Fitbit Versa 3 full review
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The Versa 3 is Fitbit’s best fitness smartwatch, bested in its features only by the even more premium, health-focussed Fitbit Sense.
In terms of fitness features the Versa 3 and Sense are equals, but the Sense adds a bunch of new health-related features including EDA stress management and ECG heart measurement. You’ll learn more in both our Fitbit Sense review and Fitbit Sense vs Fitbit Versa 3 comparison.
The Versa 3 boasts plenty of health features, too: in many ways it mirrors the Sense; it just doesn’t go into the rarified medical complexity you get with the upper-end smartwatch.
In some ways, this is a less-is-more advantage. The Versa 3 is less overwhelmed with medical features and focuses firmly on fitness, at two thirds of the price.
Design and build
The squircle (squared circle) Versa 3 boasts a bright AMOLED screen that is similar to the previous Versa screens, but larger - 1.58in with a 336x336 resolution - and more curved, so it looks a little softer.
By comparison, the Versa 2’s screen measured 1.39in, with a 300x300 resolution. The larger screen means the Versa 3 is larger overall too, but only fractionally so.
You can opt to keep the display in a basic-face Always On mode, which is preferred when you need immediate access to your stats during workouts, runs, and bike rides for instance - but this will decrease the Versa 3’s battery life.
It’s impossible not to compare the Versa 3 with the Fitbit Sense because the two are so similar in design. The Versa 3 lacks the Sense’s stainless-steel ring that is used for the EDA stress and ECG heart measurements. Otherwise, they are pretty much identical looking except for colour options.
The Versa 3 comes in two case colours (Black Aluminium and Soft Gold Aluminium), with three colour choices of the new Infinity Band (Black, Midnight Blue, and Pink Clay). My Versa 3 test sample was the Soft Gold case with Midnight Blue band, and it looks great.
As the design is the same as the Sense, you can also buy from the same wide range of accessory straps: five Sport, six Woven, three Knit and four Leather bands, plus four choices of Infinity Band.
I’m not a big fan of the new Infinity Band that replaces the more secure tang-buckle strap found on the Versa and Versa 2. The Infinity Band’s peg-in-hole connection just doesn’t feel as strong as the buckle.
The bands are swappable, and thankfully this process is a hundred times easier than the Versa and Versa 2’s fiddly metal-bar arrangement. Now, you just push down on a raised tab and click the bands in and out.
Also like the Sense, the Versa 3 features a vibrating solid-state haptic button rather than the physical button on the previous Versa models. It’s only really for powering on, as you navigate by swiping left or right or up and down. You can also set customisable shortcuts via button presses. These can go straight to apps such as the Alexa voice assistant, Music, Alarms and so on.
The watch itself and the silicone Infinity Band are water-resistant up to 50m, although some of the accessory wrist straps are less so.
What does the Fitbit Versa 3 do?
The Versa 3 offers the basic all-day activity measurements: steps, distance, floors climbed, hourly activity, active minutes, and calories burned.
And it goes a lot further, motivating you to look beyond 10,000 steps as your goal, and push yourself harder with targets for Active Zone Minutes, where you earn points for moving into the recorded heart-rates zones: Fat Burn, Cardio and Peak.
All this is excellently displayed on the big, bright screen, and in more depth in the Fitbit mobile app.
The Versa 3, like the Sense, uses Fitbit’s updated PurePulse 2.0 technology in its now multi-path optical heart-rate sensor, which the company claims offers more accurate readings via machine learning algorithms that map multiple heart rate signals to build a better picture of your heart rate.
The HR tracking is the core of many of Fitbit’s fitness features, including Cardio Fitness Levels, Active Zone Minutes, Workout Intensity Map, Guided Breathing Sessions, and Sleep Score.
Its hero new addition is the built-in GPS, which was lacking from earlier Versa models. More sporty fitness users will relish this as they no longer need to carry their phone round with them for GPS pace and distance stats and maps of their workout routes.
Swipe left to the Exercise app to choose from up to 20 exercise modes for real-time stats during workouts: Run, Bike, Swim, Weights, Walk, Workout, Interval Workout, Spinning, Treadmill, Golf, Hike, Tennis, Stair Climber, Pilates, Circuit Training, Bootcamp, Yoga, Elliptical, Martial Arts, and Kickboxing.
Fitbit’s SmartTrack feature will, after 15 minutes' activity, automatically recognise and record most exercises if you don’t set them via the watch.
Fitbit is the world beater when it comes to sleep tracking, and you get detailed stats on not just the length of your sleep, but its quality (scored out of 100) and how long you are in each of the measured sleep stages: light, REM, and deep.
While it lacks the Sense’s stress-management score and tools and ECG app, Fitbit has hinted that the skin temperature feature will be added to the Versa at an unspecified date.
It also has an SpO2 monitor that measures blood oxygen levels that can indicate health issues such as allergies, asthma, or sleep apnea. This will be an indicator only, so if the Versa 3 data suggests low blood-oxygen levels you should consult a doctor and undergo more in-depth polysomnographic investigation.
Fitbit’s SpO2 tracking isn’t as sophisticated as Apple’s on-demand SpO2 readings on the Apple Watch or on the Withings ScanWatch. Fitbit takes its readings overnight only, and takes a while to show the score in the morning.
Fitbit also requires non-Premium uers to change the Versa 3’s clock face to the SpO2 setting that’s required to take a reading - something I found too easy to forget, especially at bedtime! Fitbit should make this automatic function available to non-Premium users, too.
The Versa 3 does lack the Sense’s more useful high and low heart rate notifications, although not from any technical limitation as far as I can make out. But it does test your resting heart rate, and offers guided breathing sessions for meditative mindfulness. It can also track women’s menstrual health.
The Sense goes much further, but that level of medical metrics might not be what you require from what is principally a fitness device. Some might find the Sense health feature set to be more than they care to use, and a lot of it also relies on subscribing to Fitbit’s £79/$79 annual Premium service.
Once you've checked a few times that you don't have an irregular heart beat or sleep apnea, do you really need the function again?
Smart features and software
While it lacks the thousands of apps you’d have access to with an Apple or Wear OS smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 3 is first and foremost a fitness tracker and excels on this level.
You do get the basic features that most smartwatches offer, including probably the most useful, notifications: Caller ID, texts, and the popular messaging apps.
Apple keeps the best for its own Apple Watch, so only Android users get the Quick Replies and Voice Replies functions, as well as the ability to respond to text messages with voice-to-text commands.
That said, the new built-in speaker (plus microphone, of course) lets you take calls from your wrist via Bluetooth connection to your phone, as well as send incoming calls to voicemail and control volume, all from the watch.
The integrated voice assistants now allow audible replies. Like the Versa 2 before it, the Versa 3 features Amazon’s Alexa, and in the US only at the moment, Google’s voice-activated Assistant. Google's voice assistant will hit more English-speaking countries - including the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - from “winter 2020”.
Like the Versa 2 before it and the Sense above it, the Versa 3 features 2.5GB of storage space, although with the significant limitation that this works only with Pandora and Deezer for music. Fitbit’s music-storage capabilities actually appear to have gone backwards with the Versa 3 and Sense.
It does, however, let you control Spotify Premium music playlists via a nearby paired phone - and some basic controls when using Apple Music and Audible.
This is nowhere near as accessible as on the Apple Watch. If you're connected to Wi-Fi or mobile data, you can stream Apple Music, podcasts and audiobooks, even when away from your iPhone.
Battery life and charging
You get 6+ days battery life with the Fitbit Versa 3, just like you do with the Sense.
Battery life, of course, is dependent on your usage. Utilise the built-in GPS, and the battery will fade much faster. Switch on the always-on display feature, and battery life will halve despite the screen turning to lower-power features.
But six days is still an impressive battery performance, especially when you note that even the latest Apple Watch 6 has an 18-hour battery life – making things like sleep tracking a league below the level of Fitbit’s.
The Versa 3 also features Fitbit’s new fast charging function that gets you 24 hours of battery life from just 12 minutes of charging – ideal if you wake up to a faded fitness tracker.
And the charger itself is magnetic and a lot smaller than the old chunky Versa/Versa 2 charging clasp.
Pricing and availability
The Fitbit Versa 3 costs £199.99 in the UK, $229 in the US, €229.95 in the EU, $299.95 in Canada, and $399.95 in Australia – the same price as the Versa 2 on its release a year earlier. You can order it direct from Fitbit, Amazon, or most other electronics retailers.
It’s the same price as the Apple Watch Series 3. We prefer the Fitbit for all-round fitness tracking but Apple is getting closer and beating in other areas, although with a lamentable battery life that makes sleep tracking frustrating.
You can still buy the older model Versa 2 at a discount if you’re happy to live without the new built-in GPS, claimed more accurate heart-rate sensor, speaker, and Google voice assistant; for more details, read our Fitbit Versa 2 vs Versa 3 comparison.
Notably, the Versa 3 is a third cheaper than the top-end Sense. That £100/$100 price difference is a lot, and most of what you lose, we suspect you won't miss after your first few experiments with the Sense's extra micro-health features.
Check out the best fitness trackers we've reviewed for more options.
With the addition of a built-in GPS, sporty fitness fanatics will enjoy the Versa 3 as a major upgrade to the previous Versa and Versa 2.
If you can live with running or biking using your phone’s connected GPS, there isn’t a huge imperative to upgrade from the Versa 2. But as a new watch, it's a compelling option, especially now it boasts both Alexa and Google voice assistants.
Where we think the Versa 3 really wins is being a third cheaper than the top-end Fitbit Sense, and so offers great value if your main priorities are fitness and core smart features rather than a ton of possibly overwhelming health stats.
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