Full disclosure; I’m not exactly what you’d call a health nut.
I try to get to the gym every now and then, although I don’t go as as often as I’d like and for most of my day, I’m desk bound. I’m not sporty, I don’t own a bicycle and the idea of going on a ‘fun run’ is an anathema to me.
However, since strapping a Fitbit Versa to my wrist about a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been nudged towards a more active lifestyle. I haven’t bought myself a pair of gym gloves (yet), but I’m taking more screen-breaks, getting to bed earlier and if I have the option, I always take the stairs.
In a nutshell, that’s what the Fitbit Versa is all about. While it’s likely to appeal to gym regulars, it’s also great for anyone who wants to take their first steps back towards getting in shape. The Versa is all about making one healthier, one incremental change at a time. It’s also one of the more affordable devices on the market. The Versa’s RRP is R3,199, but you can find it for under three grand at most local online shops.
You wouldn’t guess from looking at it that the Versa isn’t as expensive as some of its competitors. At first glance, it looks like an Apple Watch, sporting a similar, sleek squircle LCD face and unobtrusive buttons. The surrounding bezel reduces the screen size somewhat but it’s not much of an issue.
The Versa is easily one of the most comfortable smartwatches I’ve ever worn and after a few minutes it’s easy to forget it’s on one’s wrist – well, until an SMS or an exercise notification makes it vibrate. The straps it comes boxed with are interchangeable – whatever size wrist you have, the Versa will fit onto it – and while they’re rubber and cheap feeling, you can swap them out for fabric, stainless steel and leather bands if you choose (and if you’re prepared to spend a bit more money).
The LCD screen is crisp and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. The Versa is on ‘sleep’ mode as default, but you can activate it by tapping the screen or flicking your wrist. The buttons on either side of the face are unobtrusive and small enough that they don’t catch on your skin or clothing. The left button activates the screen and acts as a ‘back button’. The top right button takes you to pre-set workouts, while the lower right button takes you to pre-set alarms.
Fitness data at your fingertip
Once your Versa’s out of the box, you’ll need to synch it with the Fitbit app, which you can download for free to any smart device running on iOS or Android. Once you’ve done this, you have access to a load of features – including the ability to change watch faces if you don’t like the default look.
Flick up on the screen, and you can look at your daily fitness data, including the number of steps you’ve taken, the amount of calories you’ve burned and your heart-rate. Flick down and you’ll see the last few notifications from your smartphone and tablet.
The Versa has a rather decent selection of built-in apps including an alarm, a timer, and weather updates. There’s also contactless payment functionality, although at the time of writing, Fitbit are still in talks with local banks in order to enable this feature – so it doesn’t work just yet.
You can synch your music collection with the device, although it’s a rather fiddly process and if you don’t fancy going through it, the Versa comes with three free months for the music streaming service Deezer. The Versa has enough storage for around 300 odd songs, and you’ll need to pair it with a set of Bluetooth headphones in order to listen to them. The Versa is also water resistant up to 50m so you don’t have to take it off while swimming or in the shower.
Perhaps the Versa’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have a built-in GPS, which means if you want to track your running routes, you’ll need to take your phone with you. This, however, may explain it’s rather thin and sleek housing, as well as its affordable price.
On the up side, one the devices biggest strengths is its battery life. On a full charge the Versa can last up to four days before you have to put it back in its dock. Just a comparison, an Apple Watch lasts just one day on a full charge.
As has been mentioned, the Versa is a great at prodding even the most inactive people (myself included) into moving about a bit more, but that’s just the beginning. If you want to get serious about getting into shape, this is a fantastic piece of kit to own.
The Versa can record a variety of exercises including swimming, bike riding, yoga, running, weight and interval training and full gym workouts. The device comes with pre-packaged work outs you can access at a touch of a button – or screen – but the Fitbit store has a vast selection available – although you’ll have to pay extra for them.
All told, the Versa is perfect for any gym regular and anyone who wants to become more active. It doesn’t have the oodles of functionality or app support an Apple Watch does, but for its price, battery life and fitness-focussed features, it’s probably the best value for money smartwatch you can currently buy.