When Fitbit launched its new Versa 2 smartwatch in Australia a few weeks ago, the company was quite excited about a number of things. Chief amongst them were the new Fitbit premium service, the company’s 27 million active users, as well as Versa 2’s new hardware features including an AMOLED display and 6 day battery life.
Several days ago I’d written most of this review and was almost about to publish when Google announced that it had bought Fitbit.
That adds uncertainty to the buying process because no one knows which Fitbit services Google will keep and which ones it will ditch. So I amended the review accordingly.
Setup is quite easy after enabling Bluetooth, choosing the device you want to enable in the Fitbit app and agreeing to all the terms and conditions. You don’t have to enable Alexa integration or Fitbit Pay tap and go functionality if you don’t want to.
What It’s Good At
Obviously there are several types of smart watch buyers.
Apple iPhone owners usually buy an Apple watch because it integrates best with their phone.
For Android phone users it depends on what their priorities are, a pure high end fitness watch like Garmin, a smartwatch that looks like a classic round analog watch eg Samsung/Android Wear or one with a more squarish face that can display more information because of the greater surface area like the Fitbit Versa 2.
The Versa 2’s biggest strengths are:
- Fitbit fitness activity, sleep recording and analysis. No one does this better.
- Battery life – consistently lasts 5-7 days with heart rate monitoring and bluetooth connection to my phone on all the time. This compares to Apple Watch and Android Wear which usually need recharging daily in order to last through the whole next day.
- AMOLED screen – this is likely one of the main reasons for the excellent battery life. Displays colours and blacks well as you’d expect from AMOLED plus it’s also easy to see outside in sunlight.
- Very comfortable – I prefer the woven band included in the Versa 2 special edition over the more sporty plastic option. I wear the Versa 2 almost 24/7 apart from when I’m taking a shower, it’s never felt uncomfortable on my wrist or irritated my skin.
- Fitbit Pay – tap and go payments from supported debit/credit cards work without any issues.
- Core smartwatch features – like notifications from your chosen phone messaging app’s. I choose SMS and emails from selected senders to my work email. It’s especially handy to be able to reply to SMS directly from the watch using my voice to dictate a response.
What Needs To be Better
Fitbit Premium doesn’t offer much value for money if you’re already like me with healthy weight, consistent sleep, relatively fit and know what workouts and exercises you like.
If you’re not in that category sure try out Fitbit Premium for a month or two and see if it helps you. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a whole year in advance though because no one knows what Google will do do Fitbit Premium once the takeover is completed.
Watch faces are obviously a key feature of a smartwatch. While Fitbit offers quite a few free and paid watch faces you can’t choose a handful of favourites to mark as saved and switch between these easily directly from the watch. Fitbit needs to fix that.
While there are a few useful apps like barcodes to store your supermarket loyalty or library card, Google and Apple have far more apps on their smart watches.
Fitbit Pay works well but it isn’t as widely supported by bank debit/credit cards as Google Pay.
While you can change between more classy woven bands and sports bands this isn’t easy.
Alexa functionality is quite limited on the Versa 2, commands get processed slowly and sometimes don’t get processed at all because the watch needs to be connected via Bluetooth to your phone, Alexa servers on the Internet and back again.
Hopefully all of these flaws will hopefully be fixed in the new merged Google/Fit bit devices launched in the future. For starters you can definitely expect Google Assistant rather than Alexa and Google Pay instead of Fitbit Pay on after takeover future Fitbit devices!
Should You Buy a Fitbit Versa 2?
With a fitness smartwatch 99% of the functionality relies on being able to access the company servers to store and analyse your data, financial partners like banks to handle tap and go payments made by the device and artificial assistant partners to handle voice commands.
Once the Google takeover is given the green light by competition regulators to go ahead, how long will Google maintain Fitbit Pay when it has Google Pay already? Similarly how long will Google continue the Versa 2’s integration with its arch enemy AI assistant Amazon Alexa?
It will also be interesting how long firmware/software updates for “legacy Fitbit OS” devices continue after Google completes it’s purchase of Fitbit.
For the millions of existing Fitbit users the Versa 2 is possibly your last chance to buy a “pure” Fitbit OS smartwatch with long battery life. Google would be stupid to cut off core functionality quickly for products launched prior to its takeover so hopefully you should get maybe 2 years use out of your purchase.
If you’re not already part of the Fitbit ecosystem this is not the time to join. Wait and see if Google manages to merge the best of it’s Wear OS with Fitbit’s well-known strengths in fitness/sleep data analysis and it’s app.
You can purchase the Versa 2 with sports bands for $329.95 or the Versa 2 Special Edition for $379.95 (includes woven and sports bands plus 3 months Fitbit Premium).
Fitbit has allowed Ausdroid to keep this smart watch to track battery life and functionality over time