The Fitbit Versa 2 is a solid smartwatch-come-fitness tracker that will meet most casual or newbie gym goers' needs. However, the lack of an in-built GPS and a lacking developer app store will stop it appealing to serious athletes and dedicated smartwatch users.
- Decent battery life
- Good screen for the price
- Alexa support
- No inbuilt GPS
- No local Spotify playback
- Review Price: £199
- Alexa integration
- 5+ day battery life
- OLED display
- Spotify app
The Fitbit Versa 2 is the latest smartwatch-come-fitness tracker from the iconic wearable brand behind some of the best fitness trackers.
It aims to take on key rivals including the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch Active 2 by offering users a simple to use smartwatch that can double as an entry-level fitness tracker.
For the most part it’s a great wearable that’ll meet most users needs thanks to the addition of Spotify music and Amazon Alexa support. At £200 it’s also significantly cheaper than the Apple Watch 5.
But with the Apple Watch 3 now the same price, and featuring a significantly more developed app ecosystem, its appeal as a smartwatch is a little hampered. The lack of an in-built GPS is another key issue that will continue to put off even moderately serious athletes.
Fitbit Versa 2 Design – It looks like pretty much every other smartwatch
The Versa 2 looks fairly similar to the original Fitbit Versa. It has the same square screen, available in small and large size options. There’s also a slightly more expensive £219 version that comes with a 90 day subscription to Fitbit Premium trial and two band/strap options.
Some people may find the design a little boring, especially compared to the circular Galaxy Watch Active 2, but I personally like the Versa 2’s utilitarian, purely functional look.
The square OLED touchscreen remains one of the best you’ll get on a watch at the Fitbit Versa 2’s price. The square panel offers wonderfully deep blacks, and though Fitbit hasn’t quoted a figure for its max brightness, it remains legible even when caught in direct sunlight mid-run. It also has a nifty always-on option. The feature works the same way it does on most smartwatches, instructing the Versa to never power down, so you can always see the time and key data on its home screen.
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The control interface is also very intuitive, featuring touch-input controls and a single physical button on the watch’s left side. A short press of the button takes you back to your previous screen, while a long press activates Alexa.
The watch’s mics do a decent job picking up questions and commands indoors and work reasonably well outside, as long as it’s not too windy – though I still think using voice commands in public makes you look like a crazy person.
The metal chassis used is also suitably rugged and easily survived an accidental encounter with a free weight mid-work out. The 50 metre water resistance rating also means you can wear it in the shower and pool.
It also has most of the under-the-hood functionality you’d expect, including storage space for up to 300 songs for local playback.
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Fitbit Versa 2 fitness tracking – It’s still missing a GPS and key apps and services
While all this sounds awesome, there is still one key issue with the Versa 2’s hardware: it doesn’t have an in-built GPS.
This has been a constant problem with Fitbit’s smartwatches, that puts them technically behind equivalently priced trackers from the likes of Garmin. It means you’ll have to bring your smartphone with you, with connected GPS turned on, if you want to get truly accurate location data when exercising with the Fitbit Versa 2. Without it distances can occasionally be a little off. On a track I know is roughly 5.3km I had variations of 5.0-5.7km during testing.
The lack of an in-built GPS is particularly odd given the Versa 2’s local music playback functionality, which makes it an ideal choice for outdoor runners that don’t want to take their phone with them on runs.
Outside of this, the Fitbit Versa 2 ticks most of the right boxes for a fitness tracker offering a robust selection of activity tracking options, plus heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. Specifically it can track 15 different exercises, plus some general wellness features like “guided breathing sessions” and “female health” (period tracking).
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What makes the Versa great is how it offers data to its users. Every metric and bit of advice the watch gives is presented in simple to understand metrics. This make it quick and easy to see how you performed post workout and generally gauge for your overall “Cardio Fitness” level – which feels like a rebranded version of the more established VO2 Max estimate that Garmin trackers offer.
The data on offer isn’t as detailed as what you’ll get from Garmin Forerunners, and won’t be enough to satisfy serious athletes, but it’s wonderfully laid out in easy to understand language, so even newbie joggers and gym goers can understand it. The app also has a useful question function that lets you get a brief summary of what the metric you’re looking at refers to. The same is true of sleep tracking, which offers a simple, easy to understand score (higher is better) to judge how well you’re resting.
The Versa 2’s ease of use is further aided by the inclusion of “SmartTrack”. This is a nifty feature that lets the watch auto detect when you’re exercising and start tracking your workout. It’s a nice touch that adds to the Versa 2’s overall ease of use. It worked well during testing, easily picking up when I was cycling or running automatically.
The only downside is that despite stellar work from Fitbit, its application offering is a little limited. Fitbit’s made a big song and dance about the Versa 2’s new Spotify app, and for the most part the app works great when your phone is connected. The issue is that you can’t cache music onto the Versa 2 from Spotify, so there’s not offline playback without your phone connected. You can cache playlists from Deezer, which makes the missing functionality feel a little odd.
The app store offering has all the basics, but again, doesn’t match competing ecosystems. Forget Apple’s WatchOS, Fitbit still hasn’t yet matched Tizen. It also has a heavy fitness focus, with the biggest names being things like Strava and Runkeeper. The same is true of its payments offering. You’ll be limited to Fitbit Pay, which still doesn’t work with most UK banks. Things are a little better in the US but the offering is still leagues behind Apple’s offering.
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Fitbit Versa 2 Battery life – Great, as long as you turn always on off
Thankfully the Fitbit Versa 2 more than delivers in one key area – battery life. Fitbit quotes the Fitbit Versa 2 as offering more than five days use from a single charge, with the always-on display off.
With regular use I found the claim was, if anything, a little pessimistic. In general I managed to get between five and seven days out of it. Regular use entailed using the Versa as my main smartwatch and fitness tracker with the always-on display option off. This included constantly checking the time and incoming notifications during the day, controlling music streaming from my phone and tracking my morning 30 minute workout.
With the always on display option turned on the battery life halved, and I generally got around two to three days use from a single charge. Even with the lower figure, this puts the Versa 2 ahead of the Apple Watch 5, which generally runs out of charge in one to two days.
The only annoyance here is that the Versa 2 uses a fairly clunky proprietary charger. This means you’ll have to lug yet another cable around when traveling.
Should I buy the Fitbit Versa 2?
If you want a pretty looking entry level fitness tracker that can double as a basic smartwatch, then you could do a lot worse than the Fitbit Versa 2. The Versa 2 doesn’t excel in any particular area, aside from battery life, but it manages to get all the basics right.
For more serious users the lack of an in-built GPS and a small app store will be an issue. Moderately serious athletes and above would be better off investing in a Garmin Vivo or Forerunner tracker. The heavily discounted Apple Watch 3 will similarly be a better choice for people after a dedicated smartwatch.
The Fitbit Versa 2 is a solid smartwatch-come-fitness tracker that will meet most casual or newbie gym goers’ needs. However, the lack of an in-built GPS and a lacking developer app store will stop it appealing to serious athletes and dedicated smartwatch users.
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