FITNESS OUTFIT Fitbit on Wednesday announced a bunch of new health and wellness offering, including some new low-priced smart scales, a premium health app service and - most importantly - a brand new smartwatch: the Fitbit Versa 2.
Improving on the original Versa device, this latest iteration brings with it some new features including Alexa integration and a fresh design, all with over five days of battery life.
We were invited to get some hands-on time with the device ahead of official release in the UK in mid-September. Here are our initial thoughts.
At first glance, the Fitbit Versa 2 is pretty much identical to the original. The design upgrades are subtle but on closer inspection, you'll notice that the Versa 2 is visually more minimal (there's now just one button on the left-hand side) and the smooth, polished metal on the sides along with a slightly thinner bezel give it a much more slick aesthetic.
This cleaner form on the top is complemented by a smoother back panel, where the sensor hub lays. While it all looks very nice and much more premium than before, it's also super comfortable. The soft silicon strap is very nice to touch and the watch overall is really light (although we're not sure on exact weight just yet).
Overall, we think the Versa 2's design is great for those not looking for anything too extravagant. As with the Versa that came before it, it's pretty nondescript and thus harmless on the eye, leaving you to concentrate more on what's on the display than what's going on around it.
The new Versa boasts a slightly (eight per cent) larger AMOLED screen with a brand new "always-on" option that means you can quickly check the time or your health stats without having to flick your wrist and hope that the display lights up.
In our short hands-on experience with the Versa 2, the screen appeared vibrant and colourful, responding quickly to touch commands. Brightness levels were good but we were indoors during our hands-on and would be keen to check if they live up to those seen on the first edition of the Versa while in direct sunlight.
What sets the Fitbit Versa 2 apart from most other smartwatches is that it has Alexa functionality baked in for the first time. With these added AI smarts, you can use Alexa to set reminders or ask "where is the nearest gym", for example, via the device's in-built microphone.
You don't need to say "Alexa" to boot it up, simply hold down the physical button on the side for a few seconds. During our demo, we tested this a few times and it seemed very responsive - something Alexa is not always known for. The Versa 2's built-in mic also means Android users will also be able to send voice replies to messages received on their smartphones via the gadget's voice to text feature.
As expected, all the standard sports tracking features are here in the new Versa too, including running, cycling and swimming, and these all work effortlessly, as with the original Versa.
Firing up the Running app to ensure your run is tracked is easy enough. Simply select Running from the Exercise app by swiping left from the home screen, tap 'Go' and you can get your ass into gear. We couldn't test this feature in our small hands-on demo area, but it seemed to work in the exact same way as the original Versa. Fitbit knows how to do fitness tracking better than most, so we have no doubts the Versa 2 will impress us here.
Fitbit Pay also comes built-in as a standard feature in the Versa 2 so you can tap your way through your contactless payments up to £30 value without needing to get your wallet - or phone - out of your pocket. Again, we couldn't test this but we can imagine it works effortlessly, as it did in previous iterations. Spotify is also available for download but we should note this works only as a control for your phone and not offline. However, Fitbit said this is something they'll be planning to work on with Spotify soon.
All-in-all, apart from the feature update, the Versa two isn't too dissimilar from its predecessor, which was launched 18 months ago. We would have liked to have seen a more drastic design change, but saying that, we always liked the original so as the saying goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Alexa integration is a cool addition but, like Siri on the Apple Watch, we can't imagine everyone taking advantage of it.
The Versa 2 will retail in the UK on 15 September for £199 and will come in Grey, Pink, and Black colour options. There'll also be a Versa 2 Special Edition which will cost £20 more and will come with snazzy straps such as perforated rubber or woven fabric straps with bold, geometric patterns alongside 90 days free of Fitbit Premium. µ