By Ajay Joseph
Fitbit is an American company that was founded a little over a decade ago, specializing in wearable gadgets and fitness/activity tracking devices.
Today, we’re looking at the Fitbit Versa Lite, which serves as an entry-level smartwatch, with fitness tracking functionality. It’s targeted at the hybrid user, looking for a smartwatch with casual fitness tracking, not the serious athlete.
Design and Ergonomics
The Versa Lite has a square screen design, with a single main button on the left. The design is very similar to the full-fledged Versa, albeit for the triple button setup, with 2 more buttons on the right.
The screen is connected to a silicone strap, which is changeable. The screen is an LCD, which is vibrant and features deep blacks. It’s, in fact, the same screen used in the more expensive Versa smartwatch. It has a 1000 nit maximum brightness which is good for outdoor use in sunlight.
It’s lightweight and the fit is good. It’s not too bulky, neither adding too much weight on the hand nor easily bumping into objects in day to day use. The device feels fairly premium and doesn’t get scratched easily. As with most silicone straps, if worn tight it tends to get hot and sweaty, needing for some adjusting to breathe.
Software and User Experience
The Versa Lite runs Fitbit OS 3, which is highly intuitive and easy to use. Reviewing online research also points towards the UI being the easiest to use among fitness devices and smart-watches.
Navigation is via swiping left and right, and a long press of the main button provides access to the Notifications, Screen Wake, and Music Controls. Throughout its use, the screen remained highly responsive.
The only negative was the layout of the exercise results, which displayed weekly, monthly, and yearly statuses, with the more useful daily data needing for additional navigation. The ability to configure the interface based on user needs and preferences would’ve been nice.
iOS integration is hassle-free, and the data easily syncs with the Fitbit app on the phone. More detailed views and analysis of the data captured is possible through the app.
Notifications for messages and calendar sync is convenient to access and view, but is not stored on the device; which means once read it’s gone. Syncing is Internet dependent, and cannot be done when the mobile phone is offline. Though only tested with iOS, the Versa Lite works with Android as well.
Features and Activity Tracking
The device’s features include various routine tracking which is autonomous, in addition to specific activity tracking which can be both initiated manually as well as triggered automatically based on certain parameters.
Routine tracking includes activities such as step count, active minutes, heart-rate monitoring, calorie burn, and sleep monitoring. While exercise recognition includes activities such as going for a run. These can either be manually initiated or auto-triggered. For a run to be triggered, you need to be continuously running for 10 minutes, and then the device considers the data as a run and starts tracking it as a run.
Unfortunately, the device does not track swim laps. Also important to note is that if an activity is manually triggered, it has to be manually disengaged; it does not automatically turn-off, even if the pulse drops.
The hourly move reminder was a nice touch, which reminds you every hour to get up from your desk and move around. Similarly, the calorie in-out was a nice feature: the user is required to input their daily consumption, and the calories are tracked against what you burn during the day from activity and exercise. Adding daily food intake is not the most convenient though.
In addition to all the activity tracking features, the device can also be used to display notifications such as incoming calls, and SMS messages. The documentation says that notifications from email apps and instant messengers such as WhatsApp can also be configured; though I did not test that.
Specs and Performance
With such wearable devices, people seldom care about the hardware under the hood, as what matters is the user experience being snappy and seamless. For the most part, the device was, except for a few instances when the Exercise tabs were slow to load.
The Lite does not include onboard GPS and an altimeter. The former means you need to always have your phone with you for GPS tracking, such as distance. The bigger limitation is the lack of an altimeter, which means no elevation tracking, which is especially important for uphill runs. For that, you’ll need to step up to the more expensive Versa (non-Lite edition).
There is also no onboard storage, which means you can’t store music on the device like the Versa, which is useful for workout music. This means you’d have to have your phone or a music-player device with you.
There is also no NFC, which means no mobile payments via the device; though this may not be a consideration for use in the Philippines.
Battery and Charging
As per the documentation, battery life is expected to last four days. If notifications are high, battery life is limited to 3 days at times. Charging the device to full only takes about an hour or two though.
The included battery is a 145 mAh unit, and the device charges through an included base-station charger of sorts. The base in-turn connects to a standard USB port. The package does not include a dedicated charger, but the charging unit has a cable that ends in a USB port.
While the device notifies you when the battery gets very low, locating the battery level is not easy, with the info only being found when you swipe down or via the phone. Ideally being able to see it on the home-screen would’ve been nice.
Value and Competition
The Fitbit Versa Lite has a good deal of competition, including options for the Samsung Gear series, or the Fitbit’s Charge 3 if you’re looking for a more feature-packed fitness tracking device, with a vertical screen and less smartwatch functionality.
Offerings from Apple are a little more expensive, and for my taste, the Fitbit Versa Lite has nicer styling. Conversely, Garmin offers the Vivosmart that costs less and has more activity-tracking features, such as an altimeter and GPS.
Priced at P10,390 the Versa Lite affords users access to its impressive Fitbit app, and now massive Fitbit community.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what you’re looking for. If what you want is a smartwatch with minimal fitness tracking, the Versa Lite is a great device. It’s ideal for those who want to enter the wearable gadget market but are intimidated by tech. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better touchscreen at this price point. On the other hand, if you’re an athlete or are serious about training and improving your performance, other devices would suit your needs better.