This year, Fitbit released two new smartwatches. Their premium model, the Fitbit Sense and the cheaper Fitbit Versa 3, the successor to the Versa 2. This new Versa 3 has some new features, such as a built-in GPS sensor and a new heart rate sensor. I tested the Fitbit Versa 3, the first Fitbit that I have mixed feelings about. In this article I list the pros and cons.
Fitbit Versa 3: the pros
1. Comfortable design
Little has changed in the design of the Fitbit Versa 3 compared to its predecessors. I am personally satisfied with that. The design has become a bit rounder, but you hardly feel that on the wrist, thanks to the low weight. Despite the addition of a GPS sensor, it remains a very slim smartwatch. I did not experience it during sleep, which is sometimes the case with thicker smartwatches.
In addition to the slight changes to the design, the wristbands have also been changed. Both the closure system and the way you attach the straps to the watch case have changed. The closing system takes some getting used to in the beginning.
The new click system to replace straps is an improvement. In the previous editions it was sometimes a bit of a mess to replace a band, via a pin that you had to slide aside. Now you press the button and the strap comes off. If you want to attach the strap to the watch case, you have to push the strap into the right place. That is much faster than before.
2. Built-in GPS
As with the entire Fitbit Versa family, you can also use the Versa 3 while practicing your favorite sport. You can choose from 20 different sport profiles. Here you can see which profiles are available.
After the Fibit Charge 4, the Fibit Versa 3 now also has a built-in GPS sensor. Fitbit is finally starting to realize that a built-in GPS sensor is crucial for a fitness tracker that you can exercise with. The previous Versa smartwatches always used Connected GPS or the GPS sensor of your phone. So you always had to bring your smartphone with you to keep track of your route while running, cycling or walking.
Thanks to the built-in GPS sensor, you can leave your smartphone at home, if you want to walk without music. I will come back to that later.
I am very satisfied with the built-in GPS sensor in the Fibit Versa 3. It was able to keep track of my routes and speed during my running or cycling workouts. In places where there were high buildings, I noticed that he sometimes lost the GPS connection, but this connection was quickly restored.
When I get the map after the workout, I see that the alignment follows the roads on the map acceptably.
When I compare these results with my Garmin sports watch and GPS connection of my smartphone, these results are close to each other. The GPS connection is established quickly, within 10 to 20 seconds .
3. The new UI
The Fitbit Versa 3 has been given new software. In addition to the revamped appearance of the software, you can also view many more things on the smartwatch itself. For example, you can view your number of steps over the entire week or your heart rate range of the day.
This change is not very extensive and you will still have to include the Fitbit app if you want to view your heart rate in detail, for example.
4. Battery life
The battery life of the Fitbit Versa 3 is fine. Without the always-on-screen, I can go on for 5 to 6 days without any problems, doing 1 or 2 training sessions using the GPS sensor. If I always used the screen on, the battery was empty after 3 to 4 days.
During a workout with a GPS connection, the battery loses about 10 percent per hour.
Charging the Versa 3 is also very fast. After about 90 minutes on the charger, the smartwatch is charged from 20 to 100 percent. Also new is the magnetic charging cable with which you charge the Fitbit Versa 3. This charging cable is very easy to connect to the Versa 3 and the magnetic force is strong enough so that it just comes loose with a small tap.
5. Smartphone notifications
You can receive notifications from your smartphone on the Fitbit Versa smartwatches, including the Fitbit Versa 3. If you receive a message, you can also answer it via the built-in microphone or predetermined answers. So you don’t have to keep looking for your smartphone.
6. The motivational effect
Fitbit has been at the forefront of fitness tracking for some time now. While you’re wearing the Fitbit Versa 3, your movement and heart rate are monitored throughout the day. This way you can see how many steps you have taken per day and how intensive your movement was. You can challenge yourself by linking goals to it, to exercise healthily. For example, there is the Activezone parameter, which shows you how many minutes you have moved in a certain heart rate zone. The WHO (World Health Organization) says that you should be active for at least 150 minutes a week, such as walking, running, cycling.
Fitbit links a points system here, where you earn points while actively moving. The goal is to try to gain 22 minutes a day and collect 150 minutes a week.
If you have achieved one of your goals, you will receive nice notifications on the Fitbit Versa 3 to congratulate you. If you sit still for too long, you will also receive notifications that want to motivate you to reach the 250 steps per hour.
In addition to this notification, Fitbit also tries to motivate you to exercise through various challenges that you can take on with yourself, family, friends or other members of the Fitbit community. If you have passed these challenges, you will receive a trophy.
Unfortunately, there are also some challenges behind the Fitbit Premium paywall. This brings me straight to the drawbacks of the Fitbit Versa 3
Fitbit Versa 3: the downsides
1. Fitbit Premium
I can’t hide it, but I’m not a fan of the paid plan ‘Fitbit Premium’. I have no problem with the fact that Fitbit provides a wide range of workouts and health advice if you take out a paid subscription. Finally, you also have to pay a subscription fee if you join a fitness club or visit a sports coach. You can also easily exercise the workouts that Fitbit offers at home, which is ideal during the Corona crisis. You have to view the workouts on your smartphone. Casting to a television is not possible.
I especially regret that Fitbit charges you for personal health parameters that the Versa 3 measures. So you have to pay for your own data. As a member you get extra parameters such as ‘Breathing Rate’ (number of breaths per minute), ‘Heart Rate Variability’ (variation between heartbeats), ‘Skin Temperature’, ‘Oxygen Saturation’ (oxygen in the blood) and ‘Resting Heartrate’. (resting heart rate).
This also means that in addition to the purchase price of the Versa 3, you also have to pay a subscription of 10.99 euros per month, if you want the full package.
Rest assured if you do not have this subscription, you will see the basic parameters, which are already useful, but we do not see this way of working at the competing manufacturers such as Samsung, Garmin and Polar. The principle ‘What you buy is what you get’ applies there.
2. Not for the ‘passionate’ athlete
Although you can now use the Fitbit Versa 3 perfectly during your run without taking your smartphone with you, I find it less suitable for the passionate athlete. Certainly not if you like to improve your sports performance or train for a specific goal.
First and foremost, the heart rate zones are very different from the heart rate zones that you get with other sports brands such as Polar and Garmin. Fitbit only divides it into 3 heart rate zones: Below zones, fat burn, and Peak zone. This is fine for someone who likes to work on his or her condition, but for the passionate athlete who wants to work very specifically, this falls short. Sports brands such as Garmin and Polar make a subdivision into 5 heart rate zones such as warm-up, calm, aerobic, threshold and maximum.
In addition, there is no possibility to create a personal training schedule with Fitbit. A personal training schedule tells you specifically in which heart rate zones you should train and is automatically adapted to your training. As I already indicated, you can follow workouts via Fitbit Premium, which are fine for people who would like some support during exercise. These workouts will also make you sweat and you will definitely feel fitter. Would you rather improve your sports performance, then you better look out for the sports brands.
The training screen that you see on the Fitbit Versa 3 is also very basic.
The main reason why the Fibit Versa 3 is not suitable for the ‘driven’ athlete is the heart rate monitor. It has been renewed from the previous Fitbit Versa series, with the PurePulse 2.0 sensor. Unfortunately, I noticed during my training that it does not always work accurately.
During my workouts I compared these with the heart rate values of a heart rate belt. It is well known that a heart rate belt reacts more quickly to heart rate changes, especially during interval training. In the meantime I have already tested a lot of optical heart rate monitors and I notice that with ‘normal’ endurance training the heart rate values of a heart rate belt and an optical heart rate monitor are the same.
With the optical heart rate monitor of the Fitbit Versa 3, the heart rate values for some workouts were very different from the heart rate belt.
Below you can see one in the heart rate graph of a running workout where I compare Garmin HRM TRI heart rate belt (purple) and the Fitbit Versa 3 (blue). This is an example where the heart rate values follow each other well.
In the second example, I compare the Fitbit Versa 3 (yellow) with the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (purple) and the Polar H9 heart rate belt (blue).
In this comparison we note that the Polar heart rate belt rises faster at the start than the smartwatch from Garmin and Fitbit.
This is quite normal because heart rate belt picks up heart rate changes faster on optical heart rate monitors. That is why it is wise to do interval training with a heart rate belt. You can also see this clearly in these comparisons, where the peaks of the heart rate belt are much higher than with the optical heart rate monitors.
Less normal are the deviations that the Fitbit Versa 3 shows in this comparison, where there was sometimes a deviation of 10 to 20 heart beats compared to the Garmin smartwatch and the Polar Heart Rate Band.
In itself I would not mind these short deviations, but in the following gait training these deviations are more present. I make a comparison between the Fitbit Versa 3 and a Garmin heart rate belt. The Fitbit Versa 3 measures heart rate values that are higher than the values measured by the heart rate belt throughout the workout. The deviations vary between 10 and 20 heart beats. As a result, there was a difference between the heart rate zones indicated by the Fitbit Versa 3 and the Garmin heart rate belt.
During my mountain bike training you also notice that the heart rate monitor of the Fitbit Versa 3 has a hard time. Below you can see a comparison of the Fitbit Versa 3 (yellow) and the Garmin heart rate belt (purple), where the heart rate values differ greatly. Of course, we often see this problem recurring with optical heart rate monitors. These have to absorb a lot of shocks to the wrist.
Finally, I also did the comparison during the strength training sessions, where I also saw that the heart rate values deviated. Just like with mountain bike training, this has to do with the fact that the heart rate is measured on the wrist. Regularly folding your wrist makes it more difficult for an optical heart rate monitor to take the measurement correctly. That is why I recommend to use a heart rate belt during cycling / mountain biking and strength training. Unfortunately, it is not possible to connect a heart rate belt to the Fitbit Versa 3.
Furthermore, I conclude from my training that the Fitbit Versa 3 is suitable for people who like to exercise, but does not mind if the heart rate values deviate from time to time. The Versa 3 is not recommended for the passionate athlete who regularly trains on heart rate. Hopefully we will see any improvements to the heart rate monitor in future updates.
3. Watchface-bound Spo2 measurement
Like many other smartwatch brands, Fitbit brought the Spo2 measurement to their smartwatches this year. The oxygen content in the blood is measured while sleeping. Fitbit only takes this measurement while you sleep, because they believe it gives the most accurate values. This means that you cannot perform this measurement manually, which is the case with other smartwatches such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the Garmin Venu .
In addition, the Spo2 measurement is only carried out if you use one specific watchface. This is a shame, because the great thing about the Fitbit smartwatches is that you can personalize them with different watch faces. I’ve asked Fitbit for feedback and they promise to fix it on the next firmware update.
4. Fitbit app
The Fitbit Versa 3 syncs with the Fitbit app. Through this app you get a comprehensive overview of all health parameters. In addition, you can also adjust settings via the app and download your apps or watchface on the Versa 3.
When you start the Fitbit app, you immediately see a dashboard of your most important health parameters, which I personally think is good. A disadvantage of the Fitbit app is that it is not always clear where you can find certain settings. Sometimes you have to tap anywhere three times to get to the right setting. Especially if you use the app for the first time, this is a real quest.
5. Slow response speed
On the Fitbit Versa 3, I often encountered delays, such as when opening the ‘Today’ app, where you can view your current health parameters. It takes a few seconds for it to open, but there are also regular delays when switching on the screen with a wrist movement.
6. Difficult operation
The Fitbit Versa 3 now also has the touch-sensitive button, which we also saw with the Fitbit Charge 4. You use this to go back from a menu or a shortcut to an app, such as music controls. I find this button very disappointing. One moment I have to press it several times before it reacts, the other time it reacts by a movement of my wrist or by touching water. In addition, the position of this button is a little too much towards the arm, where I regularly pulled out arm hair. Just give me the ‘real’ buttons that were present with the previous Versa smartwatches.
Furthermore, you only have the touch-sensitive screen to operate the Fitbit Versa 3. I don’t always find the use of a touch-sensitive screen very convenient. This does not always respond well when your fingers are wet or itself reacts to water falling on the screen, such as in the shower.
7. Not all functions are available yet
In addition to a fitness tracker, the Fitbit Versa 3 only has smartwatch functions. I already mentioned the different watch faces above, but you can also install apps. You can choose from many different apps, but I have to admit that few really appeal to me. I mainly use the apps that are already pre-installed such as the apps Calendar, Weather, Training, Timer, Alarm, Watchfaces and Find my phone. The other apps that you will find in the Fitbit app are mainly health-related and you will not find Google apps here. For this you have to go to Google’s Wear OS smartwatches.
In addition to a built-in microphone, the Fitbit Versa 3 also has a built-in speaker. This would allow you to make phone calls via the smartwatch, but these features wouldn’t roll out until later this year. With the Versa 2, there was also the option to use the Amazon Alexa assistant to set certain questions, such as the weather or set a timer. The Google Assistant would also be added later this year. So this means you don’t have all the features yet when you buy the Fitbit Versa 3, but they are coming.
8. Little difference in functionality from the previous Versa 2
Compared to the Fitbit Versa 2, the Versa 3 mainly has hardware modifications, such as a slightly larger screen, a different heart rate monitor, a built-in microphone, built-in GPS sensor, different wristbands and rounded watch case. In terms of software, we see outside the new UI, no difference compared to the Versa 2. It performs the same fitness tracking as the Fitbit Versa 3. You only need to bring your smartphone if you like to keep track of your route during outdoor sports.
Conclusion Fitbit Versa 3
As I mentioned at the start of my review of the Fitbit Versa 3, this is the first Fitbit I have my doubts about. The Fitbit Versa 3 is, like many other Fitbit devices, a great fitness tracker. You can track a lot with it, such as the number of steps you take, how active your movement is, how your heart rate evolves during the day and you can get an excellent overview of your sleep cycle. If you sit still for too long, you will receive messages on the Versa 3 that you still have to take some steps. You can also challenge friends or other members of the Fitbit community and get more motivation to exercise. If you achieve your goals you will receive badges and trophies.
Thanks to the good battery life, you can wear the Versa 3 for several days in a row without having to recharge it. The smartwatch functions also ensure that you can personalize the smartwatch with watch faces and you can immediately respond to messages from the Versa 3.
The operation via the touch-sensitive button, which we already knew from the Fitbit Charge 4, is not always that smooth. I prefer to use a ‘real’ button, as we know from the Fitbit Versa 2.
In addition to their fitness trackers, Fitbit also has a subscription service called ‘Fitbit Premium’. Fitbit offers workouts or guided programs through this service. I understand that you have to pay for workouts or guided programs, but in addition to these things you also get to see more health parameters. For example, you only get an overview of your Spo2 measurements if you pay for this service. This means that in addition to the purchase of the smartwatch, you still have to take out a subscription if you want to see all health parameters that the Versa 3 measures.
Thanks to the built-in GPS sensor, you can now accurately track your route and speed during outdoor sports.
Still, I wouldn’t recommend the Fitbit Versa 3 for the ‘passionate’ athlete. During my testing period, I noticed that the new heart rate monitor had not always measured my heart rate accurately. For heart rate training where you want to train in a ‘specific’ heart rate zone, this is a big disadvantage. This could easily be solved by using a heart rate belt, but you cannot pair it with a Fitbit smartwatch. There are also no ‘personal’ training schedules available to prepare you for an event. That is why I recommend that as a ‘driven’ athlete, you should look at sports brands such as Garmin and Polar.
I would recommend this Fitbit Versa 3 for people who like to be more concerned with their health and who like to go to the fitness or walk the block. If you have a Fitbit Versa 2, I would not immediately upgrade to the Versa 3. Currently the Versa 2 can do about the same as the Versa 3, only you have to take your smartphone with you to measure your speed during outdoor sports.