It is still still business as usual at Fitbit despite the Google acquisition. The transaction is expected to complete later this year, pending regulatory approval.
In the meantime, the San Francisco outfit is churning out new devices. Late last year it released an updated version of its flagship smartwatch, the Versa 2. A few days ago it unveiled the new and improved iteration of its best selling fitness band, the Charge 4.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Both are packed with the latest health and fitness tech on offer, and come with Fitbit’s rich software ecosystem. But what exactly are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Read on to find out.
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Versa 2: Specs
The most obvious difference between Charge 4 and Versa 2 is that the first takes the shape of a fitness band, the second a smartwatch. So while they are built from the same lightweight aluminium, the two are very different in looks.
Charge 4 comes across like a typical activity tracker, not all-to-different from Fitbit’s previous efforts. In fact it looks exactly the same as Charge 3, its only some of the internals that have changed. Which means you get a rectangular core unit that measures 35.8mm x 22.7mm, and has a depth of 12.5mm. The grayscale display comes in at 34.5mm x 19.8mm.
Fitbit has stuck the tried and tested formula with the Versa rage, as well. The second generation comes across very much like the original. As compared to the Charge 4, Versa 2 has a much larger display (25.07 mm x 25.07 mm) so is easier to read both indoors and out. What’s more, the screen is better quality (300 x 300 pixels vs 100 x 150 pixels) and AMOLED so you get the full colour effect. This is as good as it gets in terms of display quality right now and even outperforms some smartphones.
You navigate both devices by combining the touchscreen with physical buttons. For Charge 4 there is one inductive button on the left. Versa has three buttons, one on the left, two on the right.
Fitbit is doing away with various sizes so both devices come with a large and small strap in the box. Straps carry standard watch-style clasp mechanisms and are interchangeable, so you can tailor the wearables to your liking.
Under the hood, is much of the same.
The devices share a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, PulseOx and vibration motor. Both also have an NFC chip for contactless payments.
The most important extra that you get with Charge 4 is built-in GPS. Apart from Ionic, this is the only Fitbit wearable with built-in GPS. Versa 2 has Connected GPS, a fancy way of saying it needs your smartphone to tap into the satellite signal. If you’re wondering what extras Versa 3 will bring, there lies your answer. Built-in GPS is a safe bet.
Battery life is the same on both wearables, about a week on a single charge. Switch on the GPS on Charge 4 and this falls to a not too shabby 5 hours. Water resistance is excellent.
Here’s a table showing all the important specs.
|Charge 4||Versa 2|
|Display size||34.5mm x 19.8mm (window diagonal 39.9mm)||25.07 mm x 25.07 mm|
|Display type||OLED full touchscreen, TFT, Grayscale
||AMOLED touchscreen, Colour|
|Display resolution||100 × 150 pixels||300 × 300 pixels|
|Battery life||up to 7 days (5 hours with GPS switched on).||5+ days. Charge time (0-100%):2 hours. Less will always-on screen option.|
|Water resistance||up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM||up to 50 metres (swim-proof) – 5 ATM|
|Sensors||Optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor||Optical heart rate tracker, 3-axis accelerometer, altimeter, SpO2, vibration motor, Ambient light sensor|
|GPS||Built-in GPS||Connected GPS|
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Versa 2: Functionality
Fitbit’s strength is activity tracking and its no surprise either of these devices will suffice in that sense. You’ll find everything you need, from steps counting, to advanced sleep tracking and blood oxygen monitoring (during the night). There is also automatic activity recognition for a plethora of exercises, Guided Breathing, Female Health tracking and much more.
So what’s different? Well, there are a few things.
For starters, the above mentioned larger screen real-estate on Versa 2 makes it better for checking your fitness metrics on the go. It can show more stats at the same time, it has on-screen exercises, the ability to view workouts from earlier days, an always-on screen option – none of which you will find on Charge 4.
The glaring advantage of Charge 4 is built-in GPS. Runners and cyclists will appreciate this feature. It allows for detailed stats tracking and a map of your workout, by tapping into the satellite signal from your fitness band. Owners of Versa 2 will need to keep their phone close by as Versa links into its GPS signal.
Let’s face it. It can be a bit of a pain carrying your smartphone when you’re trying to improve on your personal best running time. Built-in GPS is clearly the more hassle-free option. If you need it.
It’s worth pointing out that Charge 4 will also have the ability to use Connected GPS. This is coming via a software update and may be useful in conditions where you want to preserve battery life.
With Charge 4 Fitbit has also introduced something it calls Active Zones. This measures the intensity of your activity by rewarding you points for various heart rate zones. This functionality will come soon to Versa 2, Versa, Versa Lite and Ionic, but not Charge 3.
The final activity tracking extra on Charge 4 is swim tracking. The tracker spits out info on swim lengths, duration, distance and pace. Although it is water-resistant, on Versa 2 all you’ll get is the duration of the swim. It’s a bit strange the company has decided to leave out this functionality from its flagship smartwatch.
Fitbit Versa 2
On to the non-fitness functions. Even though Charge 4 looks like a fitness tracker, it comes with a few functions you’ll find on smartwatches. For example, it shows basic notifications and the option to accept or reject calls. There’s also the above-mentioned NFC chip for contactless payments.
As its a smartwatch, Versa 2 comes with all of this plus a choice of hundreds of Fitbit and third-party apps. There’s also Amazon Alexa functionality that works via the built-in microphone, as well as the ability to send voice replies.
Another important difference is that Versa comes with 2.5GB of internal memory which you can use to store up to 300 songs for offline listening. It provides access to Pandora and Deezer. Spotify control is available on both wearables, so owners of Charge 4 might take some comfort in that.
Fitbit Charge 4 vs Versa 2: The bottom line
In terms of looks, the Charge 4 and Versa 2 couldn’t be more different. The first takes the form of a traditional fitness band, the second a smartwatch.
The larger and more high-res colour display of Versa 2 makes it easier to read. There are hundreds of apps you can install, Alexa control, offline storage for music, voice replies and more. In terms of smart functionality, it is clearly the better option.
However, when it comes to fitness tracking the Charge 4 actually offers slightly more. The sensors are the same but it has the all-important built-in GPS. This is something that runners and cyclists will appreciate as it allows for phone-free exercising. Another difference is that, unlike Versa 2, Charge 4 can track swimming with info on swim lengths, duration, distance and pace.
Fitbit Charge 4
So it really depends what you are after. Those that are after a smartwatch experience will not mind shelling out an extra $50 or so for something with a larger display, smart functionality and decent fitness tracking ability. If you need built-in GPS or are an avid swimmer, Charge 4 is the clear option. It is also more suitable for those that prefer a more discreet look.
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