the Fitness Tracking Features and Battery Life You Want

Beatrice J. Doty
  • The Fitbit Versa 3 offers a ton of functionality in a $229 package, making it a great sidekick to your phone and a capable fitness tracker.
  • The battery can easily last over 5 days, letting the watch track activity during the day and sleep at night, plus it recharges quickly.
  • Fitness enthusiasts needing more tracking features might consider the Apple Watch Series 6, Fitbit Sense, or Garmin Forerunner 745.

Fitbit’s legacy for offering flexible smartwatch-meets-fitness-trackers continues with the Versa 3. This recent entry in the Versa series comes in at $229 and offers a solid blend of capabilities for the price.

This watch is far from the simple pedometers we started with. With a number of sensors for tracking health and regular activity, the Versa 3 is well equipped for general fitness. Fitbit’s operating system may not be as robust as some of its competitors in the smartwatch space, but there’s still plenty the watch can do, especially with support for both Amazon’s Alexa and

Google Assistant
onboard. 

The most health conscious users or serious athletes may prefer something with more robust tracking, like the Apple Watch Series 6 or something from Garmin. But, outside of special use cases, the Versa 3 shines as a capable all-arounder.

Design

The Fitbit Versa 3 features the sleek and smoothly curved case design we’ve seen before in the Versa series. The Versa 3 also continues the trend of diminishing hardware buttons — it has none, opting instead for a touch-sensitive area on the left side of the watch case. 

At almost a half-inch thick, the Versa 3 isn’t the thinnest watch, but its curved edges go a long way to help keep it from feeling overly large and snagging on sleeves and pockets too much. The case is built of aluminum and features a subtle antenna line around its circumference. 

The Versa 3 features a 1.58″ AMOLED display that gets plenty bright for use in direct sunlight. It’s also a pleasure to look at, as the pure black pixels of the AMOLED panel help it blend in with the black bezels around the display. It’s a considerable step up from the LCD display on the original Versa. 

The watch has a mic on each side, and even features a speaker on the right side – the pairing of these allows for phone calls on the watch, though it’s not loud enough for practical use outdoors on busy streets. Flipping it over, you’ll find the array of optical sensors as well as four contacts for the pogo pin charging system. The watch attaches magnetically to its charging base, which looks like it would work in a number of orientations, but only allows the watch to sit in it one way. 

The Versa 3 features a new watch band design and attachment mechanism. The bands attach with a simple latch that’s incredibly easy to open, but I haven’t accidentally unlatched it once in my time with the watch. However, a clicking sound I hear while moving the watch every now and then, and the plastic construction of this mechanism, raise durability concerns compared to a more traditional metal pin connector. The new attachment mechanism also raises the issue of waste and compatibility, as old straps for previous Versa models won’t work with this new watch, nor is there any guarantee Versa 3 bands will work with future models.

The new straps included with the Versa 3 are similar to the sports bands for the Apple Watch that feature two loops. This keeps the loose end from flopping about, but does make finding a good fit trickier, as the bit of band that tucks back under will reduce the space in the loop. The strap is a firm rubberized material that’s stretchy enough to remain comfortable, even when my arm is swelling mid workout. But the material doesn’t slide very easily when wet, making it a slight bother. 

Software and interface

Back of Fitbit Versa 3



Mark Knapp/Insider


The Fitbit Versa is a straightforward product right from the start. The pairing process with my Android phone was quick, and my phone detected the Versa 3 automatically when I began the setup process on the watch, prompting me to install the Fitbit app. That said, there are a lot of steps involved in completing the setup for all of the device’s features, like call/text, and voice assistant. 

The 1.58-inch AMOLED display is fairly easy to navigate with simple swipes and taps, but I still find a lot of basic actions I could perform on my Pebble Time Steel without looking just require that much more of my attention due to the lack of hardware buttons. Animations in the software are relatively smooth. They’re not quite as smooth as a smartphone’s, but it’s not bad and rarely stutters. 

The touch-sensitive button takes a little getting used to. It does an interesting job mimicking a physical button, as it doesn’t respond to a light touch, instead requiring a more forceful press. And it gives satisfyingly tactile haptic feedback when it registers a press. 

The watch supports a ton of features through its software. App notifications from my phone come through promptly, and allow me to reply with pre-set messages, emoji, and even voice dictation. The dictation offers a ton of flexibility, though it takes some time to process, so it doesn’t offer a real-time readout of what I’ve said. Having Google Assistant available on my wrist has been excellent for setting timers and reminders as well as controlling smart home gadgets. 

The Versa 3 also features Fitbit Pay by default, unlike the original Versa which only offered it on a special edition of the watch. It worked promptly when I paid in a cafe. 

This is not to say there aren’t a number of hitches with the Versa 3’s software. I regularly catch it displaying the wrong time for a moment, long enough that if I just glimpsed the watch for the time, I would be misled. This may be a glitch displaying 24-hour time, as I’ve seen the watch display 29:00 at 9:00PM. It has always corrected itself after a few seconds though.

I often find myself in a tug-of-war with the display waking as well. I often will press the side button to wake the screen manually, but sometimes it wakes before my button press registers, and then the button press puts it back to sleep. This wouldn’t be an issue, but the auto-wake isn’t always reliable, so I often find myself manually waking the watch.

Tracking

On top of its smarts, the Versa 3 adds a considerable helping of tracking features.

The optical heart rate sensor can run all day and night. It does require a snug fit, though. I’ve often found it able to keep consistent track without being uncomfortably tight. However, that snug fit can run into issues with workout that require a lot of forearm work. I’ve mostly done rock climbing with the watch on, and while it starts out comfortable, it can become constricting after only a little while climbing. While working out, the watch will also provide vibration feedback to indicate when you’ve entered different heart rate zones.

There are a number of activities the watch can track. Some are typical, like running and biking while it also has more general options like “workout” and “bootcamp” as well as some specialized options like tennis and yoga. Naturally, I was a little disappointed to have to settle for the catchall workout mode for climbing. The Versa 3 can also automatically detect some activities, as it did for two of my recent bike rides. The Fitbit mobile app allows for more accurate labeling of activities at least, so I can tag workouts as rock climbing after the fact. 

The watch will also use its sensors to track sleep. Afterward, it provides sleep charts and a sleep score. And, if you use the watch’s alarm clock, it can try to wake you up during an optimal period outside of deep sleep. Overnight it will also measure SpO2 levels, but it can’t provide instantaneous blood oxygenation readings. Fitbit can also track menstrual health, but like many features, a lot of it comes down to the Fitbit app, and not the watch itself. 

Battery life

The battery life of the Versa 3 hinges largely on what features it’s using. For most of my review period, I ran 24/7 heart rate monitoring, wore the watch at night for sleep tracking, and tracked five to six hours of exercise throughout the week. I also frequently checked notifications on the watch, and regularly used Google Assistant throughout the day. 

With these settings and a simple always-on display that just displayed the time and date, I got just a little over 48 hours of battery life. By disabling the always-on display, I was able to stretch the battery life to a full 5 days. That shows how much a hit the display has on the battery.

Fitbit makes keeping the watch powered easy. I get a notification whenever the watch hits 25% charge and another when it gets closer to dead. This gives me plenty of opportunity to charge it back up. Even if I forget, the watch can almost fully recharge in just an hour, and just 10 minutes of charging would be more than enough to get through the day. 

The bottom line

Fitbit Versa 3 with orange band on wrist



Mark Knapp/Insider


The Fitbit Versa 3 is a particularly great smartwatch and fitness tracker because of its versatility. It’s simple to use for fitness tracking and makes a great sidekick for anyone who doesn’t like pulling their smartphone out too often. 

At $229, it’s on the pricier side for a fitness tracker, but it’s fairly affordable as far as smartwatches go, and it offers a good degree of polish and greater battery life than a lot of its smartwatch competition. Even if it doesn’t have the app ecosystem of other smartwatches, the handy voice assistant helps make up for that lack.

Should you buy the Fitbit Versa 3?

If you want a watch that does a bit of everything and doesn’t need to be charged every night, then this is definitely a good pick. It doesn’t have every feature under the sun, but it doesn’t have any glaring omissions either. 

What are your alternatives?

As good as the Fitbit Versa 3 is in general use, it lags behind in some areas. For more robust health monitoring features, you may get more out of the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Fitbit Sense and their ECG functions for deeper heart health data. The Fitbit Sense should be a largely comparable experience beyond that, while the Apple Watch Series 6 will offer a more robust app ecosystem, albeit at the cost of battery life and a higher price.

Pros: Long-lasting battery, ample tracking features, stylish design, water-resistant to 5ATM, handy voice assistant, NFC payment feature comes standard, easily navigable UI

Cons: Always-on display sucks battery, new watch band mechanism, inconsistent auto-wake

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