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Last year I tested the Fitbit Versa 2 and kept going back to using it because of the 24/7 activity tracking capability. With no integrated GPS, I had to run with another watch to track my running and cycling.
While the Fitbit Sense offers integrated GPS, it's priced at $330 and brings the EDA sensor too. If you want a more affordable watch and don't need to capture ECG data, then you should consider the Fitbit Versa 3.
I recently tried out the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Google Wear OS smartwatch and it is a solid wearable. However, Google continues to put forth little effort to develop and improve Wear OS while Fitbit is working hard to offer a consolidated and powerful experience with its wearables. Later this year we will see support for Google Assistant and support for calling right on the Versa 3 itself. These functions will nearly complete the watch so that it challenges Google's Wear OS head-to-head. Let's check out the tale of the tape between the Fitbit Versa 3 and TicWatch Pro 3.
Battery life: 6+ days of standard smartwatch usage, but some settings will consume battery faster. Up to 12 hours for GPS tracking. One day of battery life in 12 minutes with fast charging.
The overall squircle design, shape, and size make the new Fitbit Versa 3 appear to be a Versa 2 copy, but turn it on and start looking around the hardware to find several differences.
The AMOLED screen resolution has been bumped up from 300x300 pixels to 336x336 pixels. The vibrant colors and dark blacks look great with crystal clear fonts. It is very visible inside and outside, even in direct sunlight. The front is completely black with no logos or anything. Raise your wrist to look at the watch face, press the button to toggle on the display, or enable always-on mode if you don't care as much about battery life.
The Always-On display option is off by default, but I did try it for a few days. Battery life takes a significant hit with this feature enabled and I found that the watch face turns on very quickly when I lift my wrist so I have moved to having the always-on display turned off by default.
A matte finish aluminum body is present on the Fitbit Versa 3 and it has a bit more curvature than the Versa 2. There are four pins that connect to the new magnetic charging puck on the back, integrated with the heart rate sensor. The magnetic puck ensures proper orientation of the Fitbit Versa 3 and holds it securely in place for charging.
The left side of the watch is where the microphone opening is positioned to the right and below the solid-state sensor button. Unlike a physical button seen on many wearables, this pressure sensitive area works with single and double presses and press/hold actions for different functions. A single press will wake the display or return you to the watch face. A double press provides you quick access to your four favorite apps. These apps are selected in the settings. A press and hold gives you the option to open up your favorite app, access music controls, launch Amazon Alexa, or launch Fitbit Pay.
The microphone and speaker are used for Amazon Alexa and in the future will also have the option to support Google Assistant. Unfortunately, it does not work for phone calls, which is a great function seen on the Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch wearables, but stay tuned for a future update. You can use the microphone for voice-to-text responses in messaging when connected to an Android phone.
Fitbit developed a new band solution on the Fitbit Versa 3 (also present on the Fitbit Sense), which isn't a bad thing since it took some effort to swap out bands on the Versa 2. There is a small button that you simply press in and the band slides out of the watch body. With this new design the bands are well integrated into the watch body. This helps keep the watch against your wrist for accurate data collection.
Fitbit states a 6+ day battery life for the Versa 3 and my testing indicates this is just about right. I've used it for 45-60 minute runs and sleep with it on my wrist each evening.
While the hardware of the Versa 3 appears similar to the Fitbit Sense, the Sense has a stainless steel ring that serves as an EDA and ECG sensor. The back of the Sense also has a skin temperature sensor to measure actual vs estimated skin temperature. Given I have no AFiB and am not sold on the EDA sensor yet, saving $100 on the Fitbit Versa 3 is something to seriously consider.
Fitbit Versa 3 watch software
The first screen that appears when you lift your wrist is the watch face. There are hundreds of watch faces available in the Fitbit app store and currently you can load up five clock faces onto the watch to switch on the fly through the Clocks app without your phone connected. The Fitbit SpO2 watch face is clearly my favorite so far and I like how taps on the screen quickly provide my current health stats.
The SpO2 watch face shows your SpO2 reading from the previous night's sleep with the date in the upper left corner and the time below your SpO2 reading. Tap the face to switch the center of the watch face to show your current heart rate, steps taken and step goal, active zone minutes and goal, and floors climbed and goal. It's a colorful and easy to read clock face that provides you with the essentials at a glance.
Swipe from left to right to show you remaining battery percentage and six quick control icons for do not disturb mode, sleep mode, always-on display, screen wake, brightness, and music controls. These cannot be customized, but are quite useful and I access these daily.
A swipe down from the top launches the notifications. Tap on a notification to see more detail. Scroll all the way to the top to clear all notifications.
Swipe up from the bottom to view various widgets that you select. These widgets include weather, core stats, advanced stats, relax, Fitbit logging (weight and water). Core stats include steps, floors, active zone minutes, calories burned, and distance. Advanced stats include heart rate, exercise, food, sleep, and hourly activity. Tapping on any widget will then open up more details about that specific stat in the Today app on the watch.
Swipes from right to left move to the app launcher with four app shortcuts appearing on each screen. Press and hold your app icons to then drag them around and organize to your liking. There are many apps developed by Fitbit and third parties in the app store that help you turn this fitness-focused wearable into a smartwatch.
Amazon Alexa functionality requires you to install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone and connect it to your Amazon account. There are limits to what Alexa does on the Fitbit Versa 3, but it has proven handy to show the weather, set alarms, see my upcoming events, and answer search questions. You can use it to control smart home devices, start a Fitbit exercise, and more. It cannot be used for calls, flash briefings, and some other advanced Alexa functionality, but I found it to be much more capable than I had anticipated.
There is support for offline music from Deezer and Pandora. Given the Alexa functionality, I was hoping for Amazon Music support. I am personally a Spotify subscriber and would love to see this service come to the Fitbit Versa 3. The Spotify app just lets you control Spotify playback from your phone with the Sense.
To use the Fitbit for exercise tracking, tap the exercise app to launch it. Exercises you can choose from include walking, running, biking, bootcamp, circuit training, elliptical, golf, hike, interval workout, kickboxing, martial arts, pilates, spinning, stair climber, swimming, tennis, treadmill, weights, workout, and yoga.
Once an exercise is selected, swipe up to set a goal for that exercise or customize other settings. These include heart rate zone notifications, laps, and the ability to customize the three rows of stats showing on the watch face when you take part in an exercise. Core stats are provided with the Fitbit Versa 3, but advanced metrics that you find on a dedicated GPS sports watch are not available.
After selecting your desired exercise settings then the next time you use that exercise app you can just tap on the arrow to start the exercise. Outside activities where you want to use GPS may require that you wait a few seconds for a GPS signal to be secured. You can also toggle on the ability in various exercises for auto detection of that exercise so you won't miss an opportunity to track your focused activity.
Sleep tracking is performed automatically by the Versa 3 so there is nothing you have to do to track your sleep, but wear the device to bed. Smart alarms are provided and these are awesome. After entering a time for the alarm you can toggle on smart alarm and the watch will wake you up in a period of time up to 30 minutes before your alarm when light sleep is detected. I would like to have a way to customize this period to something like 15 minutes because a 30 minute block is a bit too long for my taste.
Fitbit Pay is also supported on the Versa 3, but my bank still does not support the service so I have yet to test it out. There is a Starbucks app though so I do use that for my local latte.
Upcoming software improvements
While the Fitbit Versa 3 is already an excellent health and fitness tracker, these updates take it to the next level and should be here before the end of 2020.
Google Assistant: While it's great to see Amazon Alexa support on the Fitbit Sense, Google Assistant is my default voice assistant so I can't wait for this update.
Audible replies: The speaker on the Fitbit Sense will soon respond back to you with Alexa or Google Assistant answers.
Calls and texts: The speaker and microphone will also soon be able to support calls directly from your wrist. Android phone owners will also be able to respond on the fly with voice-to-text messages. You can reply now with voice-to-text on an Android, but you have to tap through to create and send these replies.
I would also love to see Google Pay replace Fitbit Pay, along with offline music support for Spotify. These two additional features would completely kill any desire for a Wear OS smartwatch.
Fitbit Premium service
Given the current coronavirus situation, Fitbit wants to encourage active participation in its health services to help you better understand the status of your health and help you stay healthy and well. Each Fitbit Versa 3 purchase comes with three months of free Fitbit Premium service. This subscription is regularly priced at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year so with three months free I highly encourage all Fitbit Sense buyers give it a try. I'm an annual subscriber and love diving into the specifics of my data.
Guided programs, personalized insights, and workouts are all included with Fitbit Premium. There is still a separate Fitbit Coach app to download for step-by-step workouts, but with a Premium subscription you get full access to all of those workouts.
There are various workouts that are categorized such as outdoor walks, stair workouts, outdoor runs, elliptical, bodyweight workouts (my favorite), and much more. I love the animations and timers that appear to guide me to successful completion.
Insights appear on the top of the Today screen in the smartphone app. While Fitbit will include some general insights for all users, the ones that appear with a premium subscription are more personalized to your specific situation.
Sleep is critical to long-term health and one of my major weaknesses that is ripe for improvement. With Fitbit Premium you will not only see your Sleep Score, but have access to a breakdown of the three components of your Sleep Score which includes sleeping heart rate and oxygen variation.
Fitbit Premium members have access to a new health metrics dashboard that shows your breathing rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature variation, oxygen saturation, and resting heart rate. I find all of this detailed data fascinating and it helps you understand, manage, and improve your health and fitness.
Fitbit Versa 3 review: in pictures
Fitbit Health Coaching
Another service that I am testing for the first time is called Health Coaching. This is a one-on-one service where you chat with a professional health coach that helps you create a custom action plan and keep you accountable as you attempt to stick to your plan. The service include Fitbit Premium and is priced at $54.99 per month with a 7-day free trial.
Discussions with your health coach take place in chat sessions within the Fitbit app. As a part of this program, your coach has viewing access to your Fitbit data to help you develop a plan that is customized for your goals given your current health status. Accountability is a major factor in achieving success and I look forward to spending more time with my coach.
There are iOS and Android apps for Fitbit. The Fitbit app continues to improve and is my primary method of viewing data and managing the Fitbit Sense. You can also view all of your data in detail on the Fitbit website, but I find the smartphone app easier and faster to navigate.
The app starts on the Today page with options to have your steps, distance, active zone minutes, floors, and calories burned shown at the top of the page. Below this you can have various widgets appear on the Today screen, including Health Coaching, stress management, skin temperature, health metrics, mindfulness tracker, water tracker, sleep tracker, exercise tracker, resting heart rate, weight tracker, calories in, hourly steps, and menstrual health.
Tapping on any of these widgets then takes you deep into the data where you can view the data over different time periods and explore to your hearts desire.
The Fitbit app lets you set various goals, manage your subscriptions, manage notifications, and update your heart rate settings. The app also provides you with access to managing various aspects of your Sense. These include Amazon Alexa settings, clock faces, applications, music, wallet, reminders, WiFi settings, and more.
Pricing and availability
You can purchase the Fitbit Versa 3 for $229.95 in black/black aluminum, midnight/soft gold aluminum, and pink clay/soft gold aluminum. I tested out the black/black aluminum model. The retail package includes a silicone infinity band with one side of the band designed for small and large wrists. You can also pay $44.99 for a two-year accidental damage protection plan. Make sure to select the free three-month Premium trial too.
None of your other Fitbit bands will work with the new Fitbit Versa 3, but the new Fitbit Sense also incorporates this new design. Band options include knit bands, Horween leather bands, sport bands, and woven bands. I also tried out the charcoal woven band, a $34.95 option. Sport bands are also $34.95, the Horween leather bands are $49.95, and the stylish knit bands are $39.95. It's nice to see the bands for the Fitbit Sense are reasonably priced so you can have an assortment for your various needs.
I've been waiting for three years for Fitbit to release a successor to the Ionic that provides a GPS receiver and now we have two compelling options with GPS in the Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit Sense. $229.95 for the Versa 3 is a solid price for a GPS sports watch with a plethora of health and wellness tracking features.
Fitbit's OS continues to evolve and developers continue to add new apps to the store. There are lots of opportunities for apps and I look forward to seeing developers take steps to improve, especially now that we have two outstanding wearables with integrated GPS receivers.
After running with the Fitbit Versa 3 and two other dedicated GPS sports watches, I was frankly very impressed by the GPS performance and heart rate tracking of the Versa 3. While a dedicated heart rate chest strap does better at measuring fluctuations in your heart rate, the Versa 3 does well and is likely to please the masses.
GPS results showed distances within just a few meters of dedicated GPS sports watches. I honestly was very surprised, and impressed, when I laid the data from the Versa 3 over other GPS sports watches.
Given the curved design, small size and weight, amazing amount of health data, and advanced smartphone apps that provide an understanding of the data, the Fitbit Versa 3 is an excellent option for health and fitness tracking. Key smartwatch apps are available and more are getting released regularly.