Looks like it’s going to be a busy fall reviewing some of the most popular wearable smartwatches! The Fitbit Versa 2 began taking pre-orders last week and will ship September 15th and the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 and Garmin Vivoactive 4 are available for preorder. Of course, the Apple Watch Series 5 will be unveiling next week so yeah, very busy times for people like me.
All three of these smartwatches/activity trackers share similar features but they also offer unique aspects so we’ll be going through the specs of each so you can make an informed decision which one might be right for you.
Fitbit Versa 2
The first version of the Versa was a hit with consumers. Many appreciated the look, some limited smartwatch features, and Fitbit’s well-known fitness tracking abilities.
Now in 2019 is a brand new processor which will hopefully speed up screen responsiveness, syncing, and downloading of clockfaces. It also is now equipped with a mic and Alexa. Users will be able to ask certain questions or voice certain commands and see the response on screen. There’s no speaker however. Android users will also be able to respond to text messages by voice, and if you’ve never had that feature before, it’s very nice to have.
You also have to option to have an always-on screen display. The Versa 2 now uses an OLED display over the former LCD display. Of course, battery life will take a hit if you enable always on display. With it disabled Fitbit is promises about 5 days of battery life. With the display always on it goes down to 2 days.
There’s still no built-in GPS which I’m really disappointed in. I think it was well past time for Fitbit to include built-in GPS in one of their most popular devices. Maybe next time. Right now only the Fitbit Ionic has built-in GPS.
Swimming is still supported and all the other fitness activities of before. The SPO2 sensor is finally being utilized with Fitbit’s new Sleep Score. The most interesting part of this is that blood oxygen levels are monitored as you sleep and base upon that and some other factors Fitbit can give you a score as to how restorative your sleep was. More interestingly to me is that it can give you a look at those blood oxygen levels which can possibly help point out health issues like sleep apnea.
The bummer about Fitbit’s sleep score is that you have to purchase a premium monthly membership to see the data. This is a lucrative business opportunity for Fitbit to capture recurring fees instead of hoping people upgraded their devices frequently but I think it’s going to turn off a lot of people. We’ll see.
If you pre-order the Versa 2, you’ll get a $25 gift card from Amazon which is a nice deal. You can use it to buy additional straps or other accessories or whatever! This is a limited time offer.
View Price and Availability on Amazon
- Affordable price as far as smartwatches go
- A more comfortable, refined design
- 5-Day battery life
- Easy to use
- Extremely compatible with third-party apps and programs
- Comfortable to wear
- Fitbit Pay is now included on all models of the Versa 2
- Connected GPS
- Premium fees for SPO2 data
- Limited apps in Fitbit’s app store
Samsung Galaxy Active 2
If it just seems like the first version of the Galaxy Active just came on the market, well, it wasn’t that long ago. In fact, it was in the spring of 2019 and here we are in the fall of 2019 with a brand new version.
I guess Samsung decided to not wait and just give people what they asked for. Samsung smartwatches are known for their rotating bezel for navigating through on-screen menus and other functions but the first generation Galaxy Active didn’t have this feature. Instead, it utilizes just touchscreen which works fine.
Of all the watches I’ve tested, the Galaxy Active has the most responsive and fast loading screens. It’s just a joy to interactive with the watch but sometimes I did miss that rotating bezel and a digital version made a lot of sense so now we have it!
The Galaxy Active 2 now also has both a mic and speaker, whereas the first version only had a mic. This enables being able to answer phone calls through the watch, hear guided workout prompts in some of your favorite apps, listen to music, etc.
Answering phone calls is only available for those using an Android smartphone but if you have and Android phone, Samsung is the best option in a smartwatch. I personally prefer Samsung’s Tizen OS over Wear OS any day of the week. It’s intuitive and just makes sense. I even prefer it over the Apple Watch in terms of how easy it is to get to the data and apps that I want to see or use.
The Galaxy Active 2 is available in two sizes, 40 mm and 44 mm. There’s also a LTE version coming which I’m really intrigued in and plan to wait for.
For smaller wrists, the 40 mm size looks really nice. The proportion is right and it’s classy but there are advantages for going with the 44 mm including a little better battery life and a larger display for viewing maps, like I do when using Endomondo on the watch. It might be easier to make menu selections on a larger display too.
Other notable changes is the heart rate sensor is new and touted as being improved. While the HR sensor on the original Galaxy Active was usually spot on, sometimes it was erratic. Step counting also was a little wonky at times. Those are two areas that I will be looking at closely to see if there has been an improvement.
Battery life doesn’t look like it has been improved. This is a watch you’ll probably have to charge daily. It easily lasted over 24 hours for me so I could wear it sleeping for sleep tracking but I plopped it on its charger when I was taking my morning shower and then it was ready again.
View Pricing and/or Preorder on Samsung’s Website
- Samsung gave consumers what they were asking for instead of offering tiny incremental upgrades
- Mic and Speaker
- Digital Rotating Bezel
- Classy design good enough for any occasion
- Priced a good $100+ below the comparable Apple Watch
- Very good looking watch faces available for download (some free/ some paid)
- Fully supports Spotify and downloading music
- Built-In GPS
- Yet to be determined! We’ll see how battery life, HR sensor accuracy and step tracking has improved
- Far fewer apps to choose from compared to the Apple Watch
- Has ECG sensor but not activated yet (hopefully in early 2020)
Garmin Vivoactive 4
The Vivoactive line of wearable devices from Garmin is probably their most popular. The price used to be on par with the Fitbit Versa and Galaxy Active but now it’s a bit higher but now there are more advanced metrics, like SPO2 and respiration that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for to see but is it accurate? That we’ll have to wait and see and thus the need for review sites like this one!
So what’s new with the Vivoactive 4?
Music is now supported. The Vivoactive 3 didn’t support music storage, Spotify, etc., but the Vivoactive 3 Music did. Now we only have one version that fully supports music including Spotify, iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, and Deezer. You can also control the music playing on your phone.
Animated guided workouts are now on the watch for yoga and pilates and some other select activities.
There are now two physical buttons instead of one which I think is handy. While this is a full touchscreen watch, buttons are very useful for when you’re active such as running, swimming, etc. Trying to select menu items on a touchscreen when moving isn’t that easy. The additional button will allow you to go back to the previous screen, mark a lap, and get to other menus.
The heart rate sensor is now using Garmin Elevate V3 similar to pretty much all of Garmin’s newer watches. Garmin Pay is also standard.
The build quality of the watch has also been improved. The bezel is stainless steel and the display is Gorilla Glass 3. It’s suitable for swimming and supports pool swimming as an activity. Open water swimming is available on higher end Garmin watches. It has an IP68/5ATM water resistance rating.
To me the feature I’m most interested in that new to the Vivoactive is utilizing the included SPO2 sensor. With this you’ll get your respiratory rate during select workouts, throughout the day and during sleep. It also detects your blood oxygen levels which is important if you’re in a high altitude and want to keep an eye on that or during sleep to possibly become aware of periods of low blood oxygen which may indicate sleep apnea.
The Vivoactive 4 isn’t an FDA approved medical device for blood oxygen detection so it isn’t wise to use it as a medical device but it should provide trends that might indicate something you want to discuss with your doctor.
Like the Samsung Galaxy Active 2, there are two sizes to choose from, 40 and 45 mm. The larger version has a little more battery life, a higher screen resolution of 260×260 compared to 218×218, and a display size of 1.3″ compared to 1.1″. Both have a transflective display that is great for outdoor readability.
The 45mm weighs 50.5 grams while the 40 mm weighs 40 grams and that’s a notable difference, especially if you have a smaller wrist or heavier watches tend to bother you more when you’re trying to sleep.
The smaller size isn’t necessarily meant just for women. A lot of men appreciate lighter and more comfortable watches too. Unlike Samsung where there’s a difference in price between the two sizes, both sizes cost the same with the Vivoactive 4.
View price and availability of the Garmin Vivoactive 4 on Amazon
- The Vivoactive has the reputation of being a well-rounded GPS fitness watch for the average person
- PulseOX sensor (blood oxygen) and respiratory rate data
- Supports a wide variety of music streaming services
- Built-In GPS
- Animated Guided Workouts
- Good battery life on both sizes
- Mobile app displays lots of data of your workouts – much more than Fitbit or Samsung
- Transflective display for terrific outdoor readability
- More expensive than original Vivoactive and the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 (and getting close to Apple Watch Series 4 pricing)
- The accuracy of the Pulse OX sensor is still yet to be determined – it wasn’t super accurate on the Forerunner 245 Music I tested earlier this year.
This is a just a preliminary overview of the main differences between these three brand new watches. For affordability, obviously the Versa 2 wins if you’re not considering a monthly fee for Sleep Score tracking which includes blood oxygen data. If you don’t care about that feature then it’s a good deal.
It probably came across that I’m not too impressed with the Versa 2 but there’s a lot that I like about the watch and if you’re connecting it to an Android smartphone the ability to respond to text messages by voice is a great upgrade. I’m not sure how much I’d use Alexa but I don’t typically use voice assistants in the first place. My main gripe with the original versa was syncing and connectivity. Everything else tested out nicely so stay tuned for that. I’ll have it in my hands on or near September 15th.
I’m most excited about the Samsung Galaxy Active upgrade because I already know it’s a good looking functional smartwatch that I enjoy wearing. The digital touchscreen bezel isn’t just a gimmicky feature either. It’s something that should have been on the first version. The interface was really designed for such a bezel. I’m just curious is to whether the HR sensor and step tracking has been improved.
I’m also going to wait for the LTE version because that’s the one that intrigues me the most because I’m ready to go phone free on my bike rides and outdoor activities.
The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a nice upgrade if you have the Vivoactive 3 non-music version. I think if you have the Vivoactive 3 Music or are considering purchasing that instead, you can probably save quite a bit of money and not go for the Vivoactive 4 yet. The main feature that I think makes it worth the upgrade from the Vivoactive 3 Music is the Pulse Ox sensor but that’s only if it’s accurate. Battery life may also be a consideration because it may be better on the Vivoactive 4.
My final recommendations depends upon the reliability and accuracy of all three of these watches. I’ll have much more to share with you in the coming weeks to help you make the right choice if you’re on the fence.
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