There was a time about three or four years ago when every manufacturer was throwing its hat into the wearable ring and designing a smartwatch. Since then many have fallen by the wayside, leaving the likes of Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Fitbit and Garmin to lead the way.
Among those handful of companies dominating the smartwatch space, there is a clear split in terms of the types of smartwatches – fitness or lifestyle. Occupying the latter is Apple, with the Apple Watch akin to a luxury chronograph. Fighting on the fitness side of things are Fitbit, Garmin and more recently Huawei and Samsung.
This brings us to the Fitbit Versa 2, which is the company’s latest smartwatch. We were big fans of the original Versa, particularly for its jack of all trades functionality and value for money.
So how does the new addition to the lineup stack up against its predecessor and the competition?
We took the Versa 2 for a spin over the past few weeks to find out. Here’s what we learned in that time.
The Versa 2 looks quite different to its fore-bearer. Gone is the angular frame for something a bit smoother. In fact the very first thing people think when they see the Versa 2 is that it looks a lot like the Apple Watch. It’s not just us, the Versa 2 could just be sitting on a table charging and people would ask which Apple Watch that is.
Whether that is a compliment is up for debate, but regardless it’s clear that the change in design from Fitbit is intentional, and the firm is clearly opting for a different kind of user with the Versa 2.
What kind of user is that precisely? We’ll get to that shortly, but let’s touch on some of the other design elements of the device.
In terms of size at 25.07mm (length and width) the Versa 2 doesn’t feature the largest display among most other smartwatches, which are normally around the 36mm to 42mm range. While this does afford you a sleeker device around your wrist, it does mean that the there isn’t much screen real estate to navigate. This an issue that those of us with pork sausage fingers for digits will soon come to realise.
One of the other more finicky elements of the Versa 2 is the mechanism to detach and reattach the watch straps, which despite our best efforts and several minutes later required the assistance of someone with more nimble fingers to complete.
These are not dealbreaker design elements, but certainly something to consider if you take a more robust approach to wearables.
Now for the features and specifications. Here Fitbit has not changed things too drastically from the previous generation. Swiping from left to right switches between the watch face and other settings/modes.
There’s the usual suspects, such as the ability to track different types of workouts (run, swim, treadmill, gym), along with a timer, a breathing application and links to other fitness apps such as Strava. Fitbit has also added integration for Spotify, but the Versa 2 only as a player, which means your smartphone will be the primary source of the streaming. We feel like Fitbit missed a trick here, as being able to stream natively would have been a great feature to distinguish the Versa 2 from other offerings.
In terms of actual tracking things appear accurate for the most part. Steps, calories and heart rate are all captured and pulled up with ease, but with more specialist workouts like biking, standalone apps provide a more detailed experience. The same goes for running, which if you wish to take seriously requires data such as native GPS tracking to truly come to life. The Versa 2 has GPS tracking, but it’s facilitated via your smartphone, which again feels like a missed opportunity.
If you want to track the basics and are more focused on a generally healthy lifestyle, the Versa 2 is capable of capturing the data needed, with its sleep functionality in particular being helpful. Should you wish to take things a bit more seriously though, a more fine-tuned smart or sports watch is needed here.
A week’s worth
The other important element for a smartwatch, apart from being smart, is not requiring a visit to the charging station every day. It’s an issue that’s plagued the Apple Watch for example, but that isn’t the case here.
Fitbit estimates a battery life from a full charge at around six days. In our experience with the Versa 2, that’s an accurate estimation, with it taking a little over five days before we started buzzing and charge point was required.
All in all that’s a solid amount of battery life, and certainly on par with some of the newer smartwatches on the market. There are still some options which exceed this mark though, like the Huawei Watch GT 2.
That said if battery life is a key component to your next smartwatch purchase, the Versa 2 is not going to let you down, with it warning you well in advance of a charge being needed.
At R3 999 (RRP) the standard model of Fitbit Versa 2 does not come cheap. You can see what the premium price tag gets you, as the smartwatch feels well made. The problem with its pricing is the fact that you can get more fitness-focused and feature rich smartwatches at a similar or slightly higher price tag.
With the Versa 2 being more about lifestyle than fitness, it feels more at home in a yoga studio than out on a bike trail, and that’s perfectly fine, especially as there is no do-it-all option on the market at the moment.
If you’re going to go for the Versa 2, be aware that it may not be best suited if your lifestyle is more outdoors than indoors. Added to this is the fact that it is not a significant enough step up from the original Versa, which means some careful consideration needs to be given before upgrading.
When it comes to this latest offering then, our advice is that it wouldn’t hurt to weigh up your other options first.
FULL DISCLOSURE: THE VERSA 2 WAS GIVEN TO HYPERTEXT AS A SEEDING DEVICE BY FITBIT.