All of us want to lead a healthy lifestyle, or at least dream of leading one. In this day and age, it becomes difficult to find time to turn that dream into reality, especially for those of us with stressful jobs. This is where a fitness tracker can come in handy to give you a gentle reality check of your daily or hourly physical activities (or the lack of it) and get you off that chair.
Fitbit Versa has been my constant companion for the past few weeks in my fitness journey, and it’s time to share my experience and opinion about this fitness product with you. So let’s jump straight into the action. No wait, it’s better to start with some warm-up, right?
Fitbit Versa: Design
The latest smartwatch from Fitbit has a simple yet elegant design with a square watch face with rounded edges. It comes with lots of strap options to choose from; I got the good old black silicone strap which I personally prefer. At under 40 gms, the company claims that the Versa is their lightest smartwatch till date and I am not willing to dispute the claim as the watch is indeed very light and slim.
Once you put it on, you won’t even realise it’s there till you look to access some of its features or get an alert. The size and its unisex design should appeal equally to both the genders, and the watch looks perfectly fine on you irrespective of your wrist size.
Fitbit Versa: Display and UI
Fitbit Versa sports a 1.34-inch square LCD display that’s fairly sharp and easily legible even in bright sunlight. There are 3 physical buttons (one on the left edge and two on the right edge) to navigate through the user interface in addition to taps and swipes. Yes, the display is touch enabled and very responsive too. The screen can be turned on by clicking either of the buttons or tapping the screen twice if it doesn’t come on automatically when you turn your wrist towards you.
You get to see the synopsis of your physical activity for the day and battery status by swiping up on the screen. You need to swipe down for notifications and swipe left and right to browse through the installed apps. The user interface is very easy to use even if you are new to the smartwatch universe.
To set up the Fitbit Versa, you need to install the Fitbit app on your smartphone and sync with smartwatch using Bluetooth. It is a fairly straightforward process; all you need to do is follow the instructions on the screen after installing the app. The Fitbit Versa is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows platforms.
There is a wide variety of watch faces to choose from in case you don’t like the default one or are bored of it after a while. More watch faces get added on a daily basis by Fitbit as well as third-party developers, so you can browse through the collection and choose one that catches your fancy. The app also gives you access to detailed statistics of your physical activity for the day and also your past records.
Some of the key information being your current and resting heart rate, sleep pattern, floors climbed, distance traveled in kilometres as well as number of steps, calories burned and more. It also lets you keep a track of water and food intake.
Fitbit Versa: Key features
Other than being a fitness tracker, the Versa is also a smartwatch. Hence, you can have notifications from your phone on your watch too. You can access calendar, call and text notifications from your smartphone. One interesting feature here is Quick Replies, (only on Android) using which, users can respond to messages directly from the smartwatch and send up to five preset custom replies of 60 characters or less on messenger apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc. So if you are in the middle of a gym session or a run or even a meeting, you can simply send a response from the watch itself without having to access your phone.
Other features include 24×7 PurePulse heart rate monitoring, personalised on-device workouts with Fitbit Coach, automatic sleep stages tracking with an ideal reference range for your age and tips to help you stay on track to meet your fitness goals. The Fitbit Versa is 50 metres water resistant, meaning you can take the device into the swimming pool and it will track your swimming activity.
Though I couldn’t take my Versa for a swim, I did take it to the shower and also tried submerging it in a bucket of water just to test its water resistance. These experiments had no adverse effect on its functioning. I will soon try and take it to the pool and update this space.
One of the key features of the Fitbit Versa is female health tracking. The smartwatch in conjunction with Fitbit app allows women to keep a track of their menstrual cycle and symptoms, making it easier to manage the same going ahead. Fitbit claims that the device tends to get more accurate over time as it gathers more data. Coming to apps, you get access to over 550 Fitbit Labs apps. You are bound to find some useful stuff there but there’s hardly anything India centric yet.
However, Fitbit has promised to change that in the near future. You can also use the Fitbit Versa as a music player if you have Bluetooth headphones. The device has 4GB of storage space of which a little over half is available to store your music. Music files need to be transferred manually to it by syncing it with a PC.
Fitbit Versa: Performance
The smartwatch is capable of tracking a wide variety of fitness activities like walking, running, swimming, cycling, lifting weights, yoga etc. While the device is reasonably smart at detecting the kind of workout you are indulging in, it is always prudent to let it know by choosing that particular option for more accuracy.
Even if you are not into heavy fitness activity, it prompts you to take at least 250 steps every hour. It detects prolonged inactivity and nudges you to get up from your seat and meet your steps target for the hour. Once you achieve your basic target of 250 steps for the hour, you see a stickman celebrate your tiny achievement on the watch screen.
Other goals and targets you achieve are visible in the app dashboard on your phone. One thing to note is that the Fitbit Versa does not have a built-in GPS. So it is important for you to keep the device synced with your phone with its GPS enabled to measure distance accurately, especially for your runs and cycling sessions.
If for some reason you switch off Bluetooth for the remainder of the day, it continues to track your activity like steps taken, floors climbed, calories burned etc. and transfers the collected data to your phone whenever you sync it next.
While I found the steps counter to be fairly accurate on most occasions, I have noticed that it tends to get fooled when you travel in a local train in Mumbai, especially if you end up in a wobbly old rake. The Versa thinks you are working out and tends to add to your steps count.
This is indeed a drawback, but on a lighter note, I can’t say that the watch is entirely incorrect in its assessment. Traveling in local trains during peak hours can be a serious physical activity, though not a pleasant one, and one surely ends up burning a fair amount of calories.
I also tried testing its sleep tracking feature. At first, it felt a little odd to go to sleep with the watch still on my wrist, but I did it anyway to test the feature. And I must confess that it works really well. What’s more, it tends to grow on you, especially if you are a man of numbers and statistics. It segregates your total sleep into four parts – awake time, REM (Rapid Eye Movement – disturbed sleep, in simpler terms), light sleep and deep sleep.
The Fitbit app also provides a frame of reference to understand how well you have slept. It is somewhat disturbing and enlightening in equal measure initially to look at your sleep pattern when you wake up. And before you know it, you crave for that information on a daily basis first thing in the morning.
Another thing to note is that there was no skin irritation or reddening even after wearing the watch for a day and half continuously, at least in my case. And it was hot and humid in Mumbai for most parts of my Versa testing. Just avoid wearing the watch too tight.
Fitbit Versa: Battery life
Fitbit advertises a battery life of 4 days for the Versa. I was pleasantly surprised that the smartwatch lasted me full 5 days on a single charge despite the continuous heart rate monitoring. Fitbit bundles a proprietary charging dock in the box that charges the device fully in under 2 hours.
Unfortunately it isn’t as sleek as the watch and not something you would want to carry around in your pocket. While the 5-day battery life is excellent, if for some reason you run out of juice and don’t have the dock with you, there is no other way to charge the watch. I just wish Fitbit had come up with a more generic way of charging the device, like microUSB, may be.
Fitbit Versa: Price in India and Verdict
The Fitbit Versa standard edition is priced in India at Rs 19,999. But you can get it for a couple of thousand rupees lower on Amazon India, especially the Black variant. That still makes it a little on the expensive side but a lot cheaper than its Apple counterparts. Something close to Rs 15,000 would have been ideal. All said and done, it is a pretty impressive piece of technology in a compact form factor.
Should you buy it? If you are just looking for a fitness tracker, you may get a few good options at half it’s asking price, even from Fitbit. But for a full fledged smartwatch with a decent apps ecosystem and a few more extras thrown in, that isn’t too bad a price. I only wish it had a built-in GPS to reduce dependency on a smartphone.
But let’s not forget that excellent battery life, that may not have been possible with a GPS module eating into it. Long story short, I enjoyed my time with the Fitbit Versa as I took steps towards a more active lifestyle. And of course, it kept nudging me gently when I didn’t.