At the end of August 2020, Fitbit launched a trio of new wearables. Two were remarkably similar: the flagship Fitbit Sense and the significantly less expensive Fitbit Versa 3. Both smartwatches look pretty much identical, have many of the same features, and even run the same software.
From a features perspective, the Sense is the better device and should be at the top of the heap for any Fitbit fan. However, if you look at the value proposition of both the Sense and the Versa 3, there’s a clear winner. In this Fitbit Versa 3 review, we’re going to explain which one wins and why.
Fitbit Versa 3 at-a-glance
At its core, the Fitbit Versa 3 is a terrific all-around smartwatch. If you are looking for a way to track your overall health, see your notifications, listen to music, and perform rudimentary tasks without needing to touch your phone, the Versa 3 can do all that and more.
However, the Versa 3 isn’t “the best” from Fitbit. Objectively, the Fitbit Sense is the best. In that mindset, you can look at the Fitbit Versa 3 in one of two ways. The first is fairly obvious: it’s a kneecapped version of the Fitbit Sense. It looks like the Sense but lacks some of the Sense’s biggest features, including the highly publicized electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring.
The better way to look at it is to see the Sense almost like a “Fitbit Versa 3 Ultra.” The Versa 3 has pretty much every feature a smartwatch buyer wants: accurate health tracking, sleep monitoring (including SpO2 tracking), built-in GPS with GLONASS, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa support, battery life that lasts for multiple days, and more. For the average person, the Versa 3 has everything they need.
In essence, the Fitbit Sense is for people who want their smartwatch to be on the absolute bleeding edge — and are willing to pay much more for the privilege. The Versa 3 is for everyone else.
Fitbit Versa 3 review: What’s new since the Versa 2?
The 2019 Fitbit Versa 2 wasn’t that much of a step up over the original Versa. However, that’s not at all the case with the Fitbit Versa 3. The Versa 3 offers plenty of changes that should make Versa 2 (and especially original Versa) owners interested in upgrading.
Below, we’ve listed the differences between the two devices. Please note that this is not a complete specs table; this is just the areas where the two devices significantly differ.
|Fitbit Versa 3||Fitbit Versa 2|
Fitbit Versa 3:1.58-inch AMOLED
336 x 336 resolution
Fitbit Versa 2:1.4-inch AMOLED
300 x 300 resolution
Fitbit Versa 3:40.48 x 40.48 x 12.35mm
Fitbit Versa 2:39.95 x 39.84 x 12.15mm
Fitbit Versa 3:Bluetooth 5.0
Fitbit Versa 2:Bluetooth 4.0
Fitbit Versa 3:Yes, with GLONASS support
Fitbit Versa 2:None
Fitbit Versa 3:Yes
Fitbit Versa 2:None
Fitbit Versa 3:Yes, with phone call support
Fitbit Versa 2:None
Fitbit Versa 3:Pure Pulse 2.0
Active Zone Minutes tracking
Fitbit Versa 2:Pure Pulse
No Active Zone Minutes support
Fitbit Versa 3:Google Assistant
Fitbit Versa 2:Amazon Alexa
As you can see above, the Versa 3 offers many features missing from the Versa 2. For most folks, the built-in GPS is enough in itself to warrant an upgrade. But the addition of Google Assistant and Bluetooth phone call support makes it a no-brainer decision.
Readers should also note that the Versa 2 will not receive the latest Fitbit OS 5.1 software upgrade. That is reserved exclusively for the Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit Sense. That doesn’t mean the Versa 2 won’t see any software updates in the future, but it won’t receive the latest UI tweaks and features of the Versa 3.
Unfortunately, if you decide to dump your Versa 2 for the Versa 3, you won’t be able to bring your watch bands with you. The Versa 2 bands are incompatible with the Versa 3.
How are the new features?
Because we’ve already reviewed the Fitbit Sense, we will not spend much time on the core features in this Fitbit Versa 3 review. You can click here to check out that full Sense review which covers the accuracy of health tracking, the display, GPS quality, etc.
Once you’ve read through that review, you should note that a few things have changed since its original publication.
The limitation of the SpO2 sensor only working with certain watch faces is gone. As of the latest software update, the Versa 3 will track your SpO2 readings while you sleep regardless of the watch face you have active. However, the only way you can see your SpO2 trends on the watch itself is by using one of the nine SpO2 faces Fitbit offers. If you don’t use one of those faces, you can check your SpO2 trends only in the Fitbit app.
On the topic of SpO2 data, you’ll need to subscribe to Fitbit Premium to see long-term stats and read your health recommendations. However, Versa 3 (and Sense) owners can now see a week-long view without a Premium subscription. 30-day and longer-term views will be off-limits until you pay up, though.
Google Assistant support wasn’t yet active during our original review period with the Fitbit Sense. With the latest software update on the Versa 3 (in the US, at least), you can now choose between either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice commands/responses.
Google Assistant was quick and accurate on the watch. I used it with basic commands such as “What’s the weather?” and “Turn off the bedroom lights.” It can even handle stacked queries such as, “Turn off the desk lights and turn on the living room lights” with ease. You can also send text messages with just your voice and, on Android, respond to texts and emails with your voice.
Unfortunately, even though the Versa 3 has a speaker, Google Assistant doesn’t respond by voice. Alexa users will hear voice responses, but Assistant users will need to deal with text-only responses. Fitbit tells us that this will change at some point in 2021 via a software update.
That last part about the lack of voice responses is interesting because with the latest update comes phone call support. Essentially, it turns your Versa 3 into a Bluetooth-connected speaker. You can talk to your watch during the call and hear the caller’s answers through the watch’s speaker. Since you can also accept/end calls from the watch and initiate calls through Google Assistant, you could feasibly use your watch for all your voice calls without ever touching your phone. Of course, you’d still need the phone nearby for the Bluetooth connection since there’s no LTE version of the Versa 3.
Are there any downsides?
As far as hardware goes, the Fitbit Sense and the Fitbit Versa 3 are identical for all intents and purposes. As such, any of the criticisms directed at the Sense in our original review also apply to the Versa 3. One of those criticisms is the reliance on a proprietary charging cable with no wireless charging support. In other words, you’ll need to add yet another unique cable to your life (and, eventually, the landfill).
The biggest criticism related to both watches is the capacitive button on the left side of the watch. Thankfully, the latest version of Fitbit OS makes it, so you don’t need to rely on the capacitive button as much. Instead of using it as a “back” button, you only need to use it for app shortcuts, go back to the main watch face from wherever you might be or turn the display on if you have tilt-to-wake off. It would be nice for future Fitbit smartwatches to offer hardware buttons, but you’re stuck with capacitive until then.
If you couldn’t tell already, the latest version of Fitbit OS solves many of the early problems we had with the Sense. However, the Versa 3 is missing a core feature of earlier Versas, namely local music uploading. You can download playlists from Deezer and Pandora right to the watch for offline playback (you have about 2.5GB of space to work with). Unfortunately, you cannot send your own MP3 files to the Versa 3. You also still can’t download Spotify playlists, although you can control your phone’s Spotify app from your watch.
Another sticking point is battery life. Fitbit advertises six or more days of battery life with the Versa 3, up from the five-or-more claim for the Versa 2. The problem is that the watch’s new features (and limitations) make it very unlikely that you’ll see six days of power. For this Fitbit Versa 3 review period, I got about 3.5 days of power. I took the watch off the charger at 8:00 AM on Monday, and it was at 7% by 4:00 PM on Thursday. That’s with tracking a morning workout each day, the always-on-display active, sleep tracking active, and about an hour of GPS use. It took me one hour to charge the watch back to full.
Now, you might think that you could get more battery life if you turned the always-on-display feature off. While true, this would be ill-advised because Fitbit has a knack for making tilt-to-wake a poor experience. I would say roughly 30% of the times I raised my wrist to check the time, the display didn’t turn on. I see the same problem on my Fitbit Charge 4. Having the AOD on solves this issue and, to me, is worth shaving some hours off battery life. Of course, it would be really nice if Fitbit just fixed this oversight across its lineup.
Finally, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room that is Fitbit’s app library. Simply put, the list of apps available on the Fitbit Versa 3 is so short that you can scroll through them all in about 30 seconds. There are some basic ones there, such as a calculator, a maps app, and even some games. In comparison to other platforms, though, the app selection is abysmal. If you jump into the Fitbit ecosystem, expect to be missing out on some of the core app experiences of other platforms.
Fitbit Versa 3 vs. Fitbit Sense: Which is the better buy?
Ignoring minor details, there are only three things the Fitbit Sense offers that the Versa 3 lacks:
- Electrodermal activity (EDA) monitoring (Basically your stress levels)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring (How healthy your heart is)
- Skin temperature (Abnormalities here can be linked to various ailments)
Other than those three tests, there’s nothing the Sense can do that the Fitbit Versa can’t. With that in mind, the difference in price between the two watches is $70. In essence, your choice between these two devices hinges on a single question: are those three metrics above worth $70?
My guess is that the average person would answer “No” to that question. If you find yourself in that camp, then you know that the Versa 3 is the better buy.
However, don’t completely write off the Fitbit Sense. Fitbit puts its devices on sale quite often, so there’s a good chance you could grab a Sense for far less than its $299.99 list price. Obviously, if the Sense is on sale, though, the Versa 3 likely is as well. But if you have a strict budget of $250 and you want to get the most smartwatch you can, you could likely find a Sense for that price. If you want to spend as little as possible, though, the Versa 3 will do you just fine.
Fitbit Versa 3 review: Is it a good value?
When you stop comparing the Fitbit Versa 3 to the Fitbit Sense and compare it to the competition, its value becomes very clear. The Versa 3 has a list price of $229.99. For iPhone users, that makes it cheaper than the Apple Watch SE ($279). While we would ultimately suggest that iPhone users get the Watch SE anyway, people on strict budgets will be happy to save a little cash and get a solid experience with the Versa 3, even though the app library will be comparatively tiny.
For Android users, there’s not much on the market in the Versa 3’s price range that can top its collection of features. No matter which competitor device you choose, you’re going to lose something to gain something and vice versa. For example, you can find a Fossil Gen 5 for around the same price as a Versa 3, which will afford you a much more robust app library, local music uploads, and Google Assistant voice responses. But the battery life of the Wear OS-powered watch will be downright terrible compared to the Versa 3.
If you decide to go with the Fitbit Versa 3, remember that you’ll need a Fitbit Premium account to unlock certain features. Honestly, the Premium feature set isn’t essential, so foregoing it would be fine for most people. If you do want it, though, you’ll need to factor the $9.99-per-month cost (or $80 annually) into your decision.
The bottom line here is that the Fitbit Versa 3 is probably the best all-around smartwatch Android users can get for the price. You could find a better smartwatch from Garmin, but you would spend a lot more money. You could also get a fitness tracker for a lot less cash but lose out on many smartwatch features. The Versa 3, though, is right in the middle and is probably the best bang-for-your-buck watch for most people reading this.