Even though the distinction between fitness wearables and smartwatches is clear when the discussion around the former revolves around activity tracking bands, it is less so when we talk about smartwatches. No one wants a smartwatch that does just fitness tracking and not be smart enough elsewhere. This did put Fitbit in a bit of a tough spot over the years with the Ionic and the Versa smartwatches—they did what Fitbit does best and that’s health tracking, but still had a some distance to travel in the other aspects to match up with the rounded experience of the Apple Watch, and to a certain extent, the Samsung Gear smartwatches. That being said, the fairly unreliable watches made by the likes of Fossil that were based on Google’s Wear OS (earlier known as Android Wear) does make life a bit easier for Fitbit, as it makes another low fly past to survey the competition. Well, it is competition till we know what happens to Wear OS, now that the two are siblings after Google’s swoop for Fitbit. Back to the matter at hand, and the Fitbit Versa 2 learns from its predecessors, which is a big compliment.
You can buy the Fitbit Versa 2 in as many as 6 styles for the watch and bands, of which two belong to the Special Edition range. You have the black and carbon aluminum style, which I love because of the all-black personality which just looks great. Then there is the stone and mist grey aluminum, emerald and copper rose aluminum, the petal and copper rose aluminum and the Bordeaux and copper rose aluminum combination. Pick any of these options, and they are priced at Rs 20,999. The Special Edition options swap out the sport bands for the fabric straps, pairing a smoke woven with the mist grey aluminum watch and a navy plus pink strap with a rose gold aluminum watch. These are priced at Rs 22,999.
At first glance itself, the Fitbit Versa 2 looks significantly better than the predecessor, the Versa and the Versa Lite. For instance, there is no Fitbit logo inscribed on the bezel below the display. The dial itself is more rounded and while it isn’t exactly thinner, it certainly feels that way. The 1.4-inch AMOLED display makes a huge difference too, because the deeper blacks allow you to have a darker watch face which merges seamlessly into the bezels and it feels like one seamless package. The screen size is also a tad larger than before, with the Gorilla Glass 3 layer. Perhaps it is just me, but this display certainly looks brighter than before and the text on the screen surely looks crisper. That is all great, particularly outdoors under bright sunlight.
Then there is the always-on mode, something that the Apple Watch Series 5 made everyone realize, is quite important. Instead of darkening your existing watch face, the Fitbit OS takes a more minimalistic approach with the always-on display. You can glance down to see the time. Yet, you must tap on the watch screen or press the side button to wake it up if you wish to access the dashboard or any apps.
Not to forget the smart element added this time around—Amazon Alexa virtual assistant. There is an on-board microphone which now keeps an ear open for your commands for Alexa. When you do demand something from the virtual assistant, you get a response on the screen. This is great in terms of the immediacy—such as,if you wish to add something to your reminders or the to-do list that just popped in your head. You can talk to your smartwatch, but it won’t talk back to you—that relationship could just work brilliantly for many folks!
Setting up the Fitbit Versa is still quite an easy task. Though the Fitbit app (free for Android and iOS) has grown up over time and doesn’t remain the epitome of simplicity it was at a point of time in the not too recent past, it still remains intuitive. During the set-up process, for some reason, the Versa 2 refused to connect to the home Wi-Fi network for the first couple of attempts, and then decided to play ball the third time I insisted. That’s a bit weird, but now you know what to do if it happens to you. Do remember though, the Versa 2 can only connect to 2.4GHz wireless networks.
Fitbit OS on the watch itself remains very similar to the iteration on the Versa, albeit with slick changes and some visual improvements. What I still don’t fathom is how the single hardware button on the Versa 2 cannot be configured to be the power key—to shut this down, you need to head to the settings app. Nevertheless, there are more watch faces to play around with than before, you can control the music playback on your phone from your wrist, it lets you send replies to messages by simply saying out what you want to send (only if you are on an Android device) and also has the new Fitbit Pay app. As a smartwatch, this is surely better than anything Fossil sells you because it is a better-rounded package. In a way, this is up there with Samsung’s Gear Active2 watch (around Rs 25,990) which also has the touch bezel.
That being said, if you need a lot of apps to run on your Versa 2, that’ll bring some disappointment. There are just not enough third-party apps that can run on the Versa 2.
In terms of the health tracking, there is the heart rate sensor which is logging data at regular intervals, the Versa 2 can send you motivational prompts through the day to get you going (remaining steps left this hour, for instance) and there are on-screen workouts that you can access with a subscription. The activity tracking modes have surely been given a boost—there are more than 15 exercise modes, including running, cycling and yoga. The swim tracking mode is a reality too, since the Versa 2 is water resistant up to a depth of 50 meters—the IPX68 rating. This remains one of the best, if not the best, fitness tracking wearables you can buy. Fitbit bands and watches have always been as close to accurate as you get in this space.
Battery life is absolutely outstanding on the Versa 2. Charged 100% on Monday morning, this ends up on Friday evening with 63% battery remaining—and this is with the heart rate sensor active though I prefer the screen at its lowest brightness setting. This is one of those smartwatches that you can charge once in 7-10 days and simply forget about it.
We finally are seeing some sort of pecking order emerging in the smartwatch ecosystem. The Apple Watch remains at the top, but with the caveat that you must own an iPhone for it to be a proper smartwatch. If you are on Android, then the Fitbit Versa 2 with the Fitbit OS and the Samsung Gear Active2 are very good alternatives. The excellent battery life, a much-improved screen, a slightly improved design and Alexa built-in are what go in the Versa 2’s favour. No wonder then, that Google really wanted to acquire Fitbit. It may just have saved Wear OS blushes and could help Google remain in the game to challenge the Apple Watch. At some point, one would expect.