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Hands-on review: Fitbit Versa 2 upgrades battery life, display, and adds Alexa

By Kai Ping Lew
Wed 23 Oct 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Fitbit has announced an upgrade of one of its most popular fitness trackers to date, the Fitbit Versa.

The Versa 2 promises a better display, a better battery life, and the introduction of Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant.

We take a look at whether it’s worth the upgrade.

What it did well

The Versa 2 comes in several new interesting and exciting colourways which I felt communicated the development of Versa as a series well. 

The burgundy and deep teal feel more sophisticated than the lighter, more playful colourways the first Versa came in.

I also noticed that the silicon matte strap is more smooth and blends in with the body more, making it a subtle improvement on the silicon watchband that came with the first-generation Versa.

The body itself is slightly thicker at 12mm compared to the 11.2mm of the previous generation.

The good news is that it isn’t noticeable on the wrist – I didn’t feel the Versa 2 was any heavier than the Versa.

The Versa 2 uses the same charger as the Versa, but with a slight design improvement – the top and bottom sides of the charger have been shrunk so it’s easier to wrap the cable around the charger.

I really appreciated this attention to detail as the charger took up a lot less space when being packed for travel.

The design of the Versa 2 features a single physical button as opposed to the three that used to be on the first Versa.

I liked this simplification of the controls, as I realised I wasn’t using the other two side buttons often enough to warrant them being there, and having fewer moving parts on a device means there are fewer parts that can malfunction on it.

The biggest gain the Versa 2 delivers is in the improvement in its battery life.

With the first-generation Versa, I was able to get just over four days of use out of it on a single charge.

The Versa 2 doubles this, bringing the battery life up to a whopping 8 days.

One of the reasons this is possible is because of the Versa 2’s OLED display compared to the LCD screen of its predecessor.

I really enjoyed the OLED display’s vibrance and noticed that colour contrast and saturation was higher on the Versa 2.

The Versa 2 also features a faster processor - the split-second lag that used to happen when navigating through the apps and pulling up menus is gone, and I noticed that bugs that used to happen with the watch sometimes not vibrating when notifications came through on the first Versa have been fixed.

What it could have done better

The inclusion of Alexa as the default smart assistant was the featured upgrade of the Versa 2.

Personally, I’m wary of using Alexa or Google Assistant, knowing their parent companies’ (Amazon and Google) tendencies to collect and monetise inordinate amounts of data on their users.

The Versa 2 has a microphone, allowing you to speak to Alexa and have it respond onscreen, but not via audio as it doesn’t have a speaker.

I found that it understood me relatively easily for simple commands (Set timer, set alarm) and longer enquiries (How is New Zealand doing in the Rugby World Cup?), but it has a tendency to lose connection with the Wi-Fi network and stop functioning half the time.

I’m curious to see if Fitbit improves the user experience of its smart assistant features, and whether it will be able to introduce other assistants like Google Assistant and Siri into the fold in future updates, or if this will require a hardware upgrade. 

Fitbit also introduced an always-on display mode with the Versa, but in my opinion, the drastic cut in the battery life (just over two days in daily use) and the simplified monochrome clock face you’re limited to were drawbacks that made always-on display mode unappealing to use.

Verdict

Taken together, the small but worthwhile upgrades on the Versa 2 - battery life, display quality, and responsiveness - vastly improve the experience of using the smartwatch.

If you’re a user that’s happy with the Versa experience right now, I’d say at an RRP of $350, it makes more sense to wait for the next edition of the Versa to upgrade.

If you’re using a fitness tracker and looking to upgrade to a smartwatch, then the Versa 2 is a great entry point with its simple interface, great battery life, and customisability in terms of clock faces and watchbands.

At the heart of it, the Versa series isn’t meant to be a data capturing workhorse for marathon runners or competitive athletes.

It has the flexibility of an all-day companion, designed to add a little more data and efficiency for both work and play for the modern tech-savvy consumer – and that’s the space it does really well in.

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