Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Which to get?

Versa is Fitbit’s second smartwatch. The device comes with most of the sensors you’ll find on Ionic, contactless payments, local storage, smartphone notifications and more. However, with its rounded edges, polished look and more compact form factor, Versa looks much better. No doubt, it will have a much better chance of eating into Apple’s leading share of the smartwatch market than Ionic ever did.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets

The big news with Apple Watch 3 is its cellular connectivity. This means you are able to make and receive calls, as well as messages, while away from your smartphone. And yes, you still get all the great features of the previous generation devices.

The two are going head to head now, competing for pretty much the same market. Read on to find out how they stack up against each other.


Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Design

In terms of looks, Versa is not all too different from the Apple Watch. And this is a good thing. We make no secret we are not fans of the blocky design of the Ionic. But the company is clearly learning from its Pebble acquisition and this influence is becoming more and more evident.

Versa is smaller, slightly thinner and lighter (38 grams versus 50 grams) than the Ionic which should appeal to the female demographic. The core unit of the watch is built from strong and lightweight 6000 series aerospace-grade aluminium.

There are three physical buttons on the sides, one on the left and two on the right. In combination with the touch-screen, this allows you to navigate through the display. After a bit of practice, you’ll learn how to whizz through the stats.

To compete with the Apple Watch, Fitbit has once again gone with increased pixels and amplified brightness up to 1,000 nits. This is as good as it gets in terms of display quality at the moment and even outperforms some smartphones.

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Image source: Fitbit

The Apple Watch 3 looks very much like the Apple Watch 2 (and Apple Watch 1…). Apart from the red dot on the crown, there is actually very little to tell the two apart. The case is the same size, the only difference being that the back crystal is slightly extended (0.25 millimeters). There is a wide variety of styles and colours to choose from, with casing including aluminium, stainless steel and a new ceramic edition which is four times harder than stainless steel.

The displays on Fitbit’s and Apple’s watch have a lot in common. They are both square and full-color, though you get a bit more screen real estate on the Apple Watch. In terms of actual specs, Versa sports a hi-res 300 by 300 pixel LCD touchscreen that measures 24.1 x 24.1mm. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, the 42mm and 38mm. The smaller one has an OLED Retina display with a 272 x 340 pixel resolution, while the larger comes in at 312 x 390.

All things considered, Versa and Apple Watch 3 are pretty much neck and neck in terms of aesthetics and design. We would probably put the Apple Watch 3 ahead, but only slightly ahead.

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Image source: Apple

Under the hood there are a few important differences. Both trackers share an optical heart rate monitor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, altimeter, vibration motor and ambient light sensor. Versa also comes with something Fitbit calls a relative SpO2 sensor. This measures blood oxygen levels and could be used to identify sleep apnea in the future. We have yet to see it put to real-world use, though.

Apple’s Series 3, on the other hand, comes with built-in GPS. This provides more precise data on pace and distance and allows you to leave your phone behind when exercising outdoors. Versa only has connected-GPS, so needs your phone to be in close vicinity as it taps into its GPS readings.

The other difference, of course, is cellular connectivity of the Apple Watch. The Series 3 features a small electronic SIM card. Unfortunately, this comes with on-going monthly fees.

In terms of processing power, Apple’s third generation watch comes with a 70% faster dual-core processor. This enables Siri to talk for the first time in addition to just listening. There is also a W2 chip for Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity which allows for a 85% faster connection while being 50% more efficient.

Fitbit does not disclose information on its processors. Without specific details we can’t make an actual comparison, but its probably safe to assume that Apple Watch Series 3 has more processing power. As for storage, you get 4GB with the Versa, 8GB with the basic Series 3 watch, and 16GB with the cellular version.


Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Battery life and water resistance

Both timepieces have a rechargeable Lithium battery. Versa, however, leaves the Series 3 watch in the dust on this measure. It promises a perfectly respectable four days of battery life, and less with continuous music playback.

Unfortunately Apple is still struggling with battery life. Just like its predecessors, the third generation watch will keep going for about a day and less when GPS is activated. This means there is no getting away from charging it a lot.

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Image source: Fitbit

Both the Versa and Apple Watch Series 3 have fantastic 5 ATM water resistance rating. No need not worry if they get wet, and they are perfectly capable of tracking your swim sessions, too.


Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Features

Fitness tracking

Like the Ionic, Versa is a timepiece that puts fitness first. It can do just about everything an Apple Watch can handle on this measure.

You get all the basics, along with inactivity reminders and automatic activity recognition. In the morning the app will provide you with detailed info on light, deep and REM sleep stages which you won’t get on the Apple Watch. Plus you get a great and very user-friendly smartphone app to go along with your fitness tracker.

Fitbit’s Purepulse heart rate sensor stores heart rate data at 1 second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5 second intervals all other times. The quality of readings have been upgraded too, as compared to its fitness tracker range. So much so that Fitbit says it may be used in the future to help determine atrial fibrillation.

Apple has also boosted its heart rate features. With WatchOS4, you are able to see your current heart rate just by raising your wrist, there is the addition of a recovering heart rate, and the watch will alert you when it detects an abnormal spike in your readings. For the first time, the Apple Watch is also be able to tell you your resting heart rate, something Fitbit has had for a while. This is perhaps the most important measure of your health and fitness.

The Apple Watch for the first time comes with a barometric altimeter sensor so you get info on floors climbed and altitude. A long overdue feature. And lets not forget its built-in GPS. This allows for true phone-free exercising, something many runners will appreciate.

top fitness trackers and health gadgets - Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Which to get?
Image source: Apple

In the spring, Fitbit will come out with its new Female Health Tracking feature. This will allow women to see how their periods impact different aspects of their lives, everything from sleep to activity levels. This is something we have not seen before so Fitbit should be applauded for treading  on new ground.

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Apple Watch Series 3
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Apple has clearly closed the gap on Fitbit when it comes to activity tracking, although its still playing catch-up. While both devices take care of the basics, the Apple Watch has some obvious omissions such as the lack of a native app for sleep tracking. The short battery life is also a hindrance for something that is supposed to monitor your activity 24/7. The built-in GPS, however, works in its favour.

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Image source: Fitbit
Smartwatch features

This is where Apple shines and where Fitbit is playing catch-up. With its huge range of smartwatch features, the Apple Watch becomes a natural extension of your iPhone. There is a plethora of native and third-party apps and the upgrade to watchOS4 features Siri, Apple Music streaming, and much more.

And lets not forget cellular connectivity. When you are away from your phone, the watch automatically switches to the cellular signal. Third party apps will be able to tap into this signal as well.

Although it can’t really compete with the Apple Watch on this measure, Versa comes with a few non-fitness features as well. This includes 2.5 GB of local storage for music, access to Pandora, notifications for call, NFC chip for contactless payments, text and calendar alerts, and much more. There is also an app store with a handful of native apps and an open its SDK for third-party developers.


Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: The bottom line

Fitbit’s design team has done well. With its polished new look, Versa is right up there with the Apple Watch in terms of aesthetics – a timepiece equally suited for both men and women. But while the two devices might seem similar, they are actually quite different. Fitbit’s device puts fitness first, smartwatch features second. The Apple Watch is, by far, the best all-rounder.

Fitbit has had the fitness side of things nailed down for a while now. And Versa takes all this great functionality and makes it even better with the new female health tracking feature. What doesn’t work in its favour is the lack of built-in GPS. But unless you are an avid runner, this probably won’t make too much of a difference to you.

The lack of built-in GPS also helps establish a significant price gap that works in Versa’s favour. Plus Fitbit’s timepiece offers a few other advantages over Apple’s device such as much longer battery life and sleep tracking.

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Fitbit Versa
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In terms of smartwatch features, however, Versa pales next to the LTE-equipped Apple Watch. Apple’s device offers so many other things in addition to being a fitness tracker, its health and fitness features should be viewed as a bonus rather than the main reason for purchase. But Apple’s cellular-enabled watch is pricier and its battery life remains a major stumbling block.

If you’re after something to track your health and activity around the clock, we would put Versa ahead. Particularly when you factor in its much lower price. If, however, you are equally (or more) interested in non-fitness features, there is a long list of reasons why Apple’s device is currently the best selling smartwatch in the world.

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2 thoughts on “Fitbit Versa or Apple Watch Series 3: Which to get?

  • March 27, 2018 at 1:18 am
    Permalink

    The problem with FitBit is their reliability. If you want a fitness tracker that lasts 14 months then breaks, buy a Fit Bit. In my experience, Apple stand behind their products much better than does FitBit

    Reply
  • April 2, 2018 at 5:19 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve used the Fitbit flex for 3 years. The first one died after 2 years, but the replacement one is going on strong. Fitbit is pretty good at standing behind their products, they sent me replacement charge cable free of charge when I started to have issues charging with the one that came in the box.

    That said, two things I don’t like about the versa:
    1/ Missing GPS, that is inexcusable for any serious activity tracker these days.
    2/ The big logo in front is very distracting and imo ugly.

    Reply

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