Fitbit Versa 2: Stripped-back fitness tracker won’t let you down
Great battery life and a streamlined affair for €200, but overdependent on your phone
Fitbit Versa 2: You get time, battery life and two core stats – calories burned, steps and so on – on the display.
Product name: Fitbit Versa 2
Where to buy: fitbit.com
Fitbit knows about fitness trackers. It has been around since before Apple had a Watch and before fitness trackers could be incorporated into the average watch.
However, the competition has been fierce in the past few years and has claimed several casualties. Nike got out of the wearable hardware business, Jawbone began liquidation proceedings in 2017 and Kickstarter darling Pebble was bought by Fitbit after it went into insolvency in 2016.
Meanwhile, the big phone makers have embraced smartwatches. Samsung was an early entrant into the smartwatch market, but Apple is now up to series five of its watch and Huawei has just unveiled its Watch GT 2.
Yet Fitbit sees a market for something simpler. The Versa 2 won’t overwhelm you, but it won’t shortchange you either. You get the essentials with this smartwatch: notifications to your wrist for calls, messages, calendar invites and so on and apps for tracking your fitness, sleep and meditation.
Let’s be honest: how many apps do you have on your smartwatch? And how many of those do you use? If you want something that cuts out the clutter, then the Versa 2 gets right to the point.
When it comes to music you have options, sort of. You can connect Bluetooth headphones to your watch to listen to your music. But if you want phone-free music, you’ll need a premium Deezer account. You can also transfer music you own to your Versa 2, but you’ll need access to the Fitbit desktop app to do so.
The Versa 2 has a Spotify app but don’t get too excited. It’s only a controller for your music rather than a way to access it. If you want to listen to your playlist, you’ll need to bring your phone.
Spotify isn’t the only thing you’ll need the phone for. The Versa 2 relies on your phone for a GPS connection, so it’s only as good as the GPS you already have. You aren’t getting anything extra for your money here, although this may not be a priority for many Versa 2 users. But it also means you have to carry your phone with you for walking or running; not a big deal for some people but it’s an unnecessary weight that some of us could do without.
You do have other options, though. If you want GPS built in, you’ll need to stump up for the Ionic (an extra €50), or if you are an iOS user, go for the similarly priced Apple Watch Series 3. The new Apple watch will cost roughly double the Versa 2 and, for Android users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is almost €100 more in price. It all comes down to how much you are willing to pay.
One new addition that people may like is Alexa. Press and hold the side button and Amazon’s digital assistant will pop up on screen – soundlessly, because the Versa 2 has no speaker – and you can use the built-in microphone to ask your question. The answer will be displayed on the screen – a subtler way of dealing with Alexa – so you can use it in places you would normally avoid interacting with it. I used it to turn lights on and off, set the thermostat and disarm my security system. It can lag a little, but not hugely so.
The always-on display may be a little too cut down for your liking. The problem is the latest Apple watch has reset expectations for what you get with an always-on display. It offers slightly dimmed versions of your regular watch face, so you still get the look you prefer even when the display isn’t “active”.
The Versa 2 takes a different approach. You get time, battery life and two core stats – calories burned, steps and so on – on the display, but it’s a standard black-and-white display. The biggest customisation there is whether you choose an analogue or digital clock. It does the job, though, covering the bases even though it’s not quite as aesthetically pleasing.
Fitbit Pay is a nice extra, but only if your bank supports it. That means AIB and KBC, but not much else.
Battery life on the Versa 2 is excellent, lasting at least three days, even with the always-on display activated. Fitbit’s apps cover the essentials, so you won’t feel like you are missing out on much. Plus the watch itself doesn’t scream “fitness tracker”, so you can wear it almost anywhere. Alexa fans will also like the integration, although it isn’t essential.
The not so good
The Versa 2 doesn’t have built-in GPS, relying on your phone to provide such data. That means you’ll need to carry your phone with you if you want to track your run, for example, and you are dependant on the accuracy of your phone’s GPS too. That could cause issues, depending on the phone you use.
The display isn’t set to always-on by default; you’ll need to enable that after set-up. It’s also water resistant, so you can go swimming with it on. If you go for Fitbit’s premium offering (for a fee) you’ll get lots of insights into your health and fitness, plus some coaching on how to improve sleep, fitness and so on.
A solid update for Fitbit if you don’t mind being reliant on your phone for some features.