We broke the news a couple of days ago and now its official. Fitbit has announced its upcoming Versa smartwatch. The Blaze replacement features an all new look, it is swim proof, it can store on-board music, it has an all new female health tracking function, but no built-in GPS.
Once the dominant force, Fitbit has been losing market share and needs something to turn its fortunes around. Its recent innovation, the Ionic, was released back in October to a lukewarm response. This was confirmed by its dismal holiday quarter results. Results came below Wall Street estimates as the wearable technology company sold fewer devices in the three months.
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James Park, Fitbit’s CEO, has hinted that investors can expect a more “mass appeal” smartwatch in 2018, but did not go into more detail. Until now.
The $199 Versa smartwatch retails a third below the $299 Ionic. It is available for pre-order on fitbit.com for shipping in April. In the US, there is an additional, more expensive $229 edition which supports contactless payments. The gizmo can also be picked up on Amazon (Check price).
“The launch of Versa at this price point is going to give us a much fuller portfolio that I think better captures the overall opportunity,” explained Park.
“But really the purpose of Versa, given its feature set and its price point, is for us to start winning share in the overall wearables category…”
Following months of rumours, the Versa is finally official. Here is everything you need to know.
Fitbit has stuck to its no-nonsense, practical design over the years. After all, why change something that works well and has been proven to be popular. But some pretty big design tweaks have come this time around.
Fitbit Versa has a much more modern wrapper than its predecessor. And this is a welcome change. While perfectly functional, the octagon-shaped case of the Blaze looks very retro. The new wearable is also smaller and better looking than the Ionic, which should appeal to the female demographic. The gizmo comes with a high-quality 1,000 nit display and Fitbit says its the lightest metal smartwatch sold in the US.
Another welcome design change is to do with waterproofing. The new device comes with a 5 ATM (50 meter) water-resistance rating. Up to now, the Flex 2 and Ionic were the company’s only wearables you can take swimming with you. But at least its clear Fitbit has learned how to make its wearables water friendly. Versa will also keep tabs on your swimming.
The lightweight device runs a perfectly decent 4 days on a single charge. Fitbit knows battery capacity is an important selling point with all its fitness trackers. Luckily, battery capacity is progressing with each passing year which gives users more bang for the buck.
As always, there are lots of options in straps, colours and watch faces.
When it comes to 24/7 activity monitoring the original Blaze ticks most boxes. You’ll get all this and more on Versa.
The lack of built-in GPS is an obvious omission from the Blaze and unfortunately it hasn’t come this time around either. A built-in GPS ensures that all your running stats are accurate. It uses lots of battery and finding a signal can sometimes be hard. However, the results are definitely worth it.
Versa has something Fitbit calls ‘connected GPS’, essentially a fancy term meaning the wearable is able to tap into your smartphone for GPS readings. That’s not the best of solutions and it also means you need to have your smartphone around whenever you head out for a run. Fitbit has probably opted for this to keep the price low and battery life high.
Are there any new sensors? Not really. Versa comes with the standard gamut along with Fitbit’s new relative SpO2 sensor. The full list is pretty comprehensive: 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, Optical heart rate monitor, Altimeter, Ambient light sensor, Vibration motor, Wi-Fi antenna (802.11 b/g/n) and NFC.
Stress monitoring seems to be one of the next frontiers. Garmin are starting to include it on all its wearables, as are some other companies. Fitbit has Breathing Exercises, which is a good start. We were hopeful we might see 24/7 stress tracking, but the wait will be a bit longer.
Female health tracking
This is the first device to debut Fitbit’s all-new female health tracking function. The feature allows women to see how their periods impact different aspects of their lives, everything from sleep to activity levels.
“This is something that we’ve heard many, many of our users request given our brand’s strength with women,” said Park.
“The way we feel about female health tracking and its impact on people’s overall health and fitness for women is that this is really the next big thing for us.”
This feature comes with Fitbit OS 2.0, so it will be available on Ionic as well. The updated version of the operating system debuts in the Spring. It comes with an all new dashboard which provides more details on your activity.
Non fitness features
With its decent sized screen, the Blaze replacement is a perfectly built to offer non-fitness functionality. Features that go beyond the standard notifications we have grown so accustomed to these days.
If you live in the US, there is a special edition of Versa that comes comes with Fitbit Pay. In Europe all versions include the feature. Just like the Ionic, there is a built-in NFC chip which stores credit card information so you can leave your wallet behind.
A nice feature we were hoping for is internal memory for music. And Fitbit delivered. Versa comes with enough on-board memory for 300 songs. This means the smartwatch can function as a mini iPod if you take the time and effort to set it up. Built-in memory for music allows for truly phone-free exercising.
The original Blaze is now a couple of years old so the 2018 release date fits into Fitbit’s two-year product release cycle. As mentioned, the device is available for pre-order now on fitbit.com and Amazon. Shipping is expected in April.
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