Those looking for a smartwatch nowadays have plenty of choice. The Fitbit Versa 2 is the second generation of the popular smartwatch from the American brand and has again been improved on a number of points compared to its predecessor. We have tested the Fitbit Versa 2 in recent weeks and in this review you can read our experiences.
This is the Fitbit Versa 2
When we attended the official presentation of the Fitbit Versa 2 at the end of the summer, the always-on screen was the big innovation. We did not know at that time that Apple would also come up with a smartwatch with an always-on screen. In appearance, the two resemble each other, but they set very different accents. In terms of price range, there is also quite a difference. While the Apple Watch Series 5 is in the shops from 449 euros , you pay less than 200 euros for the Fitbit Versa 2 .
Is this second generation Fitbit Versa a good alternative to the Apple Watch Series 5 ? We have tested it to find out the most important plus and minus points and of course we look with the eye of an Apple Watch user. But at the same time, we keep in mind that you pay less than 200 euros for the Fitbit Versa 2. In terms of price range, this sporty smartwatch comes closer to the Apple Watch Series 3 , which is now in stores for 229 euros. But it doesn’t have an always-on screen.
Fitbit’s first smartwatch was the Ionic, but they’re more successful with the Versa. It looks more refined, has enough functions and is a lot cheaper. This combination appeals to many more people. The Versa 2 has some new functions, such as the aforementioned always-on screen, playing music via Spotify and new voice commands via Alexa.
Fitbit Versa 2 in short
These are the main features of the Fitbit Versa 2:
- Available in black, gray and rose gold
- Rectangular screen with narrower bezels
- 300 x 300 pixel AMOLED touchscreen with always-on
- Aluminum housing
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 802.11 b / g / n Wi-Fi
- Runs on its own operating system
- Waterproof up to 50 meters
- Battery life: approx. 5 days
- Recommended price of € 199.95
Versa 2 design: slightly more refined
In terms of design, the Versa 2 has not changed much compared to its predecessor. Fitbit and Apple both opt for a rectangular screen and we like that. A round screen might be nicer for watch faces, but if you want to read information, a rectangular watch face is much more practical. More data fits.
Compared to the earlier Versa, the Versa 2 has the same look with rounded corners, but with narrower bezels. The Fitbit brand name is also no longer on the front cover. That took up quite a wide strip on the earlier models.
Fitbit sells one size smartwatch, suitable for most wrists.
The Versa 2 now has a new AMOLED screen, which is slightly larger and still easy to read, even in direct sunlight. This AMOLED screen gives the smartwatch a better quality appearance. Operating with sweaty hands is still a problem, but so is the Apple Watch.
However, the always-on screen is the biggest innovation: it shows the time, date and battery status, even when you are not using the watch. You also see two small rings for steps and workouts. The display is in black and white and changes to color when you activate the screen. While Apple has made an always-on variant of every clock face, Fitbit is not: you get to see one standard minimalist ‘sleep mode clock face’. That is a logical choice, because now an energy-efficient screen could be designed with a minimal amount of information.
The first Versa had three buttons, but with the Fitbit Versa 2 that has been reduced to one button on the left. It has some consequences for the operation, but we were still able to find our way quickly. That is because now more functions can be operated via the touchscreen. With a hardcore sports watch like the Garmin Fenix you may need several buttons, but with this fitness smartwatch a single button is better. Fitbit previously introduced it with the Versa Lite . You can go back with the push of a button. If you hold down the button, you start Alexa or Fitbit Pay.
Exercise with the Fitbit Versa 2
Fitbit is originally a manufacturer of wearables. With the acquisition of Pebble, they acquired the technology to also make smartwatches. That is why we also tested the Versa 2 during exercise.
It is of course not a typical sports watch, such as those from Garmin and Polar that you can use for triathlons. They also look much more functional. But if you are looking for a watch with sports functions that you can also wear at the office without any problems, then you are in the right place with the Versa 2. That also applies to the Apple Watch.
While running, the Fitbit Versa 2 only shows two values, such as your heart rate and distance traveled. It includes Connected GPS, so you will need to bring your iPhone if you want accurate readings. The Apple Watch has independent GPS, also the cheaper Series 3 . You can also run without an iPhone, but then the measurements are less accurate.
The Fitbit Versa 2 can automatically detect and record activities such as walking, running, and cycling, but it does have some limitations. You will not see real-time statistics during these automatically logged activities. This only happens if you have started a workout manually. Furthermore, the RunDetect function only works if you bring your iPhone with you. The automatic pause function is useful, for example if you have to wait at a pedestrian crossing. The measurement will start again automatically when you start moving, so you will have to stand still at traffic lights and the like.
With the arrival of the Versa 2, Fitbit’s new premium service also started. You can set goals for ten euros a month and you will receive adapted training programs and advice. You also get more insight into your sleeping behavior and more data in the field of health and fitness. We could not test this yet, as it has not yet been rolled out in Europe. I also wonder whether I would be willing to pay about ten euros a month for such a service.
Fitbit Versa 2 with Alexa
The Fitbit Versa 2 also works with voice commands. It is not the first smartwatch to offer this, but it can be very easy if you already use it for your smart home . The only point is: Alexa does not work in Dutch yet, so you will have to speak English.
You must have an Alexa account to use it. You can then ask about the weather, set timers and alarms or control your smart home . You can also start a workout with it. There are also functions that do not work, such as making a phone call with a voice command.
We tried this a few times but didn’t really like it. You often have to wait while Alexa is ‘thinking’. Because we usually have the iPhone at hand, it is often faster to look up something immediately.
The Fitbit doesn’t work with Siri – and of course not with Apple Pay . So you miss a few things that are standard with the Apple Watch and that you need to think a little more about with the Fitbit.
Measure sleep with the Fitbit Versa 2
If there is one point where Fitbit leads the way, it is sleep tracking. The Versa 2 introduces two new sleep features: Sleep Score and Smart Wake. They are new to the Versa 2, but they also come to the earlier models with heart rate monitor. The sleep mode also disables notifications and turns off the screen between specific times.
With Sleep Score you get a score between 0 and 100. The higher the score, the better you slept. For this you have to keep wearing the Versa at night, which I as an Apple Watch user was not used to. Especially since the Versa has a somewhat more sweat-sensitive strap, I prefer not to cover my wrist at night any longer.
I also found it a bit more difficult to change the watch straps with the Versa, now that I am used to the Apple Watch. Fitbit speaks of a ‘quick release’ system, but it is still a bit of a hassle.
You will be assigned a score based on several factors, which includes your recovery. Usually the Versa 2 counted well, but it also happened that during a restless night, according to Fitbit’s measurements, I only slept for an hour. I would have preferred it to have been counted as bad sleep and not as awake.
Smart Wake is a feature that I thought had such a feature in fitness trackers for much longer. This function allows you to wake up more calmly. You choose an interval of 30 minutes and you will be woken up at exactly the right time within this time period. For me, that’s 7:30 AM to 8:00 AM, and that means the Fitbit Versa 2 should wake me up by 8:00 AM at the latest. Unfortunately, that could not be tested yet, as Fitbit will roll it out later. I also got confused with the normal alarm function. It also woke me up, but not at a variable time.
The great thing about such vibrations is that your partner is not shaken by your alarm clock or iPhone alarm. Since the vibrations are quite subtle, it is a pleasant way to wake up. It’s not like someone is shaking your wrist roughly.
Taking music with you on the Fitbit Versa 2
The most recent Apple Watch has 32GB of storage, which is more than some iPhones ! This is not only for apps, but also for taking music with you. I don’t need that much storage at all. I would like to have the option to bring some music with me, but a few gigabytes is enough for me.
With the Fitbit Versa 2 you can take 300 songs with you for offline listening, which is a great number. You can now also use a Spotify app on the Fitbit Versa 2, for which you must be a Spotify Premium subscriber. You can then use the buttons to control music playback. This was already possible on the Apple Watch.
Battery life on the Fitbit Versa 2: one week
One of the reasons why you would choose a Fitbit smartwatch is that the battery life is always longer. It concerns five days of general use and two days if you set the screen to always on. In practice, it turned out to be a bit longer (a week and 3 days respectively if you don’t wear it at night), so Fitbit isn’t exaggerating. And it lasts a lot longer than the Apple Watch, which really gives up after 1.5 days with always-on. You can’t get a battery life of five days with the Apple Watch, but you can with the Fitbit Versa 2.
You will then have to use the huge charger. Apple’s is a compact white disc with a magnet, while Fitbit sticks to the giant ‘clip’. You have to check that you put the Versa 2 in the right way, with the contacts in the right place. A plus is that this clip construction keeps the watch in place.
It’s just a bit more difficult to put down. With the screen down? That is not nice. And there is also no handy Night clock mode (‘Night Stand’), where you can easily read the Apple Watch on your bedside table. A nice holder for your nightstand? There are for the Apple Watch, but you miss out if you have a Fitbit. Maybe because Fitbit expects you to just keep wearing the smartwatch overnight.
Hardware: Still no GPS
What we find to be a setback is that Fitbit still doesn’t have GPS built into the watch. This is actually quite special for a sports watch: you want to go for a run without always having to take your iPhone with you. If you participate in a sports competition, you do not want any unnecessary hassle and you are better off with the more expensive (but also more bulky) Ionic. We would have liked to see Fitbit immediately added the GPS with this new version as an extra. Other sporty smartwatches have it, such as the Samsung Galaxy Active. From the Series 2 it is also in the Apple Watch.
There is, however, a faster processor in the Versa 2. This is a less visible, but very welcome improvement. The original Versa was not very slow, but now that we have tried the new model you immediately notice the better performance. Everything works just a bit smoother, such as scrolling through screens and starting apps.
Apps on the Fitbit Versa 2
If you are used to the Apple Watch, you will have to get used to the offer in Fitbit’s store. It contains about 450 apps, such as those from Starbucks, Flipboard and Uber. Dutch and Belgian parties are less present on the Fitbit. With Fitbit you can choose from almost 4,000 clock faces, while with the Apple Watch this is still limited to Apple’s own designs.
At Fitbit you have the option to use Fitbit Pay, if your bank supports it. Because we don’t have a suitable bank account for this, we couldn’t test this, but it works in the same way as Apple Pay: by holding your smartwatch at the payment terminal.
Another thing you are used to on the Apple Watch are the many notifications that you can set per app. You can also respond to incoming phone calls. You can read chat messages, but you cannot respond to them. People with an Android smartphone can: they can dictate an answer through the Versa 2’s microphone.
Overall, the Fitbit Versa 2 is much less of a smartwatch than the Apple Watch. You could consider it better as a fitness tracker with some smart functions.
- Long battery life of approx. 1 week
- Always on screen (can be turned off optionally)
- Larger screen with narrower bezels
- Compact and lightweight
- AMOLED screen is easy to read outdoors
- Much attention to sports and sleep functions
- Alexa function less useful in the Netherlands
- Few productivity and smartwatch functions
- Fewer apps than Apple Watch
- Watch straps sweat a little faster
- Changing watch straps is more difficult than on the Apple Watch
- Responding to messages only works with Android
Conclusion Fitbit Versa 2
If you want a fitness smartwatch, then you’re in the right place with the Fitbit Versa 2. You get more functions and better specs than the original version for the same price. The Fitbit Versa 2 has been improved on several points. But really big leaps have not been made and there are still a few functions missing, such as GPS. Also, Fitbit still doesn’t support HealthKit. That is a conscious choice by the company, but it makes it more difficult for us to recommend the Versa 2.
The price of the Fitbit Versa 2 is a lot lower than that of the Apple Watch. But if you are up to your ears in the Apple ecosystem, then you run into a few limitations with the Fitbit Versa 2 that you do not have to worry about with an Apple Watch. For example, Alexa is not very useful in the Netherlands and the number of apps is limited. That may be a reason not to choose the Versa 2, but rather the Apple Watch Series 3. It costs about the same but is the better choice for Apple users because everything is already arranged for you.
However, if you are a Fitbit fan, then the Fitbit Versa 2 is an absolute must. Much nicer than the Ionic and with more functions than the previous model.