Fitbit now lives in the world of brand owner Google. As Big G made its first steps into the smartwatch world with the Pixel Watch, the FitBit Versa 4 is like a square reminder that the company is still vying for a spot on your wrist.
For the Versa 4, Fitbit is bringing in some big apps from Google with the same goal of letting you achieve your fitness and health goals in a highly active way.
It’s better for your bank balance than the Pixel Watch or Fitbit’s own Sense 2 smartwatch, and it makes a particularly welcome design change. But can you really get an inferior smartwatch for less?
design and build
Put the Fitbit Versa 4 side by side with the Versa 3 and it’s really a case of spotting the difference. It’s slightly slimmer, with graphite, platinum, and rose copper case colors for men and women, and you can still swap out those straps when you switch from workout mode to important meeting mode.
The biggest difference is the addition of a hardware button on the side. That’s right: physical buttons are making a comeback. Well, one is, after Fitbit decided not to bother with them for the previous generation. That might not sound like a big deal when you’re mostly tapping and swiping on the touchscreen, but the buttons are especially handy when you’re exercising. Now you can wake up the display, chat with your virtual assistant or jump straight to the workout menu.
Aside from the return of the buttons, there isn’t much new to report in terms of appearance. It’s not a classic design, but it doesn’t fit into the smartwatch crowd either. You can still peek down at the 40.5mm aluminum case, which is slightly curved at the corners and is neither too heavy nor too light. Want to go for a dip? You are also covered there. It is safe to submerge in water up to 50 meters deep, so it is suitable for swimming pools and open water.
If you loved the Versa 3 but need that button back in your life, this is where the Versa 4 comes in.
Fitbit Versa 4 screen
Square versus round screen debates aside, the display you get on the Versa 4 is a good one. It’s surrounded by too many bezels for our liking, but the 1.58-inch, 336-by-336-resolution AMOLED delivers beautiful colors, gets nice and bright, and can be used 24/7.
Switching to always-on mode means you’ll say goodbye to nearly a week of battery life, but if you can handle that before you get your charging cable in a few days, you can live with that.
AMOLED screens do tend to struggle with visibility in bright outdoor light. Thankfully, this screen brightens up when you need to check stats on a sunny day, which isn’t a bother for the Versa 4.
Right now you have a button to wake the screen, but a light tap on the screen or a lift of the wrist will also bring it back to life. It just won’t do it in a very fast fashion.
Fitbit Versa 4 interface
Fitbit may now be part of the Google family, but it’s sticking to its software smarts for now. FitbitOS was influenced by the Pebble, the original smartwatch that Fitbit snapped up five years ago.
The operating system is compatible with Android smartphones and iPhones, and still uses Fitbit’s own user-friendly companion app for setup. But when it comes to swiping and tapping on the watch screen, it’s clear that the software has a more Google WearOS feel.
Fitbit has moved to where you’ll find your phone’s notification feed, with a greater emphasis now on screen-sized widgets rather than the many different menu screens. Still, it’s nice to get around.
The bad news is that many of the features on the Versa 3 are gone. The Fitbit Gallery app store has removed third-party apps and has no Wi-Fi or music player. Isn’t it a coincidence given the Pixel Watch’s recent availability?
Although Fitbit Pay doesn’t have the widest support from UK banks, contactless payments are still being used. Google Assistant is also out, but you can use the onboard microphone to chat with Amazon’s Alexa. Google Maps is also a particularly useful addition.
Fitness and Health Tracking
Helping you keep tabs on whether you’re getting enough exercise or getting a good night’s sleep is one of Fitbit’s great features. While there’s a small bump in functionality, it’s not enough to revolutionize the Versa 4’s capabilities compared to the Versa 3.
The number of sport modes has nearly doubled. New additions like crossfit, paddle boarding, and skiing bring the total to more than 40, and Fitbit’s own metrics like cardio fitness and active interval minutes let you know if you’re putting in enough effort.
Most sport modes only provide basic heart rate and workout duration stats, though. While it has the tools to be a solid sports watch, it has issues locking on to a good GPS signal, and Fitbit’s PurePulse optical sensor provides unreliable heart rate data, making it more suitable for casual fitness people. It certainly can’t match a Garmin or Polar sports watch in terms of accuracy and level of stats.
The Fitbit’s strengths are its ability to get you to take extra steps and monitor your sleep time. The dial lets you quickly tell if you’re getting closer to your daily goals, and sleep metrics are as level and accurate as you’ll find on a smartwatch. Sleep Score quickly tells you how well you slept, and you can track your heart rate and temperature to get an idea of your overall health.
The thing you’ll get to grips with is that some of the insights the Versa 4 can offer require you to pay more to see them. That’s because they’re locked behind a Fitbit Premium subscription. Wondering if you snore through the built-in microphone? Need some workout inspiration or want to use Fitbit’s Daily Readiness Score to know when to exercise? For that, you need Premium.
Important features missing from Fitbit’s pricier Sense 2 smartwatches are a heart-health-focused ECG sensor and an EDA sensor that ups the ante with stress-monitoring data you can drill down to help you take time out to relax. If you can live without those insights and care more about those Fitbit tracking staples, the Versa 4 has your back.
Hate the idea of regularly charging your smartwatch like your phone? This isn’t a Versa 4 issue. It regularly manages recharge times longer than 6 days. As long as you don’t leave the screen on all the time, it lasts up to a week before needing to magnetically clip the charger to its back.
Things do suffer if you need to wake up the screen 24/7, and it’s more like 2-3 days. Fortunately, you do have some fast charging support at your disposal. 12 minutes of charging can give you a day’s worth of power, which is easy to do before you head out in the morning.
The charging stand setup hasn’t changed either. It’s securely attached to the back of the case, and it won’t be easily pushed out of place if you use heavier hands to charge it and place it back on the nightstand.
Fitbit Versa 4 verdict
It’s not a huge improvement from last year, but the Versa 4 is still a great option for anyone because the watch can monitor steps and sleep and then feed back that information in a user-friendly way. If you still really like Fitbit and want its best new watch right now, this is the one for you.
That said, giving up the ability to turn the Versa into a capable smartwatch is a big step backwards, and leaves question marks over the future of Fitbit’s more affordable wearable options.
Versa 3 owners wondering whether to upgrade also just need to decide whether the hardware buttons are that important to them. If not, it’s best to stick with what you have.
Fitbit Versa 4 Technical Specifications
|Screen||1.58 inches, 336×336 AMOLED|
|operating system||Fitbit OS|
|Battery||more than 6 days|