Welcome to the final installment of my multi part series reviewing every smart watch I’ve encountered over the past eight years. Next week I’ll post my conclusions about the Smart Watch market and my hopes for its future. Don’t forget to catch up on the previous posts in this series by following the links below!
- Part 1- All Things Jawbone
- Part 2 – Fitbit Charge HR and Samsung Gear
- Part 3 – Samsung Gear Classic and Fitbit Blaze
Fitbit Ionic was the answer to all my issues with the Blaze. It was more of a true smart watch with apps, Samsung Pay, built in GPS, and more access to notifications from the phone. The screen was also much improved over the Blaze, and the body of it felt more intentional and stable than the Blaze’s flimsy open cradle design. I returned my Blaze and traded it in for an Ionic, and I truly enjoyed the Ionic for a long time. It was everything I needed software wise, and the only real drawback was that the watch itself left a little to be desired looks-wise.
For someone with a small wrist, the Ionic engulfed my arm and sat up slightly higher than was comfortable. I felt myself always trying to move it into a position that felt comfortable and sometimes failing to find one due to the depth of the device. Still, the Ionic was somewhat futuristic looking, and I didn’t totally mind how big it was due to the fact that everything else on the market at the time was bigger or thicker than the Ionic. The Samsung Gear S3 was laughably big on me, and even the Gear Sport was massive and only came in two dark colors I didn’t care for.
Until something else came along, I was sold on Ionic being the answer to my issues and pretty much the perfect smart watch for me. And wouldn’t you know it, only seven months later Fitbit itself released the device that would end end up making me want to ditch my Ionic.
In April 2018, Fitbit rolled out the Versa, a slimmer, sleeker smart watch meant to fill in the gap for people who either thought the Ioinc was too big and bulky (or just plain ugly) or who were priced out of getting the Ionic with its $300+ bill. The Versa is incredibly slim and touted as one of the most lightweight trackers on the market. It also comes with a much smaller price tag at only $199.
In order to get this lower price tag and smaller silhouette, Fitbit had to trade one feature that many fitness-focused users have come to rely on: built in GPS. The Versa still tracks distance when connected to your phone, but in standalone mode it can only track steps and duration of a workout. Since I listen to podcasts and endlessly shuffle through music while running, I always take my phone with me in order to more easily browse for that perfect song or podcast that will keep me motivated. I decided that the lower price tag, slimmer profile, and overall better looks of the Versa were worth the trade off for built in GPS, so I sold my Ionic online and purchased the special edition Versa with NFC for making payments straight from the watch. I wish this feature was not select to the special edition models, but I think Fitbit wanted to try and have the majority of Versas available under $200, hence scaling back certain tech.
Right out of the box, I was impressed with the look and feel of the Versa. Some people have called it cheap feeling or even childish, but I appreciate the light weight of the device and it’s petite frame. The screen is still plenty big enough to see notifications and data while working out. My only gripe with the screen is that it has a large and functionless bezel around the edges. When the screen lights up you notice how thick the bezel truly is, and I find myself wishing this could be extra screen space. Here is a picture of the Ionic vs. Versa comparison on my wrist which also highlights the Versa bezel issue.
The watch straps on the Versa are also painful to switch out. It feels like it should be easy to use the lever on the watch strap, but it’s very difficult and time consuming to align the pins of the holder in place with the holes on the side of the watch required to get it snugly affixed. Overall though, I am very happy with the Versa. It does essentially everything the Ionic does, with the exception of standalone GPS. I have not had trouble with the Versa connecting to my phone GPS, and it seems to accurately track my distance on runs and bike rides. I also love looking at the map of my distance after a long run!
This tracker, like many, also has the ability to auto detect workouts, which is fantastic. I usually start tracking a run manually, but for walks around the neighborhood, the auto track feature is nice. One thing that Samsung has over Ftibit in this regard is a notification when auto tracking begins. Fitbit doesn’t currently have a notification to let you know it’s auto tracking a workout like Samsung did, and I wish Fitbit would add this.
Another thing you should know about the Fitbit smart watch notifications is that Fitbit still hasn’t found a way to show you texts with pictures in them on the watch. You just get a notification that says “picture.” There is also little functionality for reading emails or responding to them, at least as far as I’ve found. On the issue of phone connectivity, one of my biggest qualms is that you can’t turn off the alarms on your phone from your Fitbit watch. They somehow show up on your notifications list if you sleep through an alarm, but you can’t receive the alarm notification in real time, and you can’t silence the alarm from your wrist. You do have the option of setting a separate alarm on your watch, but it’s a redundancy that irks just enough to be annoying.
That concludes my watch review, and next week I’ll post my final verdicts on the smart watch market and my wish list for the future!
Product Review Reflections Bike Ride Biking Cell Phone Fitbit Fitbit Ionic Fitbit Versa fitness tracking Gear Sport GPS LTE NFC Product Reviews Running Samsung smart watch Smart Watch Review tech Technology Timepiece watch wearables