Versa Lite review: Fitbit's most affordable smartwatch gets the essentials right

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  • Editors' rating
    9.2 Spectacular

Pros

  • Gorgeous high quality design
  • Bright and clear display
  • Lightweight and comfortable for 24/7 wear
  • Long battery life
  • Detailed sleep and heart rate data
  • Fitbit ecosystem well supported

Cons

  • No altimeter for stair tracking

The Fitbit Versa, see our full review, is a huge hit for Fitbit as it offers all the great functionality of a Fitbit life tracker in an attractive and comfortable watch form factor. I've been using its successor, the Versa Lite, for the past week and find it to be a colorful, accurate activity tracker that is likely to meet the needs of many users.

The newest member of the Fitbit Versa smartwatch family, the Versa Lite won't give you all of the advanced messaging capabilities or advanced third party application support of an Apple Watch, but it is priced hundreds less and its battery lasts for days. Studies show that the majority of people use their smartwatch for notifications, activity tracking, news updates, phone calls, as an alarm clock, and for email. The Fitbit Versa excels at activity tracking and as a watch while it provides basic notifications. There are third-party apps for news updates, Starbucks, and many other useful tasks that can be handled by your watch rather than your phone.

Also: Best Fitness Trackers for 2019 CNET

Activity tracking and health monitoring are vital uses of a smartwatch today and Fitbit excels in this area with its detailed and accurate sleep stages, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, female health tracking, 50m water resistance, and 4+ day battery life. We also see more youthful colors and styles available for the Fitbit Versa Lite and at $160, it's easy to recommend the Versa Lite for those with any interest in trying out a smartwatch.

After testing many wearables over the years I have learned that getting the core experiences right and having a battery that lets you get through at least a weekend are keys to satisfaction. The Fitbit Versa Lite has a perfect mix of health apps, battery life, ease of use, and a growing list of apps; I won't be surprised to see it quickly become Fitbit's most popular wearable after sales start this Friday.

Specifications

  • Display: LCD Gorilla Glass 3 curved touchscreen display
  • Materials: Aluminum watch case and buckle with flexible Classic band
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Water resistance: Up to 50 meters and sweat, rain, and splash proof
  • Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor, vibration motor
  • Battery life: 4+ days of standard smartwatch usage

Comparison to the Fitbit Versa

There are a few things taken out of the Versa Lite in order to cut the price $40 from the Versa's $199.95 price: The altimeter is gone; lap counting for swimming is not supported; there is no onboard music storage and Wi-Fi used to transfer that music is out; there is only one button on the left (the two right ones were removed); and there is no Fitbit Pay support.

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However, you still get 24/7 heart rate monitoring, advanced sleep metrics (including REM stage), more than 15 goal-based exercise modes, female health tracking, custom watch face support, and third party apps.

Hardware

The first leaked photos I saw of the Fitbit Versa included the cool Marina Blue model and that is the one that Fitbit sent along for me to test out. It's an attractive, unique color of blue and I received many comments on it over the past week. You can also purchase the Versa Lite in White/Silver Aluminum, Lilac/Silver Aluminum, and Mulberry/Mulberry Aluminum.

The Fitbit Versa Lite is very well constructed with smooth aluminum angular edges transitioning into curved Gorilla Glass 3. The bands are well integrated on the top with quick release pins on the bottom. The heart rate monitor on the back is flush with four small gold connection points for the charging cradle.

See also: Fitbit Versa review: Finally, a smartwatch that can make Fitbit proud

There is only one button on the left side that you use to go back to the watch face or turn off the display. The regular Versa also has two buttons on the right, but it's much easier to use the Versa Lite with one button and then simple finger swipes and taps. People may prefer the simpler approach here that doesn't limit the functionality of the watch.

The heart rate sensors provide PurePulse technology for one of the most advanced heart rate tracking experiences ever. The sleep stages support measuring and showing light sleep, deep sleep, and REM are very impressive. The Apple Watch doesn't measure sleep natively and this is one of the most important aspects of your health so I am pleased to see Fitbit continuing to improve in this area.

The display is perfectly sized for my wrist and eye sight with crisp clear color and a brightness that makes sure you can view it in any lighting condition. The display activates when you rotate your wrist, press the left button, or tap the display. You can enable an always-on mode while working out, but battery life will suffer.

The display is a touchscreen too so while you use the one button for basic navigation, swipes and taps on the display are required to use the Fitbit Versa Lite.

I had the opportunity to take a six-mile hike in a heavily wooded area on Sunday and the GPS accurately tracked my path without any gaps in coverage. I was surprised since I walked in a forest with large old growth timber blocking nearly all of the sky from my view.

See also: Fitbit Charge 3 review: Comfortable activity tracker backed by a powerful fitness platform

The Fitbit Versa Lite is light and extremely comfortable, making it perfect for sleep tracking. I barely noticed it on my wrist and it's made to work well with small, medium, and large wrist sizes.

The included elastomer sport band has a traditional buckle design and plenty of holes to adjust to your wrist size. Thankfully, when you buy the Fitbit Versa Lite, a shorter length of one end is also included so the package is designed as a one-size-fits-all accessory. A single loop is present on the buckle side to secure the bitter end against the band.

The bands are all the same for the Versa line, including the Versa Lite, Versa, and Versa Special Edition. There are 12 color options in the Classic band style for $29.95 each with some of these bands being Fitbit.com exclusives. I tested the Marina Blue band included with the Versa Lite, as well as the White Classic band that looks good with the Marina Blue aluminum body.

Four Woven Hybrid bands are available for $34.95 each, six Horween leather options are available for $49.95 each, stainless steel mesh is available for $79.95, and two other stainless steel links options are available for $99.95 each.

Also: Is US finally falling in love with the smartwatch? More own one thanks to LTE 

To switch out bands, you simply lift slide the quick release pin over to remove the band. The band matches up well with the top so you do have to move things around a bit to get it secured into place.

In my experience, the Fitbit Versa Lite battery matches the advertised value of 4+ days. I've charged it up once over the first week of use. To charge up the Fitbit Versa Lite, you connect the included USB charging attachment around the Versa Lite and the clamp securely holds it in place. Charging from empty to full takes a reported two hours.

Fitbit Versa Lite watch software

The first screen that appears when you rotate your wrist is the watch face. There are reported to be more than 500 available clock faces in the Fitbit app gallery for you to use. There are options for customizing many of these and I've been satisfied with all of the ones I tested. I also noticed that you can now purchase watch faces and apps through the app gallery.

Swipes from right to left move to the app launcher with four app shortcuts appearing on each screen. A swipe down from the top launches the notifications. A swipe up from the bottom shows you the Fitbit Today data, including steps, times you stood up, heart rate, sleep, water, food, and more. You can choose up to seven items to show on these Today screens from the bottom settings menu on the Fitbit Versa Lite.

See also: Fitbit releases OS 3.0 for Ionic and Versa: Enhanced smartwatch features and new apps

Pressing the left single button toggles the display on and off or takes you back to the watch face. A press and hold of this button quick settings for screen wake and notifications toggle with music controls to control the music playing on your connected phone.

The Fitbit Versa Lite is powered by the Fitbit OS that developers seem to be embracing with the app gallery quickly expanding. I counted about 120 apps available for the Fitbit Versa Lite. Fitbit reports hundreds of available clock faces too.

PC/Mac Software

While you can use the Fitbit website to view your data, the richer experience is present in the actual Fitbit app found on both Windows and Apple computers. Like the smartphone app, the Fitbit PC app launches with the dashboard. You can customize what appears on the dashboard.

Other tabs in the PC software include challenges, guidance, community, and notifications. You can also access your Fitbit ecosystem settings for your Ionic and other connected gear. Clicking on various elements on the dashboard will also show you more details and then you can even dive down a few more layers to see all of the details of your collected data. There is a rather stunning amount of data available in the Fitbit software, collected by the Ionic and other Fitbit devices. You can also choose to share your data with others in various ways.

Smartphone Software

There are iOS and Android apps for Fitbit. The Fitbit app essentially mirrors what we see in the desktop software with a slightly different user interface.

Also: How smartwatches can boost productivity for business users TehRepublic

In addition, you can set up your smartphone notifications for the Versa Lite. Options include calls, text messages, calendar events, email and app notifications. On Android, you have full control over which apps have notifications appear on the Fitbit Versa Lite. The notifications are very basic and just provide you with the information in a few lines.

Pricing and availability

You can pre-order the Fitbit Versa Lite for $159.95 with shipping scheduled to start this week. Each pack includes small and large standard bands. You can also pay $34.99 for a two-year accidental damage protection plan.

Conclusions

The Fitbit Versa Lite provides the essentials related to 24/7 life tracking with a battery life that gets you through at least four days between charges. This means you can take a weekend adventure without worrying about charging up your Versa Lite.

The Versa Lite is well made, looks great, is affordable, and is small enough to satisfy nearly everyone. It provides some basic notifications and some useful apps are available to extend your smartphone to your wrist. While the Versa Lite is not personally for me -- I want something with onboard GPS and music -- it is likely to be popular. I also have always loved that Fitbit devices tracked my stair climbing and encourage me to skip the elevator, but that is not present in the Versa Lite. I might get by with the Fitbit Versa, but am personally partial to the Fitbit Ionic and look forward to its eventual successor.

One of the strengths of Fitbit products is the community where friends, family, coworkers, and others challenge each other to do their best and achieve their goals. There are plenty of challenges available for your friends and family, as well as community feeds to interact with others through the Fitbit ecosystem.

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