Fitbit Versa 2 Review: Good, But Not Smart
By Dzof Azmi October 7, 2019
- Pros: A great set of sensors that record activity, movement and heart rate that works
- Cons: Extensive set of extra features that ties watch to phone, but fails to convince
I am not ashamed to admit that for some years now I have teetered on the wrong side of a hundred kilos, which gives some context on how unsuitable a choice I am to review the Fitbit Versa 2. Which, my editor feels, is exactly the right reason why I should try it out.
Perhaps he hoped that after trying it out for two weeks on loan, it would become something I never knew I needed.
I have never considered buying or even trying a Fitbit before, so I approached it with absolutely no expectations of what it can do which, for the Versa 2, is a heck of a lot. The earliest Fitbits were sensors on a strap which did nothing much more than that. Over the years, smartwatches became accepted as both fashion- and tech-wear, and the Versa 2 now nudges it even closer to the “smart” end of the spectrum.
What can it do? Apart from tracking your steps, your movement and your heart rate, the Versa 2 also now has access to "hundreds of apps", can store and play music, has voice-to-text reply, and Fitbit Pay. Which is a lot for a reviewer to get through in a fortnight.
Your Day – Through Your Watch
The watch pretty much just works out of the box, (the only hiccup was making sure which app needed to be installed - Hint: It’s called “Fitbit” in the Play Store). The face is streamlined and light, especially compared to some of the clunkier android smartwatches, and you almost don't notice it on your wrist it as you go about your day.
The same can be said about the sensors: they just work. I now know that my pulse while writing this is 65, but it will rise to 80 when I get up, walk to the fridge, and nibble on a square of chocolate.
The pedometer also works well. It's about 3,000 steps to and back from my favourite local nasi lemak shop, and the watch tells me that burns approximately 800 Cals. Which is good, since a plate of nasi lemak with a piece of chicken is slightly under that. (Nutrition information for the fried chicken piece could be searched for in the Fitbit app on the phone, but not nasi lemak – I had to look for that elsewhere.)
All this data analysis and feedback is done quickly and straight to the point. The watch buzzes and vibrates when you hit certain milestones, or – more relevantly – if it thinks you’re falling shy of it. But it never feels like nagging. It's more like, "Hey, look at this interesting thing".
Another surprising piece of data analysis happens when you sleep. The next morning, it examines your heart rate and general movement over the night. I never thought about it, but it seems I often sleep less than four hours a night and very rarely more than six. This doesn't contribute to a great Sleep Score (out of 100, I am scoring about 60), and the very obvious and clear conclusion is that I should sleep earlier and for longer when possible.
So I wore this Fitbit when I was sleeping, I wore it when I was awake, and thanks to it being waterproof, I also wore it when I was showering. Which meant taking it off every few days to get it charged felt a bit strange, like I was removing something that was a part of me, more so than I don’t have my phone in my pocket.
A smartwatch that isn’t smart enough
Unfortunately, the Versa 2 doesn’t really play that well with my phone.
It was more difficult than it should have been to try and get my phone to pass notifications to the watch. And when it did, it barely worked for a day before something I did somewhere unknowingly messed up a setting.
In that short space of time when it worked, I found that the speech to text function worked as expected, although scrolling through messages on the watch was a bit fiddly.
It also has Spotify and Alexa integration, but you need a premium account for the former to work, and Alexa for the latter, so I couldn't try that out. It also has Fitbit Pay which will allow you to put credit cards and certain transportation payment systems on the watch, but only if it is supported by your provider - and Malaysia has nothing which supports Fitbit Pay at all.
In fact, because it's not an Android device, a lot of things that “just works” when using the phone “just doesn’t” with the Fitbit. Even transferring music is a hassle (you need a mac or a PC, you need to install some software, and you need to manually transfer the songs each time).
It cannot be denied that as a set of sensors, the Fitbit sets the gold standard. It works out of the box, and works well. If all you want to do at the end of the day is call up the app to see how active you were today, the Fitbit quietly steps forward and presents your data to you with little hassle and less fuss.
However, if you want a Smart Watch, then the Fitbit Versa 2 will let you down. Although it ticks all the boxes of what is needed, it doesn’t do it smoothly, reliably, and unobtrusively – unlike its main role as a biosensor.
Does it make sense to spend close to a thousand Ringgit for a smart watch that’s not so smart? No. Would it make sense to spend, say, eight hundred Ringgit on a Fitbit that just focuses on its core duties? I think the answer is yes, and the good thing is that there is the Versa Lite.
The Versa Lite lacks features like listening to downloaded music, the Fitbit Pay ewallet, and an AMOLED screen. And although I didn’t get a chance to try out the Versa Lite, I have a feeling it’s something that works just as well where it matters.
Meanwhile, do I think I’ll miss the Fitbit as a device now that I have to give it back. I must confess I rather enjoy getting stats quickly and unobtrusively. I like getting insights on my sleep, and how much more I walk on the days when I take public transport.
So yes, I will remember the Fitbit with fondness. And if I do have a spare money lying around, I might decide to splurge. Not on the Versa 2, but on its less fussy, less smart cousin.