• My Weekend with a Fitbit Versa

    Last Friday this longtime Pebble fan (and currently a paid Rebble.io user) suddenly found himself in possession of a Fitbit.

    You might think that I bought it for curiosity's sake, to see just how much of Pebble's DNA made it into Fibit's second-generation smartwatch. But no, it was the bubbling desire to use my watch to pay for something at somewhere other than Starbucks. That was the justification that got me to my local Best Buy to make a non-wrist-based payment of $299.95 CAD—which, if I recall correctly, was the Canadian list price of a Pebble Time Steel just a few years ago.

    If you don't feel like reading any further, I'm going to return it; if you're at all interested in what went wrong, then read on!

    The Great

    Fitbit Pay worked better than I had hoped. It certainly helps that the credit card from my Canadian bank (RBC) is supported.

    Yes, you are encouraged to protect yourself by setting a four-digit PIN to unlock your Versa, but thankfully you don't need to enter it before every wrist-based payment; instead, you're asked to enter your PIN after you've removed it from your wrist and then put it back on again. For me that's exactly the right balance of convenience and security.

    The Good

    When you buy a Fitbit you're not just getting the device itself; you're buying into an entire platform of software, services and other products/accessories. Fitbit's health tracking seems at least as good as anything else I've seen, and sleep tracking is something that even the Apple Watch can't yet do—although its value for me is a bit dubious. I don't really need a Fibit to tell me that my sleep is suffering because my cat wakes me up every night at 3am demanding to be let out.

    As for the watch itself its build quality is excellent, and I'm especially impressed with the straps. Even if they are somewhat proprietary I do like the lugless design, and I'd certainly consider the purchase of additional first-party leather bands and such from Fibit's online store.

    I should also point out that the Versa is surprisingly light on the wrist, possibly a bit lighter than my Pebble Time Steel. And its screen is definitely a quantum leap ahead of the washed-out colours of my PTS. Even in bright sunlight the Versa's screen is easily readable—that is, when it's on. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

    The Not So Good

    So the Versa has a square 300 x 300 pixel display instead of a portrait one; I suspect it's because Fitbit wants you to use its built-in coaching app. Imagine trying to do any exercise routine while keeping one wrist immobile opposite your face and you'll hopefully come to the same conclusion as me—that exercising along to an instructional video on a watch is kind of a dumb idea.

    More importantly, the Versa does not have an always-on display. The action of raising your wrist lights it up almost every time; when it doesn't you'll have to mash a button or double-tap the screen to see it. And invariably this will happen when your other hand is occupied—like when you're driving or carrying groceries. This is where I started missing my Pebble. A lot.

    The Deal-Breaker

    I firmly believe that if you're going to call something a smartwatch it had better be able to deliver notifications reliably. This is where the Versa let me down, and let me down hard. I was waiting in a car to pick up my girlfriend and her elderly mother at the entrance of a busy shopping centre; mom's not walking so well these days... Anyway, I completely missed the ping letting me know that they were ready and waiting at the curb, plus the next three messages after that. In my three and a half years as a Pebble user, I can't recall ever having missed a notification in a scenario like that.

    Again, my minimum requirement for a smartwatch is to be rock-solid with this most basic of functions; without that, I don't really see how you can call Versa a smartwatch at all. It's a capable fitness tracker, to be sure. And great for tap and pay as well. But with my confidence in notifications shaken, I think I'll be sticking to my Pebbles for the foreseeable future.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: My Weekend with a Fitbit Versa started by acurrie View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. happygrrl1's Avatar
      happygrrl1 -
      I have used a Fitbit Versa for a year now and I have to say your review is spot on. I am shopping for a new Smartwatch because I am giving up on Versa. While it works well as a fitness tracker, its Smartwatch capability is unacceptable. I have spent countless hours troubleshooting my Versa trying to get notifications to work consistently. I have used it with three different phones. My current phone is on the list as compatible with Versa, but notifications still only work occasionally.