Fitbit Versa 4 review: Serving the masses

A different entity to its predecessor, but still the top Fitbit smartwatch
versa 4
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Fitbit's Versa line has developed into a great entry point for those hunting down their first smartwatch.

No longer the showcase of all Fitbit's talents, the Versa is now a neat way for users to avoid a prohibitive price tag and still receive a very capable core smartwatch experience.

Related: How to choose the right Fitbit

Unlike the Fitbit Sense 2, it doesn’t have an ECG sensor, nor will it delve deeper into the body’s response to stress. However, it does still offer some signature activity and sleep tracking, alongside support for the likes of Amazon Alexa and GPS.

At $229.95 / £199.99, it’s a fair amount cheaper than the Sense 2, too. It also comes in much less than the Apple Watch SE, and promises a much more polished experience than options on the truly budget end of the spectrum.

Still, there's a lot to unpack here - there are now plenty of options for those who want a mid-level smartwatch experience, after all.

 And with minimal changes to the Versa this time around - with only really the reintroduction of the side button and some added tracking modes to speak of - it's fair to wonder if this is enough to entice those who sit in the middle of the smartwatch spectrum.

We've been living with the mass-appeal Versa 4 in order to find out.

The return of the button

On the Versa 3, Fitbit made the decision to remove the physical button from the watch case - likely to create a cleaner, more fluid design. The alternative was a haptic button, which, we think it’s fair to say, was a bit of a shocker.

Fitbit has seen the error of its ways and brought that button back, though, and we’re glad it has. You can press it to wake up the screen, get into the app menu screen or jump into a shortcut menu screen, and it will summon Amazon Alexa when you hold it down. These aren’t groundbreaking uses of a physical button, but its presence overall makes the Versa 4 a lot nicer to interact with day-to-day.

Outside of that button’s return, not a great deal has changed on the design front. It’s still attached to a square, 40.5mm aluminum case that’s slightly thinner than the Versa 3, with a band style that’s still nice and easy to remove.

The clasp choice isn’t our favorite, and it can make getting the right fit a bit of a challenge at times, but it's still manageable.

The case also comes in more color options than the Sense 2, which launched alongside the Versa 4, and the all-black number we had strapped to our wrists actually felt pretty sleek. It definitely gives off strong unisex vibes, though bigger-wristed folk might prefer something a little more dominant.

Fitbit has stuck to using the same size and resolution 1.58-inch, 336 x 336 AMOLED screen here, as well, where the black bezel does eat into that screen.

 The overall quality, viewing angles and the ability to use it in an always-on mode remain the same as they did on the Versa 3. Unfortunately, this means the screen is still relatively slow to react to the raise-to-wake gesture or a double tap.

There’s no budging on the level of waterproofing, either, but that’s hardly surprising - this isn’t a watch you’ll likely want to go diving with. If it’s a trip to the pool every now and then, though, or keeping it on in the shower, the 5 ATM rating should be more than fine.

A stripped-back smartwatch

The Versa 3 was pretty solid when it came to acting like a smartwatch. It handled features like notifications support well, provided contactless payments and even boasted music features.
With the Versa 4, however, you’re definitely getting a lesser smartwatch - and we can’t help thinking this might have something to do with the arrival of its shiny new sibling, the Google Pixel Watch.

Though it's given a wider remit than Google's first smartwatch, working with both Android and iPhone, Fitbit has tweaked its OS considerably here. Your notification feed is now a swipe up from the watch screen, and swiping left and right gets you to scroll through widgets like exercise tracking shortcuts or the weather. It definitely feels more like Wear OS in its execution.

The problem here is that scrolling through these screens doesn’t feel as smooth as it does on a new Wear OS smartwatch, and it leads us to think that the Versa 4 could benefit from a big boost in the processor department.

Elsewhere, you can view notifications, weather forecasts, alarms and use Fitbit Pay, though Amazon Alexa integration still only displays responses to queries, as opposed to delivering them by voice. There are the same Fitbit-specific queries you can fire at the smart assistant, like starting a workout or giving you a stats update, but things haven’t really progressed beyond that.

Smart assistant support brings us to the first major missing feature here, too - Google Assistant. While the Versa 3 offered the ability to pick between Google and Amazon assistants, that’s not the case here anymore.

Fitbit has also removed Wi-Fi, which in turn sees the loss of a built-in music player. The Spotify control support is gone, too, and a quick browse of the Fitbit Gallery shows that there are now no third-party watch apps to download (though you can still change watch faces).

It does have some Google apps to look forward to, with Google Wallet set to offer an alternative to Fitbit’s own Pay platform, as well as Google Maps to offer some navigation skills, but it's still hard to get away from the fact that this is now a much more hollow smartwatch experience.

The onboard microphone will also support Bluetooth calling, we should mention, but, again, that’s not live yet.

Half-baked sports tracking

When the Ionic landed way back in 2017, it felt like Fitbit was trying to go toe-to-toe with the established sports watch players, but that approach has definitely softened in more recent years. You’re still getting a smartwatch that can track runs, rides and workouts, but it certainly still doesn’t feel like its key strength any longer.

The Versa 4 supports 40+ exercise modes - up from 20 on the Versa 3 - and, on the watch, these are broken down into popular exercises like running, cycling and yoga and other activities like golf and CrossFit.

The majority of these activities still only deliver heart rate and workout duration, and it's a shame that Fitbit hasn’t evolved these to offer more metrics - especially when the likes of Amazfit and Huawei do that for less money.

Fitbit does include built-in GPS here again, but, unfortunately, that GPS integration was a bit of a mixed bag for us. On most of our runs, the Versa 4 indicated it couldn’t pick up a reliable signal.

We did manage to get a signal locked on for a couple of runs, and it actually didn’t fare too badly against the Garmin Epix for distance tracking and core running metrics, but this is still pretty poor going.

This is a watch you can take to the pool, too, and, while tracking accuracy is a great fit for shorter, 20-30 minute swims, the metrics on offer remain as basic as they did on the Versa 3. So, if you care about rich swim data, that’s not what you’re getting here.

If you’re focused on measuring effort levels based on heart rate, we’re not sure the Versa 4 is the best fit for that, either.

While average heart rate data on steady-paced workouts were similar to a MyZone chest strap, it still did have a tendency to report higher maximum readings, sometimes by almost as much as 10bpm.

Above, you can see the data from a high-intensity treadmill run where the Versa 4 produced these higher maximum heart rate readings.


Fitbit does try to offer some useful insights around the data it does provide, like estimating fitness levels and giving you credit when you score a lot of heart rate-based active zone minutes, as well as feeding this all into a Daily Readiness Score.

That score, however, is locked behind Fitbit’s Premium subscription and will need to look at sleep patterns and heart rate variability for over four days before it dishes anything out.

Those Daily Readiness scores did roughly match the data on an Oura Ring 3, at least, which looks at similar data to generate readings.

An expert at tracking the basics and sleep

A lot of Fitbit's success has been built on its easy-to-use, reliable fitness tracking and sleep monitoring, and that’s really what stands out on the Versa 4. It doesn’t break new ground, but, whether you want to keep track of steps and get nudged when you haven’t moved, keep an eye on heart rate and capture accurate sleep stats, then the Versa 4 performs as well as anything on the market.

The 'Today' widget on the watch gives you a nice breakdown of daily progress, giving you a sense of that progress from most of the watch faces, as well. Daily step counts and were generally in line with comparison data from a Garmin and an Oura Ring 3, and, while Fitbit doesn’t delve much deeper into daily step totals, it does also capture distance, calorie burn and elevation throughout the day.

It was a bit more unpredictable when it came to our resting heart rate data, where it fell in line with our other wearables on most days, but did also offer higher resting heart rate readings on others.

Sleep data is broken down in a very digestible manner, primarily on the companion app, but there is a watch widget, too, and this can display suggestions like setting a wake-up time in a bid to improve sleep quality.

There are also features hidden behind Fitbit’s Premium paywall, like snore detection and a sleep profile that requires tracking for a month before you can start acting on any long-term sleeping behaviors. You’ll also be assigned a sleeping animal to illustrate that sleep behavior and changes based on your sleep metrics.

We're not sure about the animal stuff, but the metrics felt reliable on the whole. We compared the sleep tracking on the Oura Ring 3, and found both wearables fired out similar data in terms of sleep duration and awake times.

An evolving health and stress tracker

The biggest difference between the Versa 4 and the more expensive Sense 2 is the absence of ECG and EDA sensors. You’re still getting a good array of sensors here, and the ability to detect serious health issues using its optical heart rate sensor, but, ultimately, it's an inferior health watch.

However, unlike with the Sense 2, you’re not making huge losses on not having a Premium subscription if you care about those big health insights. You won’t get wellness reports or access to mindfulness sessions, but these don’t feel like massive misses.

You'll still get some insightful health metrics displayed in the app, including breathing rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, oxygen saturation and resting heart rate. You can see how those metrics trend over periods, but you'll need to wear your Versa 4 to sleep in order to get the full range.

As mentioned, there’s no ECG sensor, but the Versa 4 does look out for irregular heart rate rhythms and atrial fibrillation using the onboard optical heart rate sensor. Again, you'll need to make sure you wear it at night to get info on this, and we didn't receive any during our time with the watch.

Stress is another big area for Fitbit, and it’s definitely offering more features geared toward stress management and mental wellbeing.

Their effectiveness on the Versa 4 is definitely up for debate, though. While it'll generate scores for stress management based on heart rate, tracked exercise and sleep patterns, these stress metrics are typically closely tied to an EDA sensor, which monitors continuously - and, again, that isn't present here.

While these scores alone might offer an indication of whether you might have endured a stressful day, connecting the dots to deal with it doesn’t feel quite there yet.

Battery life that shames the competition

While the battery life isn’t improved on the Versa 3, you’re still getting a smartwatch that can last a week, which isn’t something you can say about many smartwatches - even much more expensive ones.

Fitbit quotes around six days, and, while it does depend on how regularly features like the onboard GPS and always-on display, we found daily battery drop-off to be around 10-15%. Using the GPS for an hour of running saw the battery levels drop by 10%, and a 30-minute indoor row and treadmill run saw it drop by 3%.

When the battery is starting to get low, a notification will make its way to your phone and your email to make sure you don’t forget to charge it. Fortunately, there’s fast charging support, too, giving you a day’s play from just 12 minutes on the charging cradle.

If there’s one thing that Fitbit has got right since it entered this smartwatch space, it’s battery life. It might not be the best you can get, but it’s certainly going to be enough - and it promises more than Google’s Pixel Watch by some distance, as well.

Should you buy the Fitbit Versa 4?

This is a tough question to answer. With Google now owning the company, there's a definite sense that we could be seeing an end to the type of Fitbit smartwatches we've come to know.

With that said, the Versa 4 does still represent the best of Fitbit in its core fitness and sleep tracking features. The software on and off the watch still makes it one of the most user-friendly smartwatches to own, too.

However, it's also true that the Versa 4 isn't a huge jump from the Versa 3. And, in fact, if the older smartwatch continues to offer app support and music features, it's arguably a better pickup.

If your choice is between the two latest Fitbit watches, though, we'd definitely advise going for the Versa 4 over Sense 2 - especially if you don’t care about the additional health and stress features you miss out on here.

Don't rule out the Charge 5, either, if you're content with another form factor.


versa 4
Fitbit Versa 4
By Fitbit
Fitbit has given smartwatch features a back seat with the Versa 4, but, if you crave industry-leading sleep tracking and some intuitive activity tracking, this is still an excellent choice. While it's true that it definitely feels worse off than its predecessor in some respects, there's still more than enough here to justify the price tag.

Hit
  • Welcome return of the side button
  • Very friendly UI
  • Great sleep tracker
Miss
  • No music features
  • No third-party app support
  • Mixed HR accuracy

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