Lifestyle

This is my favorite fitness tracker I've ever tested—here's why

I've reviewed practically every fitness tracker out there. The Fitbit Versa 2 is almost perfect.

Fitbit Versa 2 on a runner wrist Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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As a journalist covering fitness, I’ve used a lot of Fitbits (and fitness trackers) and I’ve been familiar with the brand since its first clip-on tracker hit the market. The latest Fitbit—the Fitbit Versa 2—is my favorite Fitbit I’ve ever used, though it’s not quite the perfect wearable... yet.

The Versa 2 is a great activity tracker

Fitbit Versa 2 on wrist
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Fitbit Versa 2 is a fine companion for workouts.

The Versa 2 has all the same great activity-tracking capabilities of other Fitbits, including:

  • All-day step count
  • Automatic activity detection
  • Reminders to move if you’ve been seated too long
  • Timed workout modes to record dedicated sweat sessions
  • Detailed sleep tracking
  • Access to Fitbit’s vast fitness community for motivational challenges

At a retail price of $199.95 (before optional premium add-ons), the Versa 2 is more expensive than the Fitbit Charge 3, our current choice for top fitness tracker. But it comes with a few features beyond the fitness ones that could make the increase in price worthwhile.

The Versa 2’s killer edge: voice controls and Amazon Alexa integration

So why do I love the Versa 2 in particular? It’s arguably a smartwatch—and it’s way better at smartwatch things than any other fitness tracker available, while not being so complicated that there’s a steep learning curve. And there’s one reason for that: Amazon’s Alexa, and the voice controls that come along with it.

Fitness trackers have had some “smart” features for several years now, usually in the form of notifications that mirror the ones you get on your phone. Typically, this means the screen will display missed calls and text messages (though sometimes the latter are clipped), as well as calendar reminders and the local weather report. But also typically, your options for interacting with those notifications are to read them, dismiss them, and maybe reply to them, but only with emojis or preset canned short messages, and only if you have an Android phone. The Fitbits that do this—Charge 3, Versa Lite, and Ionic—offer only five reply options, with the defaults of ‘Yes,’ ‘No,’ ‘Sounds good!’, ‘Can't talk now, will reply later,’ and ‘What's Up?’—all of which can be changed, but you’re still limited to five in total.

With the Versa 2’s voice-to-text function—and a linked Android phone nearby—you can reply with anything using speech-to-text, which is fantastic if you’re someone like me who doesn’t like to delay in getting back to people. There are a few limitations: You have to be in a place where it’s both quiet enough and appropriate for you to be speaking your messages aloud, and you can only reply to incoming messages, not originate new ones. Also, unfortunately, this speech-to-text capability is unavailable to iPhone users.

However, Android and iPhone owners alike can use their voice to ask Alexa to set reminders, create lists, and ask questions with the answers read aloud. Versa 2 also has a number of other smart features that seem useful, though I haven’t tested them. Alexa on the Versa 2 can control smart home devices, but I don’t have any of those. It can also be used for music, including Spotify and Pandora, but I don’t listen to music when I run or exercise (weird, I know). The Versa 2 also provides access and on-screen instruction for Fitbit’s new pay-to-play wellness and fitness programs, which could be great for folks who’d like more hand-holding in modifying their lifestyle habits.

The Versa 2 isn't the perfect wearable for fitness buffs

Fitbit Versa 2 menu screen
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Versa 2's touch screen is responsive, but not ideal for runners.

In addition to being Reviewed’s managing editor for lifestyle, I’m also an avid runner and certified personal trainer. Put plainly, the Versa 2—and all other Fitbits—just don’t work very well for runners like me, who want both an accurate log of our runs as well as to view pace and other details during the activity itself.

Versa 2 has “connected” GPS, which links to the app and uses the geolocation of your phone, requiring that you bring it with you on runs. But in my experience, it just wouldn’t connect well, leaving me with wildly inaccurate mapping, distance recorded, and (therefore) pace. In other words, useless data.

In addition, the Versa 2’s screen defaults to dark (to conserve battery), and you have to move your wrist toward your face to wake it. Even if the data was on par, it’s annoying mid-run to wait even that split-second for the display to brighten up, and then it dims too quickly to process the info displayed. Unlike any other Fitbit, the Versa 2 has an always-on display mode—which I didn’t bother to test, because of the lack of recording accuracy—but Fitbit warns that it “requires more frequent charging,” so I’d worry it would die mid-long run.

The Versa 2’s main method for navigating the device is a touchscreen. That’s just fine for general use, but it’s not so awesome when you mix sweaty fingers and bumbling hands during a workout—one false sleeve pushup and you’ve inadvertently paused your recording. I also noticed that my Versa 2 screen got scratched in the month or so that I wore it—this didn’t affect the functionality, but it bothered me, appearance-wise.

Finally, Versa 2 doesn’t have swim tracking, which strikes me as odd, considering the original Versa did and the Charge 3 does, and I’ve found that it works pretty well. As an occasional swimmer, I find this to be a bummer.

Why isn’t the Versa 2 our best fitness wearable?

The Fitbit Charge 3
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Fitbit Charge 3 is the fitness tracker we recommend as the best for most users.

Whenever someone asks me which fitness tracker they should get, I answer their question with a question: What do you want it to do? Activity habits and priorities are personal to the wearer, as is the value placed on those smartphone nice-to-haves and how much someone wants to spend.

The Versa 2 is a really nice device and the most premium one Fitbit currently offers. Under the hood, it has the same activity tracking as the less expensive Versa Lite (which has similar watch-y looks and some apps), the slim Charge 3 band and the even less expensive Inspire HR band. If you don’t care about Alexa and just need a device to get you moving more or to track your sleep, you don’t need to spend the cash on Versa 2.

On the other hand, if you want lots and lots of apps so your watch can perform as a substitute for your phone, I think you’re better off with a true smartwatch—there just aren't that many apps available for Fitbit yet.

One aspect to be aware of, however, is Google’s announced acquisition of Fitbit. At this point, it’s unclear how the new ownership will change Fitbit’s handling of personal information and the privacy concerns surrounding Fitbit’s massive trove of health data.

Should you get the Versa 2?

Fitbit Versa 2 clock face
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The full-color screen on the Versa 2 looks great, but comes at a premium price.

If you’re in the market for a fitness tracker with a full-color watch display and smartphone features and you don’t mind its higher price—go for it, especially if you have an Android phone. If you find it on sale that puts it on par with the Charge 3, even better!

As for me (and runners like me), the single perfect wearable, that will do all the things I want it to do, still doesn’t exist. But maybe it’s getting closer to becoming a reality.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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