Things are about to hit fever pitch in the tech world over the next few months, with IFA 2019 in Berlin and Apple expected to show off the iPhone 11 and Apple Watch 5. Before that though, we’ve got Fitbit.
Fitbit has just announced Versa 2 – the successor to the brand’s most mass-market smartwatch. This is the wearable that seems like the most direct competitor to the Apple Watch, offering a fitness-focused device that feels like it cares just as much about design.
The big new feature this time around is the introduction of the Alexa. Amazon’s voice assistant is mainly associated with home-based smart speakers like the Echo, but Fitbit is hoping it’ll bring something extra to the Versa 2. You bring Alexa to life with a long press of the single button on the side – there doesn’t seem to be an always-listening function here – and then you can ask it all the usual Alexa questions. It can control your smart home, tell you about the weather and so on.
What’s more interesting is the health-focused questions you can ask. During our initial demo with the device we were told you can ask it for local yoga sessions, how many calories are in your evening portion of chocolate mousse, or where the closest local gym is.
I have never been completely convinced by Alexa on anything other than a smart speaker, so it’ll be interesting to actually use it for an extended period and see if it adds anything useful.
Fitbit has altered the design slightly for the Versa 2, smoothing out the sides and slightly reducing the bezel around the display. The OLED display is bright and Fitbit told me it has updated the internals to make scrolling and swiping through the interface quicker.
Spotify integration is here too, however you can’t save playlists for offline listening, only control songs already playing on your phone. This is a shame, although Fitbit did say there’s always the chance offline support will come later.
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Another disappointment is that the Fitbit Versa 2 doesn’t fix the main issue with the first model – there’s still no actual GPS support here. Instead, there’s Connected GPS which requires a phone attached to function. Want to accurately track your runs without hauling your phone around too? This isn’t going to be the watch for you.
The rest of the actual Versa 2 specs are very similar to the first version. It’s swim-proof, offers 24/7 heart rate tracking and packs all the same sensors as before.
Battery life has been improved though. Fitbit is claiming 5+ days of continued use, dropping to 2+ days if you enable the new always-on clock mode. This will continually show the time on the face without forcing you to manually bring it to life. Fitbit Pay is now supported across all versions too.
You’ll be able to pre-order the new watch from today (August 28) with shipping commencing September 15. Prices start at £199/$199 for the standard model rising to £219/$229 for a Special Edition version that’ll ship with two straps. There will be multiple colours options available and a load of new band options, too.
Fitbit Premium is coming later in the year
The other big announcement from Fitbit is a $9.99/£7.99 a month Premium service that expands the app’s coaching abilities dramatically. It aims to help you eat, sleep and train better with personalised challenges and insights along with customised training regimes that go beyond what the app currently offers.
During our briefing we were shown an example of someone wishing to exercise more and sleep better. The Premium service would work slowly, with small changes that eventually grew over time. There was even the option to print off a whole report at the end to take to a doctor.
Fitbit said the service will evolve and change over time, eventually offering bespoke personal training from health coaches.
Challenges have always been a big part of the Fitbit app and with Premium they’ll be, you guessed it, Premium challenges. These will be unique to you and include things like Fitbit Bingo which will require you to complete multiple challenges over a week to mark off rows on a bingo card.
Fitbit Premium will begin rolling out later in 2019, with more features arriving in 2020. They’ll be a 7-day trial available too.