Fitbit Versa is the company’s third attempt at a full-on smartwatch, and the company may have finally nailed a good design at a really good price. It’s fully compatible with all of the apps designed for its more expensive predecessor, the Fitbit Ionic, which debuted just five months ago. The Versa arrives in April for $200 (£200, AU$300) — that’s $50 less than the entry-level Apple Watch.
The Versa will release alongside the Fitbit Ace, a new $100 (£80, AU$130) fitness tracker that’s designed for kids.
It’s the Versa, however, that Fitbit is pinning its hopes on. The company, which made its name on fitness trackers and step counters, has been struggling with a sagging stock price after a soft holiday sales quarter. Apple, meanwhile, continues to gobble up market share as consumers turn to smartwatches.
Correcting the mistakes of the Ionic
I had two thoughts after reviewing Fitbit’s first smartwatch, the Ionic, that launched last year: It would be better if it were less expensive and wasn’t quite so bulky.
That’s exactly what the Fitbit Versa is: A thinner, less expensive Ionic. It’s also Fitbit’s strongest counterpunch to the aforementioned Apple Watch. And it happens to look almost exactly like the late, great Pebble Time smartwatch I reviewed a few years ago — the startup darling that Fitbit purchased in December 2016.
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That’s not a bad thing: In fact, maybe it’s the best thing. The four-day battery life of the Versa, and its solid list of features — heart rate monitoring, 50 meter water resistance, on-board music storage, compatibility with hundreds of watchfaces and apps — make it sound like the best all-around Fitbit to date.
It lacks the GPS of the Ionic, but in my brief time with the watch it also seems more comfortable and easier to use. The Ionic felt fine on my wrist, but was angular and much larger than the Apple Watch. The Versa is smaller and slimmer.
Apple Watch Series 3 (left) next to Fitbit Versa (right).
I couldn’t tell how it feels with different bands, but the whole watch is a lot more low-key than the Ionic, in a good way. On my large wrist, it felt great. But Fitbit is clearly looking at the Versa as a way of addressing the design shortcomings of the Ionic.
Its “squircle” design is reminiscent of the Apple Watch (and even moreso, the Pebble Time). The aluminum design comes in several colors (black, silver, and rose gold), and will work with a variety of new silicone, leather, steel link, Milanese mesh-style, woven and knit bands.
Versa replaces the Fitbit Blaze in the company’s line-up. That first-generation Fitbit watch, which had few fans, is now being discontinued.
Sarah Tew/CNET A renewed focus on women’s health
The Versa is part of what Fitbit CEO James Park details as a mission to reach out to a larger audience — and more women in particular. To that end, the company is introducing new tools, in coming app updates, to track women’s menstrual cycles.
Today, many women track their cycles in dedicated apps (like Kindara). But by folding the feature into the main Fitbit app, the hope is that women will find it easier to do all their health tracking in one place. (Apple Health added reproductive health tracking back in 2015.) The expanded feature will come in an upcoming software update which will work across older Fitbits, too.
With this update, women might be able to find correlations between their fitness routines and menstrual health. Fitbit’s