Fitbit Versa 4 Review: Ordinary Hardware, Excellent Premium Service


Fitbit’s many achievements in its field has, to some extent, turned the brand name into something of a household term for wrist-worn fitness trackers. However, the concept of the fitness tracker itself is losing a bit of steam as smartwatches have now become affordable enough to make these smaller, fitness-focused bands somewhat obsolete. However, for fitness enthusiasts, a dedicated tracker that fits in their budget is still a worthwhile proposition. Fitbit continues to work towards winning over this demographic, thanks to its combination of traditional hardware and ever-improving software.

While the premium segment is now largely dominated by smartwatches with decent health-tracking capabilities, Fitbit remains dedicated to the idea of a smarter and better fitness tracker. The Fitbit Versa 4 is priced at Rs. 20,499 in India and promises a smartwatch-like experience, but does not shy away from its fitness-first credentials.

fitbit versa 4 review sleep profile Fitbit

The Fitbit Versa 4 has an AMOLED screen, with various watch faces including Premium options as part of the subscription package

 

Fitbit Versa 4 design and specifications

Fitness trackers and bands once followed a distinct look, characterised by basic, narrow screens and a generally compact form factor. However, the preference towards large screens on wearables have seen modern fitness-focused wearables more closely resemble smartwatches, and this is the aesthetic that the Fitbit Versa 4 goes for. It has a square AMOLED screen which dominates the front, an aluminium casing with a matte finish, and a single button on the right side of the device.

Although the specifications of the screen aren’t officially stated by Fitbit, it is sharp and quite nice to look at, especially if you use a watch face with a black background. Waking the screen works with a press of the button or the lift-to-wake gesture, but tapping the touchscreen won’t work until the device is active. You also have the option to use the always-on display mode to see the time, set the screen timeout duration, and choose between three brightness levels, depending on your preferences.

The bottom of the watch has the charging contact points and the optical sensors for heart rate and blood oxygen measurements. There is also an altimeter in the Fitbit Versa 4, which is used by the device to count floors when climbing stairs; unfortunately the actual altitude data can’t be accessed easily or directly.

In India, the Fitbit Versa 4 is offered in four colour options, with the colour of the smartwatch matching that of the straps in all cases. These include a black strap with a graphite coloured casing, ‘Pink Sand’ strap with a copper rose coloured casing, ‘Beet Juice’ with a copper rose coloured casing, and ‘Waterfall Blue’ strap with a platinum coloured casing. While I liked the blue-platinum colour combination of my review unit, I personally felt that the all-black option looked better.

Strap comfort itself is a subjective point, and I did face some issues with it during my time with the Fitbit Versa 4. A somewhat tight adjustment did cause some skin sensitivity issues, while a loose fit was comfortable but affected the readings from the optical sensors. I was fine with the attached small strap, but there is an additional large strap included in the sales package. Also included in the box is the charger for the Fitbit Versa 4, which attaches to the bottom of the watch magnetically and plugs into a USB Type-A port for power (you’ll need your own adapter or connect it to a laptop).

In terms of specifications, the Fitbit Versa 4 is water resistant up to a depth of 50m, and can therefore handle significant exposure to water without much risk of damage. For connectivity, the device uses Bluetooth 5, and has an in-built speaker and microphone which can be used to communicate with Alexa for voice assistant functionality, and to receive incoming calls from the paired smartphone. The device also supports satellite location tracking through GPS and GLONASS.

Fitbit Versa 4 software, interface, and app

Many popular wearables are OS or platform-specific, and Fitbit’s acquisition by Google has led many to believe that the device and app requires an Android phone to work, or works better on Android. This isn’t really the case though; the Fitbit app works on both Android and iOS and Fitbit remains device agnostic in this regard. I primarily used the Versa 4 with an iPhone for much of this review, and all app-based functionality worked as expected.

The Fitbit app handles the connection between the Versa 4 and the paired smartphone, and also synchronises with the tracker to collect and analyse data. This itself isn’t special — every smartwatch and fitness tracker does this — but where Fitbit truly sets itself apart is in the quality of its analysis of the data. The app generates detailed graphs and statistics based on the data the Versa 4 collects, including various data sets that come as part of the Premium subscription.

fitbit versa 4 review app Fitbit

The Fitbit app (available on iOS and Android) is the key to the overall experience, and the Premium subscription unlocks various interesting data points

 

Fitbit Premium offers an assortment of additional data and statistics that go beyond the basics of fitness, health, and sleep tracking on the Versa 4. This includes detailed data sets on points such as breathing rate, resting heart rate, oxygen saturation, heart rate variability, and detailed sleep profiles, among others, all with your own performance based on personal and typical ranges.

You can also generate a health report in PDF format, which gives you a comprehensive break up of how you’re doing in terms of health and fitness. Some specific metrics such as Readiness Score, Sleep Profile, snore and noise detection, and more are available only with the Premium subscription. You also get access to video workouts and healthy cooking recipes through the Premium subscription.

While the idea of paying a monthly subscription fee after already having spent over Rs. 20,000 on the Versa 4 itself may seem a bit excessive, it’s worth mentioning that I found the Premium service to be considerably better in terms of data analysis compared to the competing free options I’ve had a chance to try. Six months of complimentary Premium subscription comes with the Fitbit Versa 4 upon activation, after which it is priced at Rs. 99 per month or Rs. 999 per year. This is quite reasonable for what’s on offer, in my opinion.

The Fitbit Versa 4 itself comes across as a bit basic for a device that costs over Rs. 20,000. There is a simple on-device operating system with screens displaying basic data including steps taken, sleep hours, heart rate, weather, and tools such as alarms, timers, and stopwatch. You can also control basic device parameters such as always-on display and DnD mode, access Alexa on the watch (once set up through the app), set up Fitbit Pay (not supported in India for now), and view notifications from your smartphone.

Watch faces (called ‘Clocks’ in the Fitbit app) for the Fitbit Versa 4 can be downloaded and synced through the app, with plenty of good options available for free or as part of the Premium subscription. While I preferred the Fitbit-developed, AMOLED screen-friendly options, many might like the seasonal and curated watch faces as well.

fitbit versa 4 review bottom Fitbit

The Fitbit Versa 4 is rated for water resistance up to 50m

 

Other in-app options include setting up Alexa for the Versa 4, on-wrist calls from the paired smartphone, and setting up specific device preferences including daily fitness targets and account settings. I did have occasional issues with data synchronisation, sleep and SpO2 stats took a while to update in the app, and there were minor bugs including one affecting distance tracking, but nothing was too serious or caused any long-term hassles during my review. Food, water consumption, and manual weight tracking can be maintained within the app as well.

Fitbit Versa 4 performance and battery life

Practically every smartwatch, regardless of price, can serve as a fitness tracker, although the accuracy and quality of the analysis of data collected varies. Where the Fitbit Versa 4 hopes to set itself apart is in its focus on fitness tracking. There are some smartwatch functions such as the ability to take calls on your wrist and view notifications from the paired smartphone, but the Versa 4 is, above all else, a fitness tracker at its core.

The core data collection by the Fitbit Versa 4 is largely similar to what most fitness trackers provide, and accuracy is reasonably good as well. The tracker has the ability to store up to seven days of detailed motion data on device, which will be retained until the device is synchronised with the app on your smartphone. Daily totals can be stored for up to 30 days on device.

Step tracking on the Fitbit Versa 4 was decent enough in our 1,000-step test. The device measured 1,020 steps where I manually counted 1,000 steps while walking at a moderate pace — an acceptable error margin of two percent. At a brisk pace, the Versa 4 slightly undercounted steps, with a similar error margin of around two percent. Satellite location tracking on the Fitbit Versa 4 worked well for outdoor exercises, with the device measuring 1.01km for a distance stated by Google Maps to be 1km, during an outdoor walk.

Although it is ideal to manually start workouts directly from the Versa 4, the device can automatically detect exercise and initiate the detailed tracking itself. It handles this well, although it is sometimes a couple of minutes late to initiate the tracking. In all cases of exercise tracking, it is also able to detect when you are in cardio and fat burn zones based on your heart rate, categorised by Fitbit as ‘Zone’ minutes which can be set as a daily goal.

Heart rate tracking takes place every five seconds ordinarily, and once per second during an exercise routine, with these readings affecting the measurement of ‘Zone’ minutes. While resting and sleep heart rate tracking was fine, I found exercise and major activity heart rate tracking on the Fitbit Versa 4 to be a bit unreliable, thereby affecting accurate measurement of ‘Zone’ minutes and other parameters.

I generally found tracking to be fine up to around 130bpm, but higher heart rates (common during intense workouts) caused the Versa 4 to slip up. This also affected other overall readings such as cardio fitness score and heart rate variability, since measurements during heavy activity were generally unreliable. Some others such as skin temperature variation and overall skin temperature didn’t seem to show any reliable readings even after many days of use.

fitbit versa 4 review button Fitbit

The Fitbit Versa 4 has a speaker and microphone built in, and can be used to receive calls from the paired smartphone or communicate with Alexa

 

Blood oxygen tracking on the Fitbit Versa 4 is not on-demand, as is the case with most smartwatches and fitness trackers that have the feature. Instead, this metric is only shown after overnight sleep, and can be seen only with a watch face that supports showing it, or through the app. This also tended to show lower readings than what a decent SpO2 monitor showed during daytime measurements but this is expected, and still provides a decent outlook into your blood oxygen levels on a daily basis.

Sleep tracking is where the Fitbit Versa 4 performs exceptionally well, providing accurate and detailed sleep quality statistics and health tracking. The app also generates a sleep profile after logging enough data, and helps with insights on how to improve your overall sleep and health through this method. This also helps to estimate a ‘Readiness’ score — a parameter which provides some guidance as to when you should work out, rest, or catch up on sleep, based on recent activity.

Battery life on the Fitbit Versa 4 is considerably better than most smartwatches, but comes across as quite ordinary when compared to other devices with similar hardware capabilities. The Versa 4 ran for a little under four days on a single charge with normal use for me, which was slightly reduced on days with more frequent screen use or exercise tracking.

Call quality is ordinary and workable for short calls; the quality of the on-device speaker isn’t very good, and sounded a bit muffled for calls as well as responses from Alexa. Notification pushing is reliable as long as the Fitbit Versa 4 is near the paired smartphone, but unlike similarly-priced smartwatches, you can only view notifications on the device with no ability to respond.

Verdict

The Fitbit Versa 4 is, at least in terms of the quality of the hardware, a fairly ordinary fitness tracker and smartwatch for the price. However, the true value of this is not purely in the hardware, but in the app and benefits of the Premium subscription, particularly for fitness enthusiasts who really stand to benefit from the data and insights on offer. If you’re someone who works out often and wants to keep an eye on your health, this is a good tracker for around Rs. 20,000.

There are some drawbacks here, particularly in the form of unreliable heart rate tracking, a fairly basic smartwatch experience, and battery life that really should be better considering the level of hardware capabilities. However, the overall fitness tracking experience was largely positive for me, and I did benefit from the various insights and data provided by the app and the Premium service.

However, if you don’t expect to put the details health analytics to frequent use, and you want a more all-round experience instead, it might be worth getting an Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch instead. You could also consider the Garmin Venu Sq 2 or the slightly more affordable Amazfit GTR 4 for fitness-focused functionality.


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