Even though there are innumerable fitness trackers and smart watches to choose from, Fitbit as a brand still retains the strongest brand recall. Perhaps what WhatsApp is to instant messaging. And what Xerox was to document photocopy a few years ago. That means the company is in prime position to add to its smartwatch line-up in India. Right on cue, joining the Fitbit Versa and the Fitbit Versa Special Edition is the Fitbit Versa Lite. If the Fitbit Versa Lite was a car, it would probably be called the superleggera or something, purely because it strips away what is perhaps not the most essential for the sake of the price tag. And it has made a difference, at first glance.
The Fitbit Versa Lite is priced at around Rs 15,700 and that is lesser than the Versa Special Edition priced at Rs 19,999 in stores now but isn’t entirely different from the Versa which is now retailing for around Rs 16,700 on Amazon India. That begs the question—what are you missing out on? As far as first impressions go, not much. But that isn’t the entire story.
What is missing?
While the Versa Lite retains the same visual cues as its elder siblings, there is some stuff that has been stripped out under the hood. For starters, it doesn’t have on-board storage, which could be an issue if you like to store your favorite workout music on the wearable and pair with wireless earphones. Now, you will need to keep your phone with you, to provide the motivational soundtrack for the exercise routine. There is no altimeter as well, which means the Versa Lite cannot detect elevation changes. This means it will not track the number of steps you have climbed. There is also no gyroscope, which means it can’t track your swimming routine—it just won’t track the laps you take, but is water resistant up to a depth of 50 meters, which means you can certainly take it inside the swimming pool. It also lacks Wi-Fi and thereby relies on the connectivity with your phone, which could perhaps be the reason why updating the firmware on the watch is a rather slow process.
Good looks run in the family
There is no denying the fact that the Versa Lite looks much like the Versa and the Versa Special Edition. If you aren’t too enthused by the fairly conventional charcoal and white bands, you have the option to select one of the more attractive options instead—Lilac, Marina Blue and Mulberry. In my opinion, the Marina Blue is a very attractive colour, though Lilac and Mulberry also tend to get attention from a mile away. There is the subtle change where the watch now matches the straps it is sold with—for instance, the watch is also blue if you buy the Marina Blue colorway. You will notice that the Versa Lite has one button on the left side spine, and the rest of your interaction with the watch will be via the very capable touchscreen.
All said and done, the Versa Lite carries on the featherweight tendencies of its elder siblings, and you’ll mostly forget you are wearing this on your wrist—that is how light it is to wear. You can wear the Versa Lite for hours on end, and not feel the weight annoy you.
Getting to know is a breeze
I have said this before many times, and at the risk of sounding irritatingly repetitive, the Fitbit app remains one of the best fitness tracking apps around and the smartwatch data is incredibly easy to sync, track and try to make sense of. While everyone seems intent on making fitness bands and watches, not many have actually spent time to make accompanying apps that actually are slick to use. Full marks to Fitbit for continuing to get this spot on, on Android as well as iOS.
Following through on style with substance
Even though the Versa Lite strips out a lot of things, as we had discussed above, this fitness centric watch still retains more than its share of brilliance. This runs the Fitbit OS 3.0 which was first released in December and has been improved upon since with regular updates. The simplicity of the entire thing becomes apparent when you use the Versa Lite for a while. Unlike Google’s Wear OS for instance, the Fitbit OS 3.0 prefers a more subdued route towards the smartwatch experience. The minimalism of the interface, the crisply laid out apps and no unnecessary riff-raff to distract you, are all priceless in a way. The nifty little screen that you get when you swipe up from the watch face lets you get a quick snapshot of your activity stats for the day.
In terms of tracking your activity, the Versa Lite follows through with the entire gamut of features you would expect. It has continuous heart rate tracking, using the same PurePulse Heart Rate tracking as the Versa, the Ionic before it and the Charge 3 band. Across all three wearables, we have noticed that the heart rate tracking done by the PurePulse has been in the same range as the Apple Watch, which is considered to be the very best at heart rate tracking. The updates bring real-time heart rate zones too, which means that apart from the activity at the time, the heart rate variations mean the calorie burn count that you see is also more accurate. This also neatly ties in with the sleep tracking capabilities of the Versa Lite. If you are comfortable wearing a watch to bed (frankly, I am not), this will be able to give you a fairly good idea of the deep sleep and the light sleep durations.
That said, the Versa Lite does not automatically detect activity and neither will you get any reminders for breathing exercises from time to time, as perhaps a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active or an Apple Watch would. Also, the Versa Lite does not have built-in GPS, and uses your phone’s GPS to map your activity.
Battery remains a strong point though. A fully charged Fitbit Versa Lite with constant heart rate monitoring and tracking 30 minutes of activity everyday lasts around 6 days of usage, which is more than the rather restrained estimate of 4 days which Fitbit claims. Having said that, I was using this with the screen brightness set at the lowest setting and since this was paired with an iPhone, notifications were turned off since there is no way to respond to iOS notifications with Fitbit OS 3.0 yet.
Buying decisions and complexities
It is a tad complicated than a simple yes or no recommendation for the Fitbit Versa Lite. At the moment, the market price of the more loaded but older Fitbit Versa is around the same as the new Versa Lite. Yet, Fitbit is perhaps positioning this for the first-time smartwatch owners who would perhaps not really be too unhappy about some missing features, such as the lack of ability to track swimming laps. At the moment, and it is hard to ignore this fact, the Fitbit Versa Lite is priced too close to the Fitbit Versa and most potential buyers are likely to opt for the older but more capable watch instead. The decision really boils down to which one fits your fitness routine better.