In this day and age choosing a wearable device isn’t as easy as it used to be. Do you want a fitness tracker, do you want a smartwatch or do you want something in between? There are choices aplenty. Fitbit which was once dedicated to just fitness trackers is now firmly entrenched in the smartphone world, even if you don’t realise it. It started with the Fitbit Ionic and then last years Fitbit Versa. This year Fitbit have release the Fitbit Versa Lite, a cheaper alternative to the Fitbit Versa with a price of $269.95 that looks almost identical and has all the key features of it’s older sibling which makes it a compelling option in a crowded wearable market.
Anyone who has seen the Fitbit Versa will know all about the design of the Lite Edition. The device has the same square with rounded edge design and one button on the left hand side of the watch. The screen resolution is 300 x 300, exactly the same as the Fitbit Versa. It’s bright enough but not as bright as something like the Apple Watch 4 but the Apple Watch is a hell of a lot more expensive. Word of warning, the bezels on the Versa Lite are pretty chunky. This certainly isn’t an edge to edge screen but if you go for a black watch face the bezels will blend into the screen thus reducing the impact of the bezels.
The touchscreen isn’t quite as snappy as the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch but again they are more expensive so like any piece of tech there are always tradeoffs. If you’ve never used a high-end smartwatch you’d be none the wiser that the reasonably quick touchscreen isn’t as fast as some of the higher-end smartwatches on the market.
A big plus for the Versa Lite is the rage of colours it comes in: Marina blue, mulberry, lilac and white. The watch bands are also easily changeable and work with standard watch bands so you’ll be able to sub them out and create some individual flair.
Look, design is all well and good but if you’re buying a Fitbit it isn’t so much about the design as it is about managing your health and wellbeing. That is an area that Fitbit have always been very good at and the Versa Lite is no exception.
First up, the Versa Lite is water resistant up to 50m so you can take it in the pool with you. Curiously the watch doesn’t feature dedicated swim training so whilst it is water resistant and can offer you basic tracking in the water, you won’t be able to track swimming laps. The water resistance seems to be there primarily for people who get caught in the rain when running or walking.
A trade off with Versa Lite is that there is no built-in GPS. The Lite uses connected GPS which means it will piggy-bank off your phone GPS when it’s connected. Yep that means if you’re going out on a run, walk or cycle you’ll want to have your phone close by to get the GPS data.
If you’ve ever used a Fitbit then you’ll know be pleased to know that all the fancy fitness tracking the company is renowned for is right here on the Versa Lite. You can track your workouts manually or allow the watch to automatically detect workouts, something it is surprisingly accurate. If you’re out on a run and you stop for a breather the watch will recognise that and pause the workout until you start going again.
If you’ve become accustomed to Fitbits on-screen guided workouts then I’m afraid they have been cut from the Versa Lite. It’s a shame but it is understandable given this is a “Lite” edition and there has to be trade offs. It’s not the end of the world though because Fitbit has a wide selection of workouts to choose from. You can put shortcuts on the watch for those workouts and if one of your favourites isn’t on the watch then it’s more than likely going to be found in the Fitbit app and you can then sub out a workout you don’t use with one that you do.
As you complete your workouts you’ll see the key data like calories burnt, time spent working out and your heart rate. It isn’t the most in-depth data for hardened athletes but for the more casual person then it’s more than enough to give you some useful insights. If you use the Fitbit app to log yout food intake and set up a weight goal then you start to build a full picture of your health and wellbeing. You’ll see calories burnt vs calories in and how many you have left in the day before you start to get off-track with your goals. The trick with this is not to see it as unmotivating. Yes you’re going to have days where you eat (or drink) some things you shouldn’t but hey you’re only human, we all do it! Instead of pretending you didn’t eat those things log them anyway, you may actually be surprised that you’re still under your limit for the day and if you aren’t then you can make it up with a small workout or just get back on track tomorrow.
On the interface side Versa Lite is pretty damn simple. It’s not filled with complicated menus that make it hard to navigate. One press of the side button will wake the device up and then swipe across to see your menus. You get four apps per page and clicking into an app will often see you select another menu. Eg you click on exercise then choose the workout you want to do. It’s simple, straight forward and easy. For big customisations that is handled on the Fitbit app from your phone and will sync across onto the watch.
So I keep referring to this as a smartwatch but it sounds more like a fitness tracker right? Well allow me to talk about the “smartwatch” credentials. You can put some third party apps on the watch, Strava being a big one but you can also find news apps and a few others too. It’s not as extensive as what iOS or Android offer but it’s enough to give you some choices without overloading you.
You can get notification on the watch and use quick reply to reply to messages. That’s about the extent of it. The watch acts primarily as the agent to alert you to the fact you got a notification or a call is coming in but to handle it you need to complete the actions on your phone. Much like the name of the device itself, it is smartwatch “lite” but it is useful nonetheless.
What you can’t do here is use Fitbit Pay like you can on the Versa full version. You also can’t upload music to listen on your bluetooth headphones. Again, it’s the Fitbit Versa Lite, not the Fitbit Versa. It’s about trade-offs to get the cheaper price point.
And for the last main thing you’ll notice, battery life. You’re going to get about 4 days out of this bad boy, or should I say lite boy. That life is obviously dependent on use so if you’re going on massive runs, cycles or walks everyday then expect less. If you’re doing moderate exercise of about 30 mins a day then 4 days is easy. Recharging uses the proprietary charger which is a wee bit annoying but hey smartwatches are one of those devices where we can’t get universal agreement on charging format.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch that has solid fitness credentials and is reasonably priced then Fitbit Versa Lite is well worth a look. It is lightweight, offers excellent heart rate sensing and offer a good range of workouts. Couple that with the excellent fitbit app and you’re onto a real winner at less than $300.