Fitbit takes a second swing at smartwatches with the $199 Versa

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Fitbit's first "real" smart watch, the Fitbit Ionic, did not sell as well as the company expected, but that does not stop it from launching another smart watch. The new Fitbit Versa ditches Ionic's stern and hard design for a smoothly rounded square (Fitbit calls it "Squircle") with reduced bevels.
At an entry-level price of $ 199, the Versa is aimed at conventional users who are not looking for a large number of applications or LTE capacity. It will also replace the Fitbit Blaze, the modular non-GPS watch that Fitbit launched two years ago. Unlike the Ionic, the Versa will not include a built-in GPS, and has a battery life of four days instead of five.
Most of the functions of the Ionic watch are in the Versa, despite the price difference of $ 100. The Versa still has a heart rate monitor, works with the Fitbit-inspired operating system and is waterproofed for swimming. It comes preloaded with Fitbit Coach, which offers a handful of guided exercise routines and automatically clocks you while you train. (A full version of Fitbit Coach that includes more training programs costs $ 39.99 per year). You can also store around 300 songs or stream music from Pandora or Deezer.
And later this summer, Fitbit will introduce a female health tracking mode that allows users who identify themselves as women to track their periods and symptoms to identify patterns (and, in turn, see if something is irregular). It is the first for the company, but not unlike the Apple & # 39; s Health application before.

Yes, the Fitbit Versa basically looks like an Apple watch
And while we're here, let's get the elephant out of the room. Yes, the Fitbit Versa basically looks like an Apple Watch. Fitbit executives secretly used the new smart watches before their presentation, and it was difficult to distinguish the devices from the Apple watches that the assistants wore until you started looking for a new one at a press event in New York City. digital crown. The Versa is also available in black, light gray and pink gold, which makes the similarities strange.
While the Fitbit operating system may not be the most optimized experience for an iPhone user, Apple Watch naturally takes that cake, Fitbit has maintained its multiplatform approach, which means that Versa is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows. At launch, there will be some fragmented smartwatch experiences, depending on what smartphone operating system you use or where you live. For example, Versa announces support for NFC payments, but if you live in the US. You will need to buy a special edition of the device that costs $ 229. And only people with Android devices will initially enjoy the Versa Rapid Response feature that Google has been testing with several messaging platforms.
In my brief practice with the device, I could not prove any of the above features. Instead, Fitbit made a group of journalists focus on the main characteristics that the company is best known for: tracking fitness. Everything in this department works as expected: you can follow specific exercises, the step counter increases as you perform aerobic exercises, you can see how your heart rate changes as you exercise more physical energy, and the Versa will calculate your cardio score , which is the Fitbit approximation of your VO2 max.
The features are not particularly exciting, especially if you have been following Fitbit products for a while, but they are what you would expect from a smart watch that tries to take a bite out of the wearables market that continues to grow aggressively year after year. One thing worth noting about the new Versa is that it has the same set of relative SpO2 sensors as the Fitbit Ionic, a different physical pattern of sensors, but they are the same ones that are supposed to help Fitbit in their search to be able to follow the sleep apnea
The question is whether the lower-priced Versa will help Fitbit regain some of its strength in the smart watch market, having ceded the title of US number one costume designer to Apple and a disappointing Christmas earnings report. Undoubtedly, the Versa was in the product portfolio long before Fitbit could have predicted it would be in this position, but it seems that the Versa will come at a critical time for the digital health and wellness company.
The Fitbit Versa comes out to preorder today for $ 199 and is shipped in April.

Lauren Goode contributed to this article.
Photograph of Natt Garun / The Verge

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