Fitness trackers have moved on a little since I bought my first Fitbit Flex back in 2014.
For the last 2 years I’ve been totally in love with my TomTom Runner 3. But a few things were making me look around for an alternative.
First up, was looks. I know I’m immensely shallow, but it was definitely a sports watch, and just didn’t look very pretty.
Then my whole family got Fitbits for Christmas and kept inviting me to weekly challenges, which was frustrating when my watch told me I’d walked 18,000 steps, but my phone had only picked up 12,000.
Then the final straw was when the trusty Nike running watch Mr LLL had been using for the last 5+ years suddenly announced it was abandoning its external wearables, and whilst the watch would still *technically* work you could no longer upload your runs to the website, thus rendering it essentially pointless.
So my old TomTom went to Mr LLL and I started looking for a more attractive alternative. I actually first bought a Fitbit Charge 2 (which I may review in a few weeks if you’re interested), but then I was approached by Currys and asked to review the Apple watches new competitor, the Fitbit Versa.
The Fitbit Versa is more than just a simple fitness tracker. It’s a full-on smartwatch. It syncs with your phone via Bluetooth so not only does it transfer your steps to the Fitbit app, but you can also get notifications of incoming phone calls and text messages on your wrist as well as use the connected GPS to track runs and use music controls.
The Versa is super stylish. It has a sleek, shiny look, similar to the Apple watch, but the screen is slightly larger.
My version is the pink or rose gold version. The edges of the tracker itself are a rose gold, and the strap is pink. It’s a lightly darker pink than I would ideally like, but there are a multitude of straps available if you want to change them. The clips to take the straps on and off are a little fiddly, so it’s probably not something I could be bothered to do every day.
The watch face is also customisable, there are a variety of different layouts that you can pick from on the app. Or you can create your own and upload a picture to the watch face.
As a simple step tracker the Fitbit Versa works as well as other Fitbits. It tracks steps and elevation that it translates into “floors” as well as mileage. You can set goals and the watch will beep and show you a lovely firework display when you hit them.
As the watch has a touch screen you can swipe up from the bottom to view your days stats right on your wrist without opening the app. Something that is not possible on the cheaper Fitbits, and it will also tell you your current heart rate.
A fun feature that I like is the ability to set the watch to pester you if you haven’t walked 250 steps during an hour. For me this is a great reminder to leave my laptop and wander round the house a bit occasionally during working hours, though occasionally it does mean disturbing a sleeping dog, for which I am deeply sorry.
Another favourite feature is sleep tracking. My previous watch also had this feature, but it would simply give me hours slept. The Versa breaks my nights sleep down into deep, light and even REM sleep to give me an idea of the quality of my sleep, and also gives me benchmarks to compare this against.
As a Sports Watch I felt that the Versa also stood up pretty well. If you are looking specifically for a Sports Watch I would probably recommend something like my old TomTom, but if you want more fitness tracker detail than a sports watch provides and also want a bit of style then the Versa wins hands down.
The Versa offers multi-sport options, including running, weights, bike and swim, as well as an interval timer. I haven’t used the swimming function yet, as I was a bit confused about whether the Versa was actually waterproof. A search on the Fitbit site found recommendations not to swim in it, but in that case offering a swim function seems a little foolish. If anyone has a definitive answer to this question then I’d love to know it!
For running the Versa doesn’t have built-in GPS, but does tether to the GPS on your phone. I always take my phone with me in an armband on runs, so this didn’t bother me, but it is worth bearing in mind. My first run with the Versa was on holiday in Slovakia. It was only a mile, but the Versa underestimated the distance by about .25 of a mile. This bothered me as such a big inaccuracy could be a real deal breaker for using the watch as anything other than an expensive pedometer.
Fortunately, I have taken it for 2 runs since I got back, a 5k and a 10k and both seem to have been accurate. So the jury is a little out on this one. So far so good, but I have seen reports of similar problems and it may depend on what area you are in.
One feature I did find a little annoying is the function that keeps the screen turned off until you lift your watch to look at it. This does save battery life, but when running it often means that when you want to glance at your stats all you see is a blank screen. You either have to drop your arm and lift it again, or fiddle with the buttons to bring up the display, which can be irritating in the middle of a run.
For weights and other workouts the watch has been great. It monitors your heart rate in real time and I haven’t noticed any lag in the display and it’s easy to swipe through the metrics on the screen to see calorie burn, time elapsed, heart rate and the actual clock time. Detailed stats, including heart rate zones are available to view on the app when you finish your work out.
The last sports watch feature is the autodetect exercise feature. The watch automatically detects what exercise you are doing and log it for you. This means, in theory, that if you forget to turn on your watch you won’t miss logging a workout on your stats. In practice, for me, I’ve found it less successful.
I have a goal set to workout 5 days out of 7, but the Fitbit automatically logs my twice daily dog walking as exercise, meaning I regularly smash my workout goal, even if I hadn’t been anywhere near a gym or a pair of trainers.
It’s also logged some pretty random things. Apparently I had a lovely bike ride last Friday, despite the fact that I don’t own a bike and what I was actually doing was walking to the coffee shop to eat cake. I also spent 20 minutes on an elliptical trainer on Wednesday, when what I was actually doing was having a gentle stroll home from an evening out at a restaurant.
You can delete and change the descriptions of these things in the app, but that requires a level of manual intervention that auto logging is surely meant to avoid?
Does the Versa hold up as a smartwatch? Well, sort of, is my answer.
You can read text messages, but there is no option to reply. You can also see incoming phone calls, and, I think, answer them from the watch, but this is obviously only any good if you are wearing a headset already to talk.
There are apps you can install, but at the moment they seem fairly limited. The Fitbit wallet should enable you the opportunity to pay for things using your watch, like THE FUTURE, but at the moment it only supports about 4 UK Banks, and the only one of those I have ever heard of is Santander.
I can, however, add my Starbucks card to it and use it to pay for my coffee, which is pretty exciting.
Other apps installed include a weather app, which is handy, but the temperatures are all in Fahrenheit, which means nothing to me and I can’t change, a coaching app, a music app called Deezer and the running app Strava.
A couple more features worth mentioning are the relax function, which I used several times when flying. It detects your heart rate and gives you breathing exercises to do to calm you. You can follow an onscreen circle, or turn on vibrations. I also love the silent alarm. The advantage being that you can set it right from the phone on your wrist, without having to log into the app.
At the moment I’m pretty much in love with my Versa. Although it lacks some of the sport specific features that I loved about my previous watch it is far better as a fitness tracker, and a million times more stylish for wearing every day.
Thanks to Currys for my Fitbit Versa. You can buy it here for £199.99.