Unpacking The Fitbit Versa 3

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the Fitbit Versa 3 ($229), as it addresses a number of my Versa 2 complaints. And while “the press” remain bound by embargo, despite widespread retail availability, real customers have started chiming in.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, owning both a Versa 2 and Apple Watch Series 3, I can say each has its strengths and weaknesses. And the largest Versa 2 gap, as a fitness tracker, is the conspicuously absent onboard GPS. Beyond not being able to leave my phone at home for walks or runs (which I wouldn’t), linking up with my phone’s GPS is frequently a frustrating affair. Sometimes it works, often slowly, sometimes it works for only a portion of my route, and sometimes it never works. The band replacement mechanism is another Fitbit shortcoming that has led to many frustrating moments (including bloody fingernails). Lastly, it kinda stings that Fitbit’s highest-end device has packed a charger inferior to its lowest-end device. The Fitbit Versa 3 corrects all of these: onboard GPS, quick release band button, and magnetic charger. Can I get an amen?

Unfortunately, the proof is in the pudding and it’s not all good news. Several on reddit are complaining about the new, capacitive button are – it’s not entirely responsive, somewhat erratic, and not ideally positioned. Basically the same ding seen in the Fitbit Sense reviews. As a primary device interface, this is quite worrisome, but I’m hopeful much can be improved via software. Speaking of software, both the Versa 3 and Sense run the new Fitbit OS 5.0… which will not be backported to older devices. However, the Versa 3 is not yet feature-complete. Google Assistant and voice phone calls will be enabled at a later date, which is has led to some confusion and frustration – not to mention I generally advise folks to not make purchases based on future promises. While the band attachment improvements are confirmed (in the video above), the clasp on the default band is actually more fiddly and the band itself seems to interfere with securing that new magnetic charger in position.

I had intended to swap my Apple Watch for the new SE (in progress) and my Versa 2 for a Versa 3. But given the early feedback, I won’t be sending my Fitbit off to ebay just yet.

8 thoughts on “Unpacking The Fitbit Versa 3”

  1. I pre-ordered the Fitbit Sense and it was delivered Thursday. This is my first Fitbit of any kind, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I can say the onboard software is a bit buggy: the scree lags often, freezes often, and sometimes doesn’t wake on motion (even though I set it to do that). I also find it inconsistent: swipe eft to right to go back … except for if you had swiped down for announcements, or had swiped up for widgets, or had swiped right for apps. Then you have to swipe in the opposite direction from whence you came to go back. That’s tedious and very frustrating to this new user. Really hoping the OS upgrade will address some of the issues and shortcomings.

    Beyond that, I love the tracking – and was please do see Fitbit said they’d move some premium tracking back to the free tier. I primarily got this watch for the ECG testing/monitoring, but the rest of the stats are great.

    Good luck with the Versa 3. I’ll be keeping my eye on the return window for my Sense, as I’m seeing a lot of nice things about the new TicWatch 3 GPS: many of the same health tracking features, and in the Google ecosystem that I favor.

  2. I recently played with a Charge 4 that I guess is the fitness band equivalent of your Versa. I had an older Apple Watch with a weak battery and thought I’d give it a shot, plus the allure of sleep tracking. Worked well, but ultimately I chose another direction, for these reasons. That said, from a price perspective, Fitbit is a winner, since I spent a fortune by comparison.

    I know use an Oura Ring for sleep tracking, since the Apple Watch battery is just not really designed for 24×7 use, I know some people fast charge in the morning, but I often am more rushed than that. And Oura works very well for that, and is completely unobtrusive.

    I bought the new Apple Watch, and opted for the cellular version. Advantages I see:

    1) For IOS users, only Apple Watch can interact with Siri, respond to text messages, etc. Fitbit can show you stuff, Apple Watch can respond. When I’m riding my bike (2-4 hours at a clip) I can actually respond to a text from the spouse, or by voice change a track if I’m listening to anything.

    2) I’ve noticed anecdotally that Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay have similar card support, but Apple Pay works at POS terminals where Fitbit didn’t. Notably, at a vending machine at a park I often stop at to refuel with a cold water bottle. Fitbit worked with one my my cards, Apple Pay worked with the 3 I tried, including notably my debit card.

    3) I looked at a proper watch from Fitbit, Suunto, and Garmin, but it seems only Apple has cellular capability. So now I can leave my iPhone and it’s battery case home, and for $10 a month still have a lifeline in case of a crash, and support for live tracking from my Garmin bike computer so loved ones can find me if something were to happen. Came in handy yesterday when I lost a rear brake and was able to be in touch without needing the phone.

    Honestly, I could live with just about anything, but that cellular option is a huge win for me.

    Although in fairness, although Apple gave me $160 to trade in my old watch, if you add up the cost of the new watch and the Oura… I paid a dear price to get it! And I do want two ‘things’ tracking me. My Garmin has crashed (once) and died (once – forgot to charge it), and it was also convenient to have a smart wrist worn device during the 4 day outage when Garmin got hit with Ransomware – which was another data point in not wanting my second tracker to be Garmin made.

    I think for most people, Fitbit is a great option all the same. And whatever was in Premium never seemed to affect me I was quite content with what the basic free service level had.

  3. I got my Sense on Friday. I had previously had a Versa 2 and an Ionic prior to that. I almost immediately had problems maintaining a Bluetooth connection after initially establishing it. This would happen when my phone (Pixel 4XL) was less than three feet from the Sense. I did not have these problems with the Versa 2 or the Ionic.

    So yesterday, I opened a chat session with Fitbit. They had me restart the phone and the watch simultaneously. They were also able to access my Sense remotely to ascertain the status of the connection. They may have also remotely adjusted a setting because the Bluetooth connection has not dropped since then.

    I am somewhat disappointed that the Google Assistant is not initially available and also with the quality and selection of the watch faces – just want something simple and easy to read.

  4. @Doug: Per your last sentence, take a look at the “Waveform” clock face – made by Fitbit it shows digital hours and minutes, shows the day/date, and steps, heart rate, and calories burned. I’m using this exclusively now because it’s a very clean layout, has a few color choices, and has an always on option. At a glance it’s super easy to read everything, and as a bonus, it’s SO visible I was able to drop my display brightness to low without sacrificing visibility. As a reward I suppose I’ll get a few extra hours of battery. :)

  5. Super helpful review! I currently have the Versa 2, which was definitely an improvement over the original. Aside from the lack of onboard GPS, I have not been unhappy with the 2. I usually take my phone everywhere as well. I also have small fingers and relatively no issues with swapping out bands…Girl + endless OEM options = Fashion. I also think the software updates have provided improvements as well. Speaking of Waveform @Drew, I used that clockface for a very long time! Currently I am using 101 All Stats. ;)

    But you know, shiny, sparkling new things…are very attractive. Of course as soon as both the 3 and Sense were announced, I was immediately interested. Your review along with information filled comments above, have convinced me to hold off on getting the latest, “greatest” thing for now.

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