Fitbit may have been bought by the mighty Google since the Versa 2 launched in September, but the smartwatch still accurately represents the state of the company – one in transition, and pivoting more aggressively towards healthcare and software services.
The original Versa was a huge success for Fitbit, but the the Versa Lite – its pared down, cheaper model – was less so. The Versa 2 has elements of both predecessors, as well as some notable new features, including more advanced sleep tracking, an always-on display and Alexa.
Pick your tracker: Which Fitbit device is right for you?
It’s not the first time we’ve seen Alexa on the wrist, but it is the first time on a Fitbit device. With that $2.1 billion Google buyout deal looming, we also imagine this will be the last Fitbit device to feature Amazon’s voice assistant.
So, should you plump for the latest Fitbit smartwatch? How does the Versa 2 perform in everyday use? Here’s our verdict on the design, tracking accuracy, Alexa and more.
Update (12 February):Fitbit has added new features, such as Estimated Oxygen Variation, Smart Wake alarms and multiple on-watch faces, since we first reviewed the Versa 2 in September 2019, with this update reflecting our continued testing.
Fitbit Versa 2: Design
From a distance, the Versa 2 is the same as it ever was, with the same recognizable square face doing its best job of imitating the Apple Watch while being just different enough. Look more closely and you’ll see several subtle improvements. First of all, the Fitbit logo is gone.
Second is the new new curved glass display, which gives the Versa 2 a much more stylish – and yes, Apple Watch-ier – look.
It’s a step away from the angular design of Fitbit’s last few devices, and CEO James Park told us back at launch that the Versa 2 is a halfway point of a larger transition to rounder shapes, so, depending on whether the Versa 3 will launch under Google’s watch, expect it to evolve accordingly.
Read next: Complete guide to Fitbit
Speaking of the screen, there’s 0.05 more inches of it on the Versa 2, and Fitbit has swapped out the LCD for an AMOLED display. It offers 300 x 300 pixel resolution and 1,000 nits in brightness, and, with all these powers combined, the Versa 2 screen is easier to see under sunlight.
The Versa 2 is also the first Fitbit smartwatch to offer an always-on display mode that shows you the time, date, battery life and a couple of performance stats, depending on which face you have selected.
It’s a really nice addition, and, like with the latest Apple Watch, means it’s even more appealing to wear all day. It will have an impact on battery life, though, which we’ll get into further below.
Where Fitbit has added, it has also taken away. The Versa 2 now has just one physical button, on its left side, which means two have vanished.
It’s actually the same layout as the Versa Lite, and, while Fitbit didn’t find much success with that smartwatch, it believes the simplified input system was better. We agree – the new layout works much more smoothly, and also allows for the microphone where two buttons used to sit on the right.
The lone button can now be used to turn the screen on or off (you can also activate it by raising your wrist, if you enable it, though this still works inconsistently) and to go back a screen when flicking through the menus.
Flip the Versa 2 over and the sensors and charging port on the back both sit in a unified, curved square that’s more comfortable against the wrist than the older models.
Amazon: Fitbit Versa 2
Front and back, the Fitbit Versa 2 is simpler, cleaner, tidier. It also comes in a different line-up of colors and materials: black with a carbon case, petal (pinkish) with a copper rose aluminum case, and stone (grey) with a grey case; plus a couple of special edition models with funky bands.
Remember, bands will work across all Versa models, too, so those upgrading from the original or Lite model won’t need to start their collection of straps from scratch. Sadly this also means Fitbit is still using its quick-release pins, which are a pain to get on and off, particularly with the silicone bands.
All in all, though, Fitbit has made a big jump in the design while retaining all the core elements of what we appreciated from its older siblings. For those prioritising a super-light smartwatch that’s just as stylish as the Apple Watch, the Versa 2 is definitely one to consider.
Fitbit Versa 2: Activity tracking accuracy
Despite some fancy new features and a refined design, health and fitness are still front and center of the Fitbit experience – and a major area where we expect Fitbit to continue to evolve under Google.
The Versa 2 is set up to track indoor and outdoor running, biking, swimming and strength training workouts, though everything from skiing to golf can also be tracked in some capacity.
We’ve tested a handful of these over the last few months, and the Versa 2 has mostly performed as hoped, and all the better thanks to the faster chip that’s now running the show.
Exercise and heart rate monitoring
The Versa is able to handle an array of exercises, but it’s likely you’ll settle on a few and incorporate them into your daily activity, like we did.
There’s no GPS, as we’ll detail in the section below, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone’s connection and still pick up an accurate distance measurement. It won’t be completely exact, but, in our view, it’s not enough to make a big enough difference – and if you do want accuracy down to the meter, this probably isn’t the watch for you.
What’s more important is the consistency, and the Versa 2 (especially after the December update to its PurePulse heart tracking algorithm) has exactly that. We’ve tested other devices that seem to cap heart rate and expect you to only operate in a certain range, depending on which exercise you’ve selected, but we very rarely get the fluctuations or head-scratching readings with this smartwatch.
An outdoor run tracked by Fitbit Versa 2 (left) and Polar chest strap (right)
During a couple of outdoor runs we had during our initial testing, shown above, we were pleased to see the sensor keeping up with us for the most part, but – as with almost every optical sensor on the wrist – it falters with higher-intensity interval exercises.
During intervals, we could see the Versa 2 lagging behind the Polar H10 chest-strap in the live readings – sometimes as much as 10bpm, although the final graphs and peaks weren’t terribly off.
Again, how much does this matter? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re just going for the one weekly run at a consistent pace, the Versa 2 does works very well.
On top of exercise, the heart monitor is also working when you’re asleep. We’ve tracked our sleep with the Versa 2 pretty much every night for the last month or so, often testing against other watches, and we can comfortably say it’s still the best in the business.
It’s excellent at detecting when you fall asleep, Sleep Score figures feel on the money – helpfully adding a bit of gamification to the pages of graphs and trends – and the Sleep Stages splits feel much more accurate than anything else available on the wrist.
The Versa 2’s only minor issue – and this is true of pretty much every wrist-based sleep tracker – is understanding when you’ve woken up. There’s no dramatic over-reporting, just, say, 15 minutes here and there, but we have got in the habit of getting out of bed as soon as we wake up or interacting with the watch just to make sure.
This slight struggle, likely, is because the device needs to detect a fair amount of movement before it ends a sleep session. Again, it’s not the end of the world.
And if that wasn’t enough to propel Fitbit ahead of the competition, the new Estimated Oxygen Levels – finally leveraging the powers of the SpO2 sensor – give an insight into whether you had small or large breathing variations during the night.
The company is still seeking approval from the FDA to develop this feature further, so, currently, it can only hint towards fluctuations in blood saturation, and not actually alert you of conditions like sleep apnea.
You’ll need to go into the Fitbit app, check on your sleep and figure it out for yourself. It’s another interesting piece of data to look at and can prompt you to see your doctor if you’re regularly seeing massive variations.
Fitbit Versa 2: Features
At launch, the Versa 2 was more of a fitness tracker than a smartwatch, but that balance has been addressed somewhat since.
One of the headline additions are Smart Wake sleep alarms, which aim to buzz you during light sleep within the 30 minutes of your set alarm. We’ve tested these out for the last couple of weeks, and, though we’re not the biggest fans of being woken up from the wrist (it’s too easy to snooze, you see), it did seem to wake us in a lighter place from time to time.
At last, you now also have the ability to host multiple watch faces on the device and switch between them. Previously, you had to choose one and stick to it until you could be bothered enough to change it through the app. Now, the process is much more seamless, and really encourages you to take advantage of the vast library and the always-on display option.
However, there are still several omissions that could act as dealbreakers for some. One of them is the lack of built-in GPS. Instead of independent location tracking, the Versa 2 tethers from the GPS connection on your phone.
We’ve ran countless times with the Versa 2, and, as we alluded to just above, there’s really no drop-off in terms of accuracy (as long as your phone is placed in a good position for GPS signal) but it’s definitely hassle to lug your phone.
That’s also before you consider music support – another area that Fitbit really needs to improve. The Versa 2 has a native music player that can hold up to around 300 tracks, but you’ll need to literally upload the digital MP3 files from a computer. And we’ve tried, it’s a nightmare.
One new app available through the store is the Spotify app, but, unlike its integrations on Garmin and Samsung watches, you can’t sync music for offline listening. Instead, you can only start a playlist or a “Made for” mix (such as Discover Weekly, Release Radar etc) when connected to your phone.
Those are our two biggest gripes in the features department, but we do have to give Fitbit some credit for the improvements to its contactless payment service. Whereas it had been limited to the special editions in the past, it’s now available across the board.
You might still struggle to link your card if you’re outside the US (with still no major banks supported in the UK, for example), but it does mean you can pay from your wrist no matter which Versa 2 edition you go for.
Fitbit Premium is now also live in the app, which offers up guided health programs for targeting areas like exercise, sleep and stress for £9.99 per month.
The company says this will eventually offer personal health coaching, connecting you with a (human and certified) wellness advisor to offer personalized advice – but this won’t launch until later this year, if, we imagine, Google gives it the green light, too.
Fitbit Versa 2: Alexa on the wrist
A few have tried (and failed) to put Alexa in a smartwatch, but the Versa 2 demonstrates the best execution we’ve seen of it so far. Here’s how it works: you hold down the side button, wait for the Alexa symbol to appear, ask it a question and wait for it to display the answer on the screen.
There’s no speaker on the Versa 2, so all of Alexa’s responses are text-based. And if you’re an Alexa user already, the good news is that Alexa on Fitbit can also control your smart home devices, as it would when commanded through an Echo speaker.
Complete guide: Best Fitbit deals
We’ve asked it to dim lights, adjust speaker volume, and even play specific radio stations on certain speaker groups in my home. You can also use it to set alarms, or get it to display your day’s fitness goals (if you’re too lazy to swipe down to the dashboard).
When it works, it’s great, and Fitbit appears to have ironed out some early issues regarding the connection. It’s also added the ability to view Alexa alarms, reminders and timers.
We wouldn’t say we’ve been heavy users of Alexa on the wrist, though we can imagine a future where a 4G/LTE Fitbit smartwatch (likely hosting the Google Assistant) makes this kind of support much more useable.
Fitbit Versa 2: Battery life
Battery life is where Fitbit has long had the upper hand on Apple and other rivals, and it’s the same story with the Versa 2. Fitbit says you can get up to five days of battery life on this thing, and, based on our time with the device, that’s about right.
Our personal use sees the device swallow up around 15% of battery every day – a day which includes round the clock heart monitoring, around an hour of tracked walking, an hour of strength training or running and a full night of sleep. That means we only really need to charge the device once a week, if we’re consistent.
If the always-on screen is enabled, though, that consumption jumps to around 30% each day, meaning you can only really get three or four days of life.
Of course, it’s all about how you use your device. If you’re tracking exercise via your phone’s GPS a lot or having long chats with Alexa every day, you probably won’t achieve the five days or more that we do, but the most important thing to take away from this is that it’s comfortably on par with, if not better, than its immediate competition.
Fitbit Versa 2
It may not be as high powered as the Apple Watch, but the Fitbit Versa 2 expertly shows how less can often mean more. The design tweaks are perfect, Alexa is a great addition and the activity tracking (despite the lack of GPS and full music support), heart monitoring and sleep analysis are all reliable and consistent. Backed up by the outstanding Fitbit app, the Versa 2 just delivers – and that’s more than can be said for a lot of smartwatches at this price range.
- Much improved design
- Battery life is superb
- Solid tracking accuracy
- Alexa support is a handy extra
- Music support is very poor
- No built-in GPS
- HR monitoring suffers in HIIT training
- Fitbit Pay support not ubiquitous