Wearables

Almost an Apple Watch killer

The Versa is Fitbit's second and latest smartwatch, after the Ionic, which was launched late last year.

Like the Ionic, the Versa has a squarish touchscreen display with one button on the left and two buttons on the right.

But the Versa looks more smartwatch-like with its curvy corners, unlike the Ionic, which screams running watch from a mile away.

In addition, the Versa is slightly smaller and lighter than the Ionic. The review unit comes in a black aluminium case with a black silicone watch strap.

The Versa has a built-in heart-rate monitor to track your heart rate all day. It is water-resistant to a depth of 50m and tracks swims.

Not to mention, the Versa is, at $318, $140 cheaper than the Ionic ($458).

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $318

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth, Near Field Communications

    WATER RESISTANCE: 50m

    WEIGHT: 38g (with large strap)

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

On the downside, the Versa lacks a built-in GPS. Instead, its uses your smartphone's GPS to track your runs. Thus, you have to take your smartphone along for your runs.

The Versa runs on the latest Fitbit OS 2.0, which simplifies the menu interface and reduces the number of swipes needed to operate. For instance, to view your current fitness statistics, you just need to swipe up on the screen. With the Ionic, you have to first swipe left to access the apps menu, then find and start the Today app to see the statistics.

Furthermore, while I have issues syncing the Ionic with my iPhone X, there is no such problem with the Versa. I can easily download and change the Versa's watchface - something I found difficult to do with the Ionic.

The Versa comes with Fitbit Pay, currently compatible with only OCBC and UOB credit or debit cards. Press and hold the Versa's left button to activate the card, then tap on the Near Field Communication payment reader to pay - great for buying a post-workout drink at convenience stores.

Like most Fitbit fitness trackers I have reviewed, I find the Versa's step-tracking function to be very accurate, with results coming within 3 per cent of my calibrated Apple Watch Series 3.

It manages to get a GPS signal lock in about one minute via my iPhone X at the start of my runs - three times longer than with the Ionic. The distance it records on my usual 5km jogging route comes to 600m longer. It can do better here.

The Versa is able to accurately track my swims, recording the correct number of laps and distance swam. But you need to first input the length of the pool, whether 25m or 50m.

Fitbit's sleep-monitoring ability has always been pretty accurate and the Versa is no exception. It accurately pinpoints the time I fall asleep and wake up. It also shows the different sleep stages - rapid eye movement, light and deep sleep - for a better understanding of how well I rested.

Battery life is superb for a smartwatch. Connected constantly to my iPhone X with a 5km run and 500m swim thrown in, it has 14 per cent battery life left by the end of four days. In comparison, my Apple Watch Series 3 can last only at most two days.

• Verdict: If not for the lack of built-in GPS, the Fitbit Versa would have been the Apple Watch killer, with its reasonable price, appealing design, accurate step tracking and long battery life.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Almost an Apple Watch killer'. Print Edition | Subscribe