I’ve been waiting for the Fitbit Versa 2 since about a week after owning the Versa 1 because there were features that I thought were missing and performance issues that needed addressing, namely syncing and connected GPS. So is the Versa 2 any better? Well, so far I’ve compared the connected GPS against the Polar Ignite and the brand new Garmin Vivoactive 4s and the results are below but first let me introduce you to the Versa 2.
The Fitbit Versa 2 hasn’t changed much in appearance, except that there are fewer buttons (now one instead of 3), a sleeker looking body, especially for the back of the watch, an upgraded processor, an OLED screen that doesn’t look remarkably different from the previous LCD screen but does have richer colors and deeper blacks, an always-on screen option that I like, limited support for Spotify, and of course Alexa integration with a mic but no speaker.
On the fitness tracking side of things, nothing has really changed, except that Fitbit Coach doesn’t come pre-installed but you can download it and add it to the watch. Support for third-party apps seems a bit broken right out of the gate. I’ve tried three games that work on my first generation Versa but don’t work on the new one. I’m assuming this has to do with the new processor and/or screen technology but whatever the reason many apps aren’t supported on the Versa 2 – yet.
Speaking of apps, there still aren’t many to choose from. Notably absent are ones that I think work well with smartwatches such as Endomondo, Map My Run, MLB At Bat, ESPN, theScore, MyFitnessPal, MyRadar, and ViewRanger. I hope to see some of these in the Fitbit app store soon but I don’t know if we will.
Strava is supported, as well as Pandora, Deezer, Starbucks, Flipboard, Uber, Fitbit’s weather app using AccuWeather, The New York Times, E-Trade, Walgreens, United Airlines, C25K Trainer, British Airways, and Gold’s Amp from Gold’s Gym. Those are pretty much of the more well-known companies. There are other apps and games but there’s not a whole lot.
There are many clock faces to choose from. Many are free and some are paid. One annoying thing about the clock faces is that there’s no feature to find ones that you’ve purchased in the past nor can you mark favorites. This seems like something Fitbit could easily add through the app but nope.
Also, only one clock face can be downloaded to the watch at a time. It would be nice to download your favorites and then make a selection on the watch itself.
On that note, it would be great to be able to choose from all available workouts instead of only being able to choose 7 to appear on the watch menu.
I find myself having to go back into the app to do things that the watch should be able to do itself. A lot of what I’d like to see are just minor tweaks that I don’t know why haven’t been implemented because I’m not the only one who has suggested them.
So what do I like about the Fitbit Versa 2? As a daily fitness tracker it is very good. Step counting, daily heart rate tracking, and sleep tracking are pretty darn accurate.
I also like the design, though I think the watch could be slimmed down more considering the Apple Watch is smaller with a ton of technology packed in. The bezel on the Versa 2 is unnecessarily larger than I think it should be. It’s not bad but it could be better.
I am happy with the screen size and the quality of the display. It’s a little more responsive than the LCD screen and the new processor seems to have reduced the lag a bit.
While some apps and clock faces still take a while to load on the watch, I have noticed increased download speed which is a welcome change.
The always-on display is something I didn’t think would appeal to me but I’m finding it very practical, although when I’m working out I would prefer that the screen go back to the full color animated display when I lift my wrist. Pressing the button to fire up the fully working screen isn’t practical when cycling or doing certain activities.
With always-on display enabled, I do get vibration alerts for notifications but they don’t show up on the screen when I turn my wrist. I’d prefer that they did. Again, this is another thing that could be improved with a software update.
I also like the quick settings that can be accessed very easily by swiping down on the screen. Here you can access music controls, Fitbit Pay (which comes on every model of the Versa 2 at no extra cost), and settings for do not disturb (which turns off notifications), sleep mode (the display on comes on when pressing the button), always-on display, screen brightness, tilt-to-wake.
The left button can be set to use Alexa or Fitbit Pay. Pressing and holding the button in for a few seconds will start whichever app you have chosen for the button.
As far as how well Alexa works, it’s not too shabby. I’ve asked it what the weather forecast is and even what bird feathers are made of and it provided the answer. Sometimes, or many times, it will show a message indicating that Internet service is needed but just waiting a few seconds for the connection to be made does the trick.
Will I actually use Alexa on the Versa 2? Well, probably once in a while but I’m not one to use voice assistants much in the first place. I think I’ve used Siri once on my iPhone! You do have the option to turn off the mic on the watch if privacy is a concern but a nice thing about the mic for Android users is that they can now reply to text messages by voice. Too bad Apple doesn’t support this feature.
Overall, I’m still charmed by the Versa. It’s like that kid or friend you know that has so much potential but doesn’t use it fully. Sometimes that drives me nuts! It wouldn’t take that much to greatly improve the watch. I’m not talking about major changes, just little tweaks that would improve the user experience.
Still, there’s a lot to love about the Versa 2. The price is reasonable, battery life is good. You can probably expect 2 – 2 1/2 days with always on display turned on and closer to 4 days with it turned off. It just depends how many workouts you do and how many notifications you receive, etc.
It is lightweight and comfortable to wear. I did change out the strap that came with mine because I prefer more adjustable straps. The problem with using clasps is that if your wrist size falls in between two of the clasp holes then the watch will either be too loose or too tight. It’s important to have to right fit for comfort but also more accurate heart rate monitoring.
Okay, so let’s get to it! Does the Versa 2 sync faster and more reliably? Is the connected GPS on the Versa 2 better?
In my testing, yes, it’s better! My major complaint of the first Versa was the endless syncing issues. It often became disconnected which required me to reset the watch, remove it from my phone, reconnect it, download lengthy updates over and over again during setup, and wonder how a brand name watch could be so buggy.
I had reviewed $35 fitness trackers that were 10 times more reliable for connectivity. It was ridiculous.
And the connected GPS often didn’t stay connected and if it did the distance estimates were often inaccurate.
But thank goodness in my testing with the Versa 2 paired with the iPhone Xr, I haven’t experienced any connectivity issues. It syncs my workouts fast. It receives notifications reliably. It reconnects when I come back in Bluetooth range of my phone and connected GPS has been remarkably good.
I have read some complaints from others that are having issues but I haven’t experienced any problems at all. Knock on wood. I’ll let you know if I do!
So far I’ve compared the Versa 2’s connected GPS versus the Garmin Vivoactive 4s and Polar Ignite, both of which have built-in GPS and the Versa 2 has performed very well.
I haven’t yet tested the heart rate sensor but I will very soon against a the Polar H10 chest heart rate strap so stay tuned for that.
The Versa 2 actually slightly outperformed the Vivoactive 4s in my first short GPS test. I walked one mile and after viewing each walk on the maps in Fitbit’s mobile app and Garmin Connect for the Vivoactive, the Versa 2 did a little better.
In a much longer GPS test against the Polar Ignite, the results were nearly identical. I also used Endomondo on my phone to track distance. Both the Versa 2 and Polar Ignite estimated 9.61 miles for my bike ride, while Endomondo estimated 9.60. That’s freaking close!
Looking at the maps provided after the ride, both the Versa 2 and Ignite did a very, very good job tracking my actual location. No GPS is 100% accurate all the time but they were within a very small margin of error. Most of the time both watches nailed my location within 1 to 3 feet.
That’s awesome. I’ll be doing more testing of the Vivoactive 4s and I’ll have a full review of both the Polar Ignite and 4s up very soon.
So, would I recommend purchasing for the first time or upgrade to the Fitbit Versa 2? Well, it depends what you’re looking for in a smartwatch. If you mostly want a reliable fitness tracker then I think you’ll enjoy it. If you want a more robust smartwatch with greater app support, the ability to send and receive text messages, answer phone calls then there’s better options that’ll cost more.
If you have an iPhone then the Apple Watch is the way to go. If you have an Android smartphone a Samsung smartwatch is my best recommendation. The Galaxy Watch Active and soon to be released Active 2 are probably the best options.
If you want to be able to download Spotify playlists and leave your phone at home or in a locker when running or at the gym and still have GPS, then there’s better options. The Vivoactive 4, Forerunner 245 Music (and several other Garmin watches) can download Spotify playlists and so can the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, and of course the Apple Watch. These watches also have built-in GPS. Some are also available in cellular/LTE models so you can still make phone calls, send text messages, use apps, etc.
And Apple is now offering the Apple Watch Series 3 for $199. The Series 4 has quite a few upgrades over the Series 3 but no longer is being manufactured by Apple. You’ll have to get the brand new Series 5 to get all the Series 4 upgrades plus some new ones exclusive to the Series 5. The Apple Watch does have good fitness tracking abilities in addition to all the smartwatch things it does. Of course, the Apple Watch is only compatible with iPhones.
If you’re a more serious athlete or outdoor enthusiast then I’d recommend going with Garmin, either the Forerunner 245 Music or the Vivoactive 4 or 4s, if you want stay below $400. If you’re a hiker the Garmin Instinct is a terrific choice. If you want the best of everything in outdoor fitness tracking then the Garmin Fenix is very hard to beat. It’s expensive but it does everything fitness related.
See all watches mentioned in this article on Amazon (price and availability):
- Fitbit Versa 2
- Apple Watch Series 3
- Apple Watch Series 5
- Garmin Vivoactive 4s
- Polar Ignite
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
- Garmin Instinct
- Garmin Fenix 6s
But again, if you’re mostly interested in tracking your steps, sleep, heart rate, receiving notifications from your smartphone, and have enjoyed using Fitbit in the past then the Versa 2 is a very good option. It’s also one of the more affordable options and I would imagine that the smartwatch features will improve in the future. I do enjoy the extended battery life on the Versa compared to the Apple Watch of the Galaxy Watch Active. It’s nice not to have to charge your watch every day.
Hopefully, we will see more apps in the apps store and those little tweaks are made. Personally, I think a lot of people would be happy with the Versa 2. I’m a tech geek so I tend to like a lot of bells and whistles on my smart devices but I’m still charmed by the Versa. I’m still rooting for it. I’m also very happy that the syncing issues are gone, at least in my experience thus far.
There’s a lot to love about the Versa 2. I enjoy wearing it and I’m very happy that it seems to be much more reliable. I’d just like to see more apps and some software upgrades. It’s a good option at the $199 price point.
And to answer the question of whether it’s worth upgrading to the Versa 2 if you have the Versa 1, for me it’s been worth the upgrade due to much better reliability in syncing and Bluetooth connectivity because, boy, was that annoying on the Versa 1!
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