Tech review: Fitbit Versa 2 not quite the Apple Watch killer

Whether the Versa is worth buying will depend on whether you see it as an overpriced fitness tracker or an affordable smartwatch.
Whether the Versa is worth buying will depend on whether you see it as an overpriced fitness tracker or an affordable smartwatch.PHOTO: FITBIT

The Versa 2 is Fitbit's third smartwatch and the successor to last year's Versa.

Like its predecessor, the Versa 2 has a squarish case with curvy corners. But it has just a single button - on its left. The original Versa has one button on the left and two on the right.

The Versa 2 also loses the Fitbit logo, allowing the touchscreen Amoled display to be slightly bigger with thinner bezels. The display has an always-on display (AOD) mode and is said to have crisper colours and better clarity.

Also new is a microphone for using voice replies with messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts.

This feature, which works only with Android smartphones, worked pretty well with a paired Samsung Galaxy Note9 smartphone. However, it is good only for short replies like "Not bad" or "How's it going?". I found that the Versa 2 was not able to transcribe anything longer than that.

The Versa 2 supports Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, which is currently unavailable in Singapore.

It has Fitbit Pay, which is available here (currently compatible with only OCBC and UOB credit and debit cards). Press and hold the left button to activate your card, then tap the smartwatch on the Near-xField Communication (NFC) payment reader in convenience stores to pay for that post-workout drink. You can also use Fitbit Pay to pay for your MRT train or bus fare.

The Versa 2 records physical activity information such as steps taken, floors climbed, heart rate and more. It automatically tracks workouts such as walks and jogs. It is water-resistant to a depth of 50m and tracks swims as well.

The sleep tracking feature has a new Sleep Score function, which uses heart rate, time asleep and restlessness information to gauge sleep quality.

On the downside, the Versa 2 continues to lack the built-in GPS feature and thus still uses a paired smartphone's GPS for tracking runs. You have to take your smartphone along for your runs.

The review unit has a black aluminium case and black silicone strap. It looks minimalistic and sleek. But I think the Apple Watch still looks better.

The silicone strap caused some slight rashes on my wrist after I wore it for two days, with the smartwatch strapped on all the time. I have no issues with previous Fitbit silicone straps.

Subsequently, I changed to a Fitbit leather strap for the Versa 2 and no rashes appeared.

Like most Fitbit wearables I have reviewed, I find the Versa 2's sleep-monitoring ability spot-on. It is able to accurately pinpoint the time I fall asleep and wake up. It shows the different sleep stages - rapid eye movement, light and deep sleep - and the Sleep Score gives me a better understanding of my sleep quality.

  • FOR

    - Voice replies (for Android smartphones only)

    - Long battery life

    - Supports Fitbit Pay

    AGAINST

    - Lacks built-in GPS

    - Step-tracking accuracy can be better

    TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $318

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Near-Field Communications

    WATER RESISTANCE: 50m

    WEIGHT: 41g (with silicone strap)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 3.5/5

The same cannot be said of the step-tracking function though, which used to be really accurate. While the original Versa's step-tracking results were always within 3 per cent of my calibrated Apple Watch Series 4 when I reviewed it, the Versa 2 counted around 10 per cent more steps. Not to mention, the distance it recorded over my usual 5km jogging route was 500m longer.

But Versa 2 tracked my swims accurately, recording the correct number of laps and distance swam. For swim-tracking, you need to first input the length of the pool, whether 25m or 50m.

Battery life is rated at six days on a full charge, which is superb for a smartwatch. Connected constantly to a Galaxy Note9 with the display in AOD mode and with a 5km run and a 500m swim thrown in, the Versa 2 has 10 per cent battery life left by the end of four days. In comparison, my Apple Watch Series 4 needs to be charged every day.

Ultimately, whether the Versa is worth buying will depend on whether you see it as an overpriced fitness tracker or an affordable smartwatch.

If you want a better smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a better bet. If you prefer a fitness tracker, there are cheaper options like Fitbit's own Inspire HR. The Versa 2 is somewhere in between the two.