notes:
- We've had sporadic connectivity issues on the Versa 2, both when it comes to maintaining a connection with an iPhone and reauthorizing third-party apps like Alexa, Spotify and Strava.
- The Bitmoji watch face is almost enough reason to make us get this watch alone. These types of whimsical faces are what make Fitbit's watch faces so much fun (Apple, seriously, why no Memoji watch face? Why?)
- Music transfer is still a pain. Like the first Versa, you have to load songs via computer and the Fitbit Connect app. Pandora and Deezer's premium subscriptions allow you to store music on the watch, but the Spotify app only lets you control playback.
The best Fitbit, but no GPS could be a turn-off
While the Versa 2 is Fitbit's best smartwatch yet, there are plenty of other capable Fitbits. A lack of a current GPS-enabled version may mean Fitbit has another watch on the horizon. If you've been holding out for a GPS running watch that's also a Fitbit, maybe you should wait and see what comes next. Otherwise, the Versa 2 is a versatile watch that works with iOS and Android and has plenty of fitness tracking features well worth the price.
Fitbit Versa 2 vs. competitors
|Galaxy Watch Active 2||Apple Watch Series 5||Fitbit Versa 2|
|Display type||Circular AMOLED||Square LTPO OLED Retina||Square AMOLED|
|Watch size||40 or 44mm||40 or 44mm||1.4-inch display|
|Connectivity||LTE option, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC||LTE option, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC||Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC|
|ECG||Yes (not yet active)||Yes||No|
|Price (Bluetooth)||40mm: $280 (See it at Amazon)||40mm: $399 (See it at Amazon)||$200 (See it at Amazon)|
|44mm: $300 (See it at Amazon)||44mm: $429 (See it at Amazon)||N/A|
|Price (LTE)||40mm: $430 (See it at Best Buy)||40mm: $499 (See it at Amazon)||N/A|
|44mm: $450 (See it at Best Buy)||44mm: $529 (See it at Amazon)||N/A|