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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Class-leading battery life
Great fitness-focused features
Premium build, customizable look
Short on smartwatch features
High end of the price range
Limited iOS integration
This fitness tracker has just a few smartwatch features, but makes up for it with great battery life, and a well-liked user experience.
The beauty of something like the Fitbit Versa 2 is not in its always-connected functionality—you’ll have to look in the upper ranges of price points to get full-on smartwatch features. Instead, what you get is a superlative fitness wearable with some added options that make it feel closer to a smartwatch. And that’s okay in our book, because what Fitbit lacks in flagship mobile software integration, it more than makes up for in battery life, Fitness-focused add-ons, and versatility. I got my hands on a Versa 2 and wore it around New York City for a couple weeks, easily taking it from workout to bedtime. Read on to see how it fared.
The most surprising thing to me when unboxing the Versa 2 is just how much it reminds me of something like an Apple Watch. For starters, Fitbit has opted to square the watch face, rather than go the more traditional round-face direction. While there are a few Android Wear watches that look very sleek, I tend to prefer the square watch face with rounded corners. The Versa 2 does this very nicely.
However, one thing to note is that the bezels around the screen itself are much thicker than you might expect. This is interesting because at first glance, the watch doesn’t appear to have any bezels, because Fitbit has gone with solid black the full glass-colored top, and because most of the watch faces available employ a black background. Unless you’re holding the watch off-angle, you really don’t see where the screen ends and the bezels begin. This is most likely due to the super-sharp AMOLED screen and its 1,000 nits of brightness. The blacks look very black, and therefore any contrasting graphics really stand out.
The casing of the watch is made of a brushed, anodized-style aluminum that is mostly rounded, but for a few edges and a single button. I went for the lighter mist gray aluminum casing, but you can also choose a carbon aluminum (similar to Apple’s space gray) and a rose gold aluminum.
Unless you’re holding the watch off-angle, you really don’t see where the screen ends and the bezels begin. This is most likely due to the super-sharp AMOLED screen and its 1,000 nits of brightness. The blacks look very black, and therefore any contrasting graphics really stand out.
There are a ton of bands to choose from as well, including the “stone” option on my unit, solid black, light pink, maroon (Fitbit calls it Bordeaux), and a really sharp-looking Emerald. Fitbit has paired these with one of the three casing colors, and the band/case you choose matches the hardware buckle. There are a couple special editions available that feature the same watch case itself, but with some unique-looking fabric bands. Overall, this Fitbit does not look like the average Fitbit, and will fit right in on the mid-to-premium smartwatch list.
A huge benefit of a brand like Fitbit is that you get a start-to-finish hardware/software relationship. Much like with the Apple Watch, Fitbit has been able to design the software itself to go directly with the hardware of the watch. This makes the setup process very controlled and very seamless.
When you fire up the watch (my unit came with about 70 percent charge), it’ll prompt you to download the Fitbit app, connect both units to the same Wi-Fi, and pair via Bluetooth. I found the process completely seamless, and during my time I only experienced one hiccup—when I initially tried to connect to the Wi-Fi, it wasn’t able to. I think this was most likely due to my home wireless network, not to the watch itself, so I’m going to give Fitbit full marks here.
What’s also nice, is that the watch gives you a feature tour that’s not overly cumbersome. It shows you all the directional swipe options, explains the Alexa integration, and then lets you dive right in. If you do want more in-depth walkthroughs, the app on your phone is happy to oblige. But I found it refreshing that the watch didn’t try to dig into every possible feature because that can sometimes feel really overwhelming when first getting to know a device.
As Fitbit’s current flagship, the Versa 2 can’t afford to be anything but premium in build quality, so I really wasn’t surprised to see such care and focus go into building this watch. The metal housing feels really sturdy, while the Gorilla Glass 3 ensures confidence that the watch face will be difficult to crack. The band material that comes with the base-level unit employs similar silicon to the rest of Fitbit’s line, and this feels sturdy, flexible, and water-resistant for the most part.
Speaking of water resistance, the Versa 2 promises to maintain function at up to 50m submerged. That’s because, like with most fitness bands, swim-tracking is a core workout component. Fitbit does recommend that you dry the watch when you’re done—though this seems to be more about skin irritation than about the watch itself—and it’s not recommended to wear the watch in a hot tub or sauna.
The Versa 2 weighs a miniscule 0.16 oz, and that’s crazy when you consider all the sensors in this thing, and even crazier when you consider battery life. And, because the casing is a brushed aluminum it does not easily stick to your skin.
And this brings me to comfort—something I put pretty high on my list for watches. After all, if it’s uncomfortable or heavy, you’ll likely want to take it off when you’re at your desk or at dinner, and that defeats the whole purpose of something like this. The Versa 2 weighs a miniscule 0.16 ounces, and that’s crazy when you consider all the sensors in this thing, and even crazier when you consider battery life. And, because the casing is a brushed aluminum it does not easily stick to your skin.
The only hitch here is that the silicon band, if too tight, can catch on your skin a bit. This is only a small concern, because the watch band is so easy to change, and there are multiple sizes included in the box, so you can find the right tightness for you. In fact, after wearing it for a few days, you don’t even notice it on your wrist for the most part.
The watch face customization for Fitbit is 100 percent controlled by the marketplace of watch faces available to you at present—oddly, Fitbit calls these clock faces. To be clear, I really like the stock Versa 2 clock face, called Waveform, because it gives you a good amount of information at a glance, and looks pretty professional, especially because you can change the colors to match the situation.
There are hundreds of other options, but it’s important to remember that some of these you have to pay for to fully unlock. For that reason, I’m knocking the Fitbit ecosystem a bit, because it would have been nice to have more free clock faces, and beyond this, it would have been nice to sort by a category and then filter that by free clock faces (something you can’t do right now).
In fact, I wore my Versa 2 to a wedding, but had forgotten to get a classier official Fitbit band. Fortunately, I was able to take one of the leather bands from my standard wristwatches and it fit almost perfectly (with just a very small gap on either side).
The other side of the customization coin is the band itself, and unlike many of Fitbit’s products, the Versa 2 supports the standard spring-rod watch band mechanism, provided you get a watch band that is roughly 22mm wide (sort of a standard medium-sized band). To be clear, Fitbit’s silicon bands tend to be roughly 23mm wide, because they are intended to fit snugly inside the watch to appear like it’s one unit. But, because the bands have a quick-release mechanism, they are essentially universal.
In fact, I wore my Versa 2 to a wedding, but had forgotten to get a classier official Fitbit band. Fortunately, I was able to take one of the leather bands from my standard wristwatches and it fit almost perfectly (with just a very small gap on either side). Two notes on this: first, you’ll need a watch band replacement tool if you buy a watch band that doesn’t have a quick-release notch built into the spring mechanism, and second, because third-party watch bands won’t necessarily fit snugly, it seems prone to allowing dirt and grime to get into the crevice. But, all things considered, it’s really nice to see that you can essentially use any standard watch band with the Versa 2, giving you near-infinite customization options.
As an extension to the setup section from above, the fact that the software has been developed exclusively for this specific hardware makes it run very smoothly. This is partially due to the fact that the processor itself has been upgraded for this latest model, and partially because the Versa 2 doesn’t try to do too much.
All of the workout and tracking functionality kicks in exactly as it’s supposed to, and the accompanying Fitbit-specific parts of the software are fluid and fun to use. You’ll notice some minor hiccups with third-party apps, and you’ll get into some trouble trying to do heavy smartwatch-use. One major downside is the fact that the Versa 2 is not able to send texts or iMessage on an iPhone. You can see the messages as notifications on the watch, but you can’t respond—however, this feature is present for Android phones. The heart rate tracker on the device is always active, meaning that you’ll get a nice record of your day-to-day heart rate, and for the most part, it works well, especially in mid-workout.
I’ve owned a couple generations of Fitbit Flex before and was always impressed with the week-long battery life on these fitness trackers—especially for something the maintains such a constant connection to the battery-sucking Bluetooth protocol. The Versa 2’s battery life is easily the best I’ve ever seen on a wearable, bar none.
Fitbit promises “4+ day battery life”, and to me this is being very conservative. After unboxing and setting up the watch, I put it on its charging cradle, and it charged from 70 percent to 100 percent in about 20 minutes. After this, I threw it on my wrist, and ran it through its paces for a full 8 days before getting down to 5 percent battery.
The Versa 2’s battery life is easily the best I’ve ever seen on a wearable, bar none. Fitbit promises “4+ day battery life”, and to me this is being very conservative.
This impressive battery life is not a feature to take lightly for this kind of device. Smartwatches are only a peripheral to your phone, therefore it’s easy to forget to charge them—especially when they stress the importance of tracking your sleep. If you have to wear it to bed, when will you charge it? The Versa 2 allows you to do that once a week, basically, without any compromise. Time will tell how well this battery will stand up over its lifetime, but out of the box, this thing is a beast, whether you’re a power user or a battery conservationist.
The Fitbit software is well-known and well-made. Because it’s made specifically for Fitbit, and no other device, it is tailored to be intuitive and easy to use. It tracks your daily activity, sleep scores, and all your totals with ease. There are plenty of social-focused features here too, allowing you to challenge your other Fitbit friends to “workweek hustles” and “weekend warrior” competitions.
On the watch itself, there’s a bit of a different story. As I mentioned above, the on-board OS is smooth and simple, but the third-party apps don’t work quite as nicely (the games are virtually unplayable). As a result, the features that lean more “smartwatch” really underperform when compared to the “Fitbit” features. While you aren’t getting a full smartphone-peripheral experience as you would from Apple or Samsung, you will get some extra bells and whistles that are an improvement from models. There’s Amazon Alexa built right in, and by default, a long press on the button calls her up to answer your questions. You can change this setting to activate the other new feature here: Fitbit pay via NFC. This works similarly to Apple Pay and allows you to tap your watch against compatible readers at brick-and-mortar shops to issue payment.
There’s also on-board music storage for up to 300 songs, though getting the songs on the watch is clunky. You’ll get the requisite workout training (with really intuitive real-time pace stats), but you’ll also get female health tracking and an interesting personalized cardio score. Some features require you to subscribe to Fitbit’s premium health coaching service, but virtually every health metric you could expect a watch to track, the Versa 2 will take care of out of the box.
Fitbit has never been known as a “budget” brand, because you’re paying for ease of use and a reliable tech company backing every product they make. However, most of their wearables are around $100, whereas the Versa 2 sits at $200 (with the enhanced versions going up to $230). This is mostly fair, considering the performance has been excellent and the battery life can’t be touched. But it’s worth pointing out that even the older generations of Apple Watches (which are pretty close in price to this watch) still do more in the traditional smartwatch capacity. But, if you’re looking for something that’s geared toward activity tracking and workout-specific metrics, and want some extra smartwatch features to make everything a little more convenient, $200 is worth it.
Fitbit Versa Lite: The Lite version of this watch does away with premium features like Alexa and Fitbit pay, and saves you about $40.
Amazfit Bip: This budget brand gives you a shockingly similar feature set (and perhaps not as much confidence on the brand level) for a much lower price.
Garmin Instinct: The more-rugged (but less stylish) Instinct is more focused on the outdoorsy than the everyday.
Strong battery life and features for the fitness-minded.
With a massive battery capacity, excellent features for the fitness-minded, and the added benefit of a few extra smartwatch-style features, the Versa 2 is a truly impressive achievement by Fitbit. It’s important to make sure you’re keeping in mind what this device actually is—it’s a fitness wearable first, and a smartwatch second. With Apple Watch expectations, you’ll likely be disappointed, but for those who don’t want to shell out the price required for an Apple Watch, the Versa 2 is a great alternative.