There has been a huge push in the fitness market recently, specifically in the areas of wearable technologies for our daily lives and fitness tracking. As such, there have been many startups entering the market, with the likes of Huawei, Apple and Samsung doubling down on their initial investments in South Africa. With our market currently experiencing double-digit growth in this area, Fitbit, too, seeks to reestablish itself among potential buyers.
As consumers seek out the most affordable options to cater to their fitness needs, the market has to change to keep up with the demand. Earlier this year, Fitbit launched its range of affordable wearables including the Fitbit Versa Lite Edition™, Fitbit Inspire HR™, Fitbit Inspire™ and Fitbit Ace 2™, all with the promise of providing the same level of quality across the range. Having recently received the Fitbit Versa Lite for review, I was curious how it would match up again the previously reviewed, Fitbit Versa.
Build and Design
At its simplest, I can summarise the build and design of the Versa Lite in a single sentence. All that Fitbit has done over the Versa is the removal of two buttons. That’s not an overexaggerating of the design and nor is it a bad thing. Fitbit has changed its three-button approach (two buttons on the right and one on the left) to a single button on the left-hand side, simplifying the user experience and aligning it with many of their other products in the range. The single button has various functions, in that it turns the screen on and off, as well as goes back to the previous menu while you’re scrolling through the various options. Looking back at the original Versa, I can comfortably state that the additional buttons only added confusion to the experience more than enhance it. There’s no denying that trimming down the bloat when it comes to the overall user experience definitely pays off to the end-user and possibly even from a manufacturing point of view.
The unit still offers a 1.34” colour, touchscreen display. This means that users can easily navigate their Versa Lite smartwatch menus, even during physical activity. If I were to be harsh, I would suggest that the screen could be a little bigger, with smaller bezels so as not to increase the size of the actual watch. While it makes sense to include the Fitbit logo on the bottom bezel, which is larger than the rest, it may have been a slightly better approach to remove this and make a sleeker looking device when compared to its competitors. For a smartwatch in its price range, however, it still looks relatively premium.
The one major difference between the Versa and Versa Lite are the two new colours on the latter. Both variants have the same lightweight, aluminium frame and both units have a similar Silver watch with a choice of lilac or white band. The two new colours introduced are the Marina Blue and Mulberry, which don’t look as premium as the Silver. Fitbit does offer a few variants on the bands, which will be available as extras, which is a good thing for those who pay close attention to matching colours and the likes.
Fitness and Features
What’s great about the Versa Lite is that it offers most of the same functionality as on its bigger brother. To trim down the cost, however, Fitbit has removed some features that may make it more of an alluring purchase. The team has removed the altimeter, which means you won’t be able to track how many flights of stairs you’ve traversed over the course of the day. Other notable omissions are the tracking of swim lap times, as well as being able to store onboard music. The Wi-Fi support has also been removed, but this was mostly used for music transfer from your phone in the first place, which isn’t available on the Lite Edition.
One of the bigger features removed from the Versa Lite is the on-screen workouts. While you will be able to select, start, pause and end workouts from the menu, you won’t be able to view your activity once completed without the use of the Fitbit app on your smartphone. I’m still a little undecided as to how much of an impact this will have since there aren’t many occasions when we’re away from our smartphones not to be able to open the app to view the logs. It may just be a nice to have at the end of the day, and being something that’s a matter of software and some storage, I can only assume that the latter has been reduced to maximum efficiency.
Performance and Battery Life
In terms of its overall performance, this is really where the Versa Lite stands out. It matches all your required fitness activities as with the Versa, including the exercise modes, which can be customised in their layout to suit your requirements. The device also includes continuous heart-rate tracking throughout the day while also providing sleep analysis via the app. Other additions include female health, auto activity tracking and connected GPS via your smartphone. The interface is also fairly straight-forward with simple swipe gestures used to select activities or view stats from the “Today” menu.
I did a tracking comparison between the Versa Lite and my current Charge 2 and found that the former offers slightly better accuracy, especially when it comes to more physical activities where there is oftentimes contact. For the most part, the heart-rate monitor was able to continuously track the progress throughout, irrespective of any knocks and the likes, whereas the Charge 2 sometimes requires me to stand still for 10 seconds or so to gather its thoughts in order to accurately starting tracking my heart rate again. As mentioned previously, the Versa Lite no longer supports tracking of your swimming activities such as timed laps and the likes. The unit is still water resistant at depths up to 50m, so you’re still able to swim and shower with the device without too much fuss.
The Fitbit app and ecosystem has grown quite a bit since the review of the Versa a year ago and even the Charge 3 a few months ago. As such, Fitbit OS, now in its third iteration, supports more apps, as well as developer support for nice-to-haves like clock faces, for example. The tie-in apps are largely based on user preference and whether they were using these ecosystems prior to switching to a Fitbit device, as there’s no real need for these apps for additional features.
The Lite also offers the same 4-day battery that’s available on the standard Versa. On more than one instance I was able to reach the 5-day mark, even while tracking my activities on a daily basis. This may be as a result of not using the connected GPS option during my runs, as I don’t like the idea of running with a smartphone in my pocket or arm for that matter. The five days between charges isn’t a frustration at all, as the older Charge 2 has a battery life between five and six days after more than a year of continuous usage.
Comparing the Fitbit Versa Lite to the Versa isn’t always apples for apples. The Lite has been purposefully stripped to provide users with the most value and removing some of the functionality not deemed necessary for users in need of more fitness requirements than anything surplus. The Versa Lite is one, if not the most affordable smartwatch available on the market today and fits perfectly between the Charge 3 and Versa in terms of functionality and price. Fitbit’s biggest competitor is the ever-present Samsung Galaxy trackers, which also offer great value for their smartwatches.
As the Fitbit ecosystem continues to grow and fitness enthusiasts become more social via the platform, they also become more entrenched in the product offering, which is part of the functionality when seeking to buy your next fitness tracker. So unless you really need your music integrated into your tracker or need to monitor how many flights of stairs you’ve traversed throughout the day, the Versa Lite is a really great purchase at just R2,999.
Fitbit Versa Lite
Fitbit has taken out the non-essentials from the Versa to create a more streamlined and affordable smartwatch in the Versa Lite.
- Less buttons (user friendly)
- Touchscreen interface
- Value for money
- No built-in GPS
- Ease of Learning 0%
- Ease of Use 0%
- Design 0%
- Performance 0%
- Enjoyment 0%
- Value for Money 0%