Fitbit Versa 2 Review
With the Versa 2, Fitbit proves that less is more. The fitness brand has taken everything that made the original a compelling budget smartwatch, improves on those features, adds a somewhat fiddly voice assistant, and spits out a near-perfect fitness tracker that comes with some smartwatch perks. It’s one of the best fitness watches from Fitbit but the lack of a GPS chip means you’ll need to carry your phone wherever you go.
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Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch
There are a few things that stand out on this update. The screen is now OLED, rather than the LCD in the previous model. What OLED gives you is deeper and crispier blacks and also more vibrant colours. There is improved battery life and Fitbit says the new model will last at least five days or more, depending on usage, compared to the four days plus of the previous model. Additionally, the Fitbit Versa 2 has a built-in microphone for chatting with Alexa. Amazon’s virtual assistant is now part of the watch if you find this gimmick worth the attention. Unfortunately, GPS is still missing which some will find frustrating. To compensate, the Fitbit Versa 2 piggybacks off your phone. If you want a Fitbit model with a GPS, you need the Ionic.
The Fitbit Versa’s design was one of its strongest points, and the new model does not fail as it is just as attractive if not more. We think it is actually as stylish and eye-catching as the Apple Watch, with its sleek square face, gentle rounded edges and single, unobtrusive button. And with such an appealing look it is no surprise that it looks great on a wrist too. The display is 12mm thick, which doesn’t sound like much, but in actual fact, it is around 50% more than your average smartphone. If you look a little closer, you will notice that the Fitbit Versa 2 has a pretty thick bezel all the way around the screen. All in all, Fitbit has done a great job of hiding aesthetic imperfections in a way that only a geek can actually point out to. Wearing it is comfortable on your wrist and you can also easily change straps around if you want to mix things up.
The move to OLED display is a fantastic development as it provides two important things. You can set up the watch’s display to be always-on which means you don’t need to move your wrist to read the time or see your steps at a glance. It’s not on by default as it reduces battery life by a day but OLED means the battery lasts longer anyway, which allows you to do things than previously you wouldn’t as you have that extra battery life to play with. The screen resolution is more than sharp enough at 300 x 300 it gives you enough brightness and size to see what’s on the screen at a glance.
The Fitbit Versa 2 tracks your activity quite reliably as you go through your day. Steps are counted, notifications buzz through the day and if you want to interact more with it, then music, exercises, breathing and other apps are just a swipe away. The microphone on the side of the watch is well integrated with Amazon’ Alexa and you just simply hold down the button and the Alexa logo will pop up to show it is listening. Ask a question and then, after a short “thinking…” message, the answer to your question will be written on the screen for you to read.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to this. You can’t ask it to play music on Spotify, for example, even though the app is there on the watch. Some will find this baffling. But you can get it to set timers and control smart home stuff. It seems a bit an unnecessary gimmick but some might find it useful and it actually works. We are not sure the Alexa integration is a game-changer, as the gap between asking a question and getting a very basic answer is long enough for most people to probably dig out their phones by preference anyway. But it’s there if you want it, and as it is a freebie, well, it doesn’t harm.
You actually have the choice of making the button trigger Alexa or Fitbit Pay. The truth is neither is a killer feature. While the idea of paying for things from the wrist is tried and tested, it can still be a little impractical. Again, this is one of those features that it works for some, a complete waste for others. App support is growing and it’s good to see Fitbit bundling both Strava and Spotify along with its own first-party apps. You can add MP3s of your own, but in this streaming-first era, who really wants to do this? Though actually, given the lack of GPS you’ll need to take your phone with you when you run or cycle anyway, so it’s not a deal-breaker as such.
That said, built-in GPS is a must for some and I’m completely sympathetic to this, especially after the experience of piggybacking off your phone means that you are at the mercy of your phone and if you know it has weak GPS then this may not be the watch for you. On our test, I took it out running on a regular route around my neighbourhood that Mapometre measures as exactly 5km. Fitbit said I did 4.74km, giving me an average pace that was slower than I actually achieved. The reason for this is pretty clear when you dig into the mapping data.
Suffice it to say I was strictly sticking to the pavement, yet the data has me cutting huge corners, running through houses and gardens. Again, this isn’t necessarily Fitbit’s fault but it does underline the risks of relying on phone data rather than bundling a dedicated GPS chip within the smartwatch itself. If you can’t trust your phone’s GPS and you’re a serious runner, then the Fitbit Versa 2 simply isn’t for you.
Fitbit Premium is an optional service that unlocks a bunch of additional features within the excellent Fitbit app, for a monthly or annual fee. This might sound like a lot, but it does make the app considerably more compelling, giving you guided video and audio workouts; personalised insights into your lifestyle picked up from the watch; and better insights into how each night’s sleep breaks down.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the guided workouts, which provide a personal trainer showing you how to do various exercises and guiding you through them. There are a dizzying number of these, each one showing how long it’ll take and how many calories you can expect to burn. The gym and home-based ones offer video (which can be cast to a big screen) while running and walking ones provide music and words to keep you motivated and guide you through the experience. It really is pretty impressive.
It’s not just exercise, though. Fitbit Premium also offers guided programs to help you sleep better, and even to kick salt or sugar with advice on what to eat at home and outside the house to meet your goals. You may decide that other apps can offer the parts you like at a more competitive price, but there’s certainly nothing to lose in signing up for the seven-day free trial. Just make sure you remember to cancel before you’re charged if it’s not for you.
The Fitbit Versa 2 is frustratingly close to being amazing but we couldn’t understand why it is lacking GPS. It’s a shame the company doesn’t make a Versa 2 Pro with GPS built-in because it’s far nicer to look at and use than the Fitbit Ionic. As it stands, it may still be perfect for you. If your phone’s GPS is up to the task, then this is a wonderfully sporty smartwatch. It looks great, it lasts for days and it benefits from the superb Fitbit app. Although I question the need for Alexa on your wrist, the OLED screen makes it a worthy successor to the smartwatch that put Fitbit back on the map.