The Fitbit Versa 3 is no-longer the company’s flagship smartwatch, but it’s a much more well-rounded offering, at a sensible price with great battery life.
Back when the Versa launched Fitbit dubbed it the ‘mass appeal smartwatch’, and alongside its health-centric Fitbit Sense watch, that’s still the case today.
Fitbit has sought to give us an even nicer-looking design, onboard GPS you could previously only find on the Ionic, its latest heart rate monitor technology to offer more accurate health and fitness data and better ways to communicate with your Versa.
We’ve been living with the Versa 3 now for a while to see if Fitbit’s mass appeal smartwatch still has big appeal. Here’s our full verdict – and check out our list of the best smartwatch reviews.
Fitbit Versa 3: Design, screen and watch software
With the Ionic now out of the picture, Fitbit seems to have settled on the square watch look with gently curved edges and a curved glass display to give it that feel of an Apple Watch.
It still feels like a smartwatch that’s a great option for women, but there’s enough look and band combos to give it unisex appeal too.
Fitbit certainly didn’t need to be too drastic with the design changes and thankfully it hasn’t done that with the Versa 3. You’ve got three different color case options to choose from and a wide array of leather, sporty, woven bands to pick from.
It’s changed the way those bands are removed from the watch case and it’s certainly for the better. That does mean Versa 2 bands won’t work with it, but we approve of the less fiddly approach to getting them off.
You’re now getting a slightly larger 40mm sized case compared to a 39mm one and thickness has jumped up from 12.15mm to 12.35mm. The jump in size and bulk though really isn’t that noticeable and it still feels and looks like a really nice smartwatch to wear.
Fitbit Versa 3 (left) and Fitbit Sense (right)
With that jump in case size, Fitbit has seized the opportunity to go bigger with the screen size. You’re now getting a 1.58-inch AMOLED display with an improved 336 x 336 resolution.
The Versa 2 packs a smaller 1.39-inch screen with a 300 x 300 resolution screen. It’s a really high quality display that’s sharp, bright and offers lovely viewing angles as well.
It can also be used in an always-on display mode just like its predecessor. Though that does come at the expense of week-long battery life.
So now to the one thing we don’t really like about the Versa 3’s design. The missing button. Fitbit ditched the physical button it used previous Versas for something that lives far more discreetly.
There’s a small indent in one side of the case to indicate where you can press and while it means you get a cleaner, more uninterrupted look on the Versa 3, it comes at the expense of something that’s just doesn’t work for us.
That hidden button feels stiff and can be very unresponsive at times or cause you to accidentally press it too hard and open up sub-menus.
It’s something Fitbit introduced on its fitness trackers and it worked reasonably well on those devices. It’s been badly implemented here though and thankfully you’re not massively reliant on it to navigate. If Fitbit does it on the next Versa though, it needs to be better.
On a more positive note, this is still a smartwatch that can go in the shower and stay on your wrist for a swim. It’s got the same water resistance rating as the Versa 2, letting you submerge it in water up to 50 metres depth.
Something we also need to talk about is the design of the software. We’ve always praised Fitbit for its devices and apps being easy to use.
Some of that seems to have been slightly lost on the Versa 3 with the growth of features while some performance issues have crept in too. It’s certainly not unusable, but it’s busier than previous watches and there’s some signs of lag when swiping through screens and opening apps. Menus can be a little slow to load.
The core stats section where your daily stats lives feels a bit overwhelming and you’d be best to manage it to show less. There’s now sub menus that require taps and double taps on the button built into the case. Fitbit just needs to be careful how it handles adding features with the philosophy of making a watch that’s still intuitive to use.
Fitbit Versa 3: Smartwatch features
How well does the Versa 3 perform as a smartwatch? We’d say on the whole, pretty good.
We tested it with an iPhone and an Android phone and aside from the rare syncing issue, we found it was very adept at delivering those smartwatch staples. There are some promised features we are being made to wait for, which means it’s not quite the full experience just yet.
Everything you could do on the Versa 2, you can do on the Versa 3. You can view notifications, which you’ll need to go to the effort of setting up in the companion Fitbit phone app to get it working correctly.
Those notifications pop up as soon as they do on your phone and you can swipe down from the watch screen to view them. If you’ve got an Android phone, you can also reply with voice, preset messages or an emoji. It works well and it’s easy to respond on the screen.
You still have a music player that works with your own music and can store offline playlists from streaming services like Deezer. It’s still a clunky affair to get that music one and while Fitbit has now added the ability to control Spotify, it’s not the offline playback support many will no doubt be craving.
Fitbit Pay is in place once again, but if you’re in the UK, the number of banks supported pales in comparison to the ones supported in the US.
Fitbit does also have its own app and watch face store, though it reminds us a lot of what we find with Garmin’s store front. It’s a bit slow and clunky and installing and updating apps can take their time.
The Versa 2 added a microphone, which meant Fitbit was able to put a smart assistant on one its smartwatches for the first time. Alexa on the Versa actually worked well, more so than other assistants on other smartwatches and it’s more of the same on the Versa 3.
Once you’ve set it up through the app and linked your Amazon account to Fitbit, you can double tap the side of the watch to open up Alexa and ask questions, set reminders and a lot more.
If you’re really invested in Alexa it can be good to get quick answers and control your smart home – but it’s not something we’ve used after the initial experimental phase. Also, if you’re using it for Fitbit related queries, you’ll have to remember to ask Alexa ‘to ask Fitbit’. Clunky.
If you’re not a fan of Amazon Alexa, Fitbit has added support for Google Assistant too. It’s not available yet, so we didn’t get to test it. Here’s hoping it’s as well executed as Alexa is on the Versa 3.
Added to that onboard mic is a built-in speaker, though it’s not used to to hear Alexa or Google’s Assistant when it arrives. It can be used to take calls on your Versa 3.
This isn’t done via additional cellular connectivity. It works when your phone is nearby and you watch is paired to it over Bluetooth to offer something you get on Google and Samsung smartwatches too. Like the Google Assistant integration though, it’s not a feature that’s available to test yet.
Fitbit Versa 3: Fitness and health tracking
Fitness tracking is what Fitbit does best, and that doesn’t change with the Versa 3. if you want something that keeps tabs on steps or get reliable, useful sleep data and insights, it’s still one of the best and is one of the reasons you’re going to go for it over other watches.
In terms of features, you’re getting 24/7 activity tracking, which does include steps climbed thanks to the onboard altimeter. There’s guided breathing exercises available and women’s health features, which live partly on the watch and in the app.
You can monitor heart rate continuously and manually log things like weight and food and water intake. There’s the ability to track your mindfulness and listen to meditation tracks through the app. Though many of the sessions live behind Fitbit’s Premium subscription.
Likewise, Premium users will get advanced data from the news Health Metrics dashboard. This puts breathing rate, oxygen saturation and heart rate variability alongside resting HR so a quick look at your vitals.
Step tracking compared: Fitbit Versa 3 (left) and Garmin fitness tracker (right)
When it comes to step tracking, this is Fitbit’s bread and butter. We wore the Versa 3 alongside a Garmin fitness tracker and the above gives you an idea of the kind of data we saw on a daily basis. Fitbit decides to break down other data like stairs climbed and distance covered into separate sections on the app, though we’d prefer to see it all in one place.
As far as keeping you motivated to move, you have those hourly inactivity alerts, but that’s really it. Fitbit keeps things simple here, which is fine. It would be nice to see it take a leaf out of Samsung, Huawei or Garmin’s book and try to offer more features to get you moving regularly during the day.
Sleep tracking compared:Fitbit Versa 3 (left and centre) and Garmin fitness tracker (right)
We still regard sleep tracking as one of Fitbit’s strengths and something it does better than most. Whether that’s Apple, Samsung or Garmin.
We say that because the data feels the most reliable, best communicated and also looks to offer richer and crucially more useful insights about your bed time.
You get sleep breakdown, sleep scores and the onboard SpO2 sensor brings estimated oxygen variation insights too. This kind of data could identify breathing issues during sleep, though Fitbit does not say this is something that can be used for sleep disorders like Sleep Apnea.
There’s more too. You can view sleeping heart rate data and see your restlessness, though these features require Fitbit’s Premium subscription to access.
Without those Premium insights though, you still get a fair amount of information. Crucially, that information felt a lot more reliable than the Garmin fitness tracker we put it up against. Up top is the typical kind of data we saw.
The Versa did a better job of recognising the time we fell asleep and woke up.
If you’re hoping for the same kind of richer health insights you’ll get on the Fitbit Sense, you simply don’t get that here. There’s no ECG or temperature sensor or the new EDA scan app that’s designed to offer deeper stress insights.
As a fitness tracker though, this is where the Versa continues to excel and it’s more of the same on the Versa 3.
Fitbit Versa 3: Sports tracking and heart rate accuracy
To appease those who like to do more than just count steps or log sleep, Fitbit has sought to improve the sports tracking features on its smartwatches. The biggest way it’s doing that is by adding built-in GPS. The Ionic was the only Fitbit smartwatch that had it, and with that now retired it’s thankfully been brought to the Versa 3.
On top of GPS, you have the accelerometer to track indoor workouts and Fitbit’s PurePulse 2.0 heart rate monitor, which has created a larger surface area to take readings and ultimately lead to improved accuracy.
That sensor can unlock features like workout intensity maps to show where you put in your most effort during a run or ride. It also contributes to your Active Zone Minutes to make sure you’re getting your heart pumping on a regular basis. It does work with third party apps, so you can push data into platforms like Strava too.
Tracking is done from the Exercise app where you’ll find the likes of cycling, golf, running, hiking, spinning and swimming.
Some of these activities are also supported by Fitbit’s SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition tech. The range of metrics you’ll see with those sports profiles will vary too. So you’ll see more running and swimming metrics than you will for something like martial arts.
What we’d say about the Versa 3 as a sports watch is much of what we can apply to previous watches. This isn’t a Garmin or an Apple Watch. This isn’t something built for marathons for triathlons. If you’re throwing in some runs, swims and HIIT classes, it should do the job.
GPS tracking compared: Fitbit Versa 3 (left and centre) and Garmin Forerunner 745 (right)
With the addition of GPS, you now have the freedom to leave your phone behind or not play around with it at all before you get moving.
Locking onto a GPS signal doesn’t take long and was generally in line with the same time it took a Garmin Forerunner to get ready to track. What you get with that running are some pretty basic metrics that you can tap the screen to see them all. It’s one metric per screen and you’re not getting to do anything like interval training or more structured sessions. It’s about tracking runs and seeing how it contributes to your daily tracking goals.
In terms of accuracy, we found that it came up a little short in distance compared to a Garmin running watch. Average pace was a little off and splits didn’t quite match up either. It’s not wildly inaccurate data, but those looking for a reliable running watch might feel it falls short.
Swim tracking compared: Fitbit Versa 3 (left and centre) and Form Swim Goggles (right)
When we jumped into the pool with it for a swim the most striking thing is that the screen is great to view underwater. It’s sharp, bright and the deep blacks in the AMOLED make it great for viewing your data. Maybe more so than the Apple Watch.
Like running though, the swim tracking experience feels a little basic in terms of what you see on the watch during your swim. Post-swim, it’s similarly basic too and the emphasis once again is how this activity contributes to your overall day’s data.
That data however, was slightly short of what we recorded from Form’s Swim Goggles tracking in our swim tests. Up top is one of our longer swims where it was short of tracking correct lengths and distance covered. If you want a data-rich swim tracking experience, that’s not what you’ll get here.
Heart rate accuracy
Heart rate tracking compared: Fitbit Versa 3 (left and centre) and Garmin HRM-Pro chest strap (right)
Fitbit is using its latest heart rate sensor technology, which is still optical based, but the aim is to deliver better accuracy. You can’t pair up external heart rate sensors, so it’s down to the built-in one to do the job.
From an exercise point of view, we have found it a bit more reliable than previous Versa watches. For steady runs and indoor rowing sessions, we couldn’t find much fault with it. Though if you’re hoping to use it for high intensity interval training, you’ll get more accurate data from a dedicated heart rate monitor chest strap.
Above is a sample run with data compared to a chest strap monitor where we included some intervals at the end of the session. The data suggests a higher maximum heart rate reading than the chest strap and there’s some bigger dips in the Fitbit data as it struggles to kick back in when the intensity increases.
If you want something that’s built for intense training, it’s not really going to cut it for you. For steady workouts where there’s less emphasis on those intense, quick, high intensity periods, it’s definitely more suited. General and daily heart rate readings is really want this sensor is best built for.
Fitbit Versa 3: Battery life
One of the biggest accomplishments Fitbit has made since entering the world of smartwatches was to give us better battery life. Something Apple, Samsung and Google’s Wear OS clan still struggle with.
The Ionic promised 4 days and now five smartwatches on, we have the Versa 3 that promises 6 days of battery life and even more depending on how you using it. That’s not all. It’s now added a new quick charge feature that will give you a day of power from just 12 minutes of charging time.
What we found is that the Versa 3 is another solid performer in this department. It tended to last us 5-6 days without always on-display mode and having notifications enabled and using the GPS 2-3 times a week. Putting that always-on mode into play will get you around two days, so it is a battery hog.
Using GPS does eat into the battery more than it does on dedicated sports watches. knocking 8-9% for a 30 minute run. The 12 hours of battery promised with GPS enabled seems to be right.
One major plus is that quick charge feature. To give you an idea of well it works, After a 15-minute charge, the battery jumped from 18% to 44%. So if you are running low and you do keep that cable nearby, it comes in handy when you’re running low.
The Versa 3 marks a nice evolutionary step for what is now Fitbit’s main smartwatch. The design has been refined largely for the better and its abilities as a fitness tracker still shine through. Its smartwatch features are reliable too and is a showcase once again how to make a smart assistant on a watch useful. The addition of GPS doesn’t quite transform into a great sports watch, though if you care about steps and sleep over advanced running metrics, the Versa still a good smartwatch available at a great price.
- Attractive look, bigger screen
- Solid fitness tracking
- Great battery life
- Brimming with health data
- Annoying button
- Not all features available
- Busier watch software
- Some lagginess in performance