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Hands-on: Fitbit Versa is a smarter, more affordable smartwatch for the masses

The new Fitbit Versa smartwatch is smarter, more affordable, and much better looking than the Fitbit Ionic.

Published onMarch 13, 2018

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Fitbit knows the Ionic isn’t the most accessible smartwatch on the market. It’s a device for serious athletes that don’t mind paying a premium price to get the most top-of-the-line features. Now, Fitbit is launching a new smartwatch that it hopes will appeal to a much larger audience.

The Fitbit Versa is a departure from the Ionic on the design front, which is a good thing. The Ionic is bulky, angular, and not suitable for every size wrist — the Versa gets rid of all those pain points. In fact, this new watch is the lightest metal smartwatch in the U.S., and measures just 11.2 mm thick. It comes with a 1.34-inch LCD display and a 145 mAh battery under the hood too, but don’t let that capacity fool you — Fitbit claims the Versa can last four days on a single charge.

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The most exciting thing here is what Fitbit is doing in software. The company is debuting female health tracking on the Versa, which is a way for women to track and understand their menstrual cycle and how it connects to their health. You can log your cycle data and record your symptoms, and even see dynamic cycle predictions based on your history. This is all thanks to Fitbit’s proprietary cycle algorithm that supposedly gets smarter and more accurate as you log your period. The best part? All of this menstrual cycle data is available right on your wrist.

You can get even more granular details in the Fitbit app, which will also feature educational content on menstrual cycles, ovulation, fertility, and more. You can even connect with other women in the Community tab in the app for support and advice.

Female health tracking is coming to the Ionic in Spring 2018.

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The Versa also brings Fitbit OS 2.0, a much improved version of the operating system that launched on the Ionic. Fitbit is trying to make the OS smoother and more intuitive, and based on my short time with the device I think it’s headed in the right direction. Fitbit OS 2.0 is much smoother on the Versa, and I didn’t notice too many hiccups when scrolling around the UI. It also now allows you to swipe down from the top of the watch to get your notifications — the Ionic made you swipe up from the bottom. Swiping up from the bottom on the Versa brings you to the redesigned health dashboard that offers a simplified, holistic view of your fitness stats.

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Now, you can see your daily and weekly health stats, historical activity, heart rate, and exercise summaries right on your wrist. The software will get better over time, too — Fitbit will introduce reminders, celebrations, logging, insights, sleep summaries, and social challenges to the Versa and Ionic sometime in 2018.

Fitbit OS 2.0 is a big step in the right direction, and it's only going to get better over time.

The downside to buying Fitbit smartwatches is that you aren’t able to reply to messages from your wrist. That’s changing with the Versa. If you’re an Android user, you can respond to text messages with a pre-populated or customized reply directly from your wrist. This feature will expand to other messaging apps in the future too.

As for iOS users — you’re out of luck. iOS isn’t as open as Android, so Apple doesn’t currently offer a way for quick replies to work on the iPhone. Fitbit says it’s trying to make it work, so perhaps we may hear more about this later in the year.

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Of course, this is a Fitbit device, so it also offers 24/7 heart rate tracking, on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach, over 15 exercise modes, Connected GPS (no built-in GPS here), and swim tracking thanks to its 5 ATM rating. It also has 2.5 GB available for music storage (4 GB in all). You can load around 300 of your favorite songs on the device, listen to stations from Pandora, and now listen to curated playlists and Flow from Deezer.

Fitbit Pay is only available on one model in the U.S., and you'll have to pay extra for it.

The only questionable decision here is the fact that contactless payments are only available on one model in the U.S., and you’ll have to pay extra for it. Fitbit Pay is only available on the Special Edition Versa, which costs $30 more than the standard model without Fitbit Pay. That’s only in the U.S. though — all Fitbit Versa models around the world have an NFC chip for Fitbit Pay. It’s hard not to think of this as a cash grab for the U.S. market.

Luckily you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for this device. The Versa is available for pre-order today (March 13) at for $199.95, with other online retailers offering the device for pre-order starting tomorrow, March 14. The $200 model comes in three color options: black with a black aluminum case, gray with a silver aluminum case, or peach with a rose gold aluminum case. The Special Edition model costs $229.95, but that also gets you a really nice woven band in either charcoal (pictured above) or lavender colors. Special Edition models also come with a black classic band in the box.

Both models will be available worldwide in April 2018 through Amazon, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, Verizon, and Walmart.

At $200, the Fitbit Versa undercuts the Apple Watch Series 1 by $50, which is exactly what Fitbit needed to do to get this on more people’s wrists. The Ionic was a good, but weird foray into the smartwatch world for Fitbit, and the Versa seems like a huge step in the right direction.

Next: Fitbit announces Ace, the company’s first kid-friendly fitness tracker

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