Buying a smartwatch can be intimidating. They’re expensive, most of them come with similar features, and it can be difficult for first-timers to navigate the technobabble marketing speak to find a smartwatch that suits their needs. That’s exactly the issue Fitbit is trying to solve with its Versa Lite Edition. At $160, it’s less than half the price of a GPS-only Apple Watch Series 4 and aside from push notifications, it doesn’t really mess with more complicated smart features, like ECG readings and voice assistants.
The Versa Lite Edition is exactly what its name sounds like—a stripped down version of Fitbit’s popular Versa smartwatch. In terms of specs, it’s got exactly the same display as the Versa (and the same hideously large bezels), runs on the same Fitbit OS, and has most of the same sensors too. The main thing is that it pares down some of the more “advanced” metrics and specs offered on the Versa and Versa Special Edition.
So what’s different? For starters, the Lite Edition is missing an altimeter, meaning you won’t be able to track floors climbed. You also won’t be able to track swims during pool workouts (though it is swim-proof) and there’s also no music storage options via Pandora or Deezer—though you can still control what song is playing on your phone via Bluetooth. You also miss out on the on-screen workouts via Fitbit Coach, as well as the option for NFC payments via Fitbit Pay.
The Lite Edition also further simplifies the Versa’s design. Whereas the original had three buttons—one on the left and two on the right side—the Lite Edition only keeps the left button. It also comes in brighter colors. Like extremely bright colors. The marina blue looks like the sort of paint jobs you’d find on the cars of MTV’s Pimp My Ride, while mulberry is so purple it looks like Barney the Dinosaur was murdered and then slapped on your wrist. It’s not that bright colors are bad, per se. It’s just that it makes the Lite Edition look more childish. There’s just no way I’d wear the blue or purple options to a formal event. (To be fair, only Prince could love something that purple.) Thankfully, there are subtler options in silver and lilac that look more like the sophisticated wrist accessory most people are after.
Most importantly, it’s Fitbit’s most affordable smartwatch at $160. Conversely, the Versa retails for $200 while the Versa Special Edition goes for $230. The Fitbit Ionic—the company’s first and more advanced smartwatch—originally retailed for $300, but is now available for $270.
The original Versa is an excellent smartwatch-fitness tracker hybrid. It’s more tracker than smartwatch in its DNA, mainly because Fitbit OS still lags behind in-app offerings, design, and user experience compared to watchOS, Wear OS, and Tizen (Samsung’s operating system). The Versa Lite delivers more of the same.
Functionally, I found I really did not miss the extra two buttons on the original Versa. Nor did I truly miss the onboard music storage. None of the Versa smartwatches have built-in GPS or LTE, which makes phone-free outdoor runs kind of moot. And since I’d have to lug my phone on a run, there’s not much of a point in onboard music. Also, floors climbed is Fitbit’s worst and most inaccurate metric. Actually, no smartwatch gets it right so I truly did not miss the altimeter either
While it’s $40 less than the original Versa, you’re not compromising on accuracy. On a one-mile treadmill walk at 3.5 miles per hour (the average person’s walking speed), it logged a 1.3 percent difference in steps compared to my Yamax SW-200 Digi-Walker, a pedometer often used in clinical studies. The original Versa was slightly worse at 2.3 percent. The Lite Edition also did well with a one-mile run at 5mph, logging a 1.9 percent difference with the Yamax. The original Versa had a difference of 3 percent. It even did well on heart rate monitoring, staying within 5 beats per minute of my Polar H10 chest strap.
Of the three Versa smartwatches, it’s easy to rule out the Special Edition. I just don’t see how NFC payments alone—the only truly unique thing about the Special Edition—merits the extra $30. But between the Versa and Lite Edition, I have to say the Lite Edition is likely the winner for most people.
Unless you swim a lot or are already a fairly active person, you don’t really need an altimeter, pool-specific workout tracking, or onboard music. Fitbit’s onscreen workouts require a separate app and that’s also just an extra step most people don’t need or want. These are all fair trade-offs for a $160 smartwatch with really great fitness features—especially if you’re wary about spending a bunch on a device you’re not sure you’ll absolutely need or like.