Android Authority | Fitbit Versa Lite review: A fantastic entry-level smartwatch

The Fitbit Versa was one of our favorite smartwatches of 2018. Even today, it offers a good balance between fitness and smartwatch features — a combination many wearables can't seem to get right. For all its strengths though, the Versa's $200 price point is a bit steep for some.

That's why we're happy to see Fitbit launch a cheaper, pared-down version of the Versa. It's not as capable a fitness tracker as the original device, nor does it have as many smartwatch features. But did Fitbit cut the right corners to hit the lower $160 price point? Read our full Fitbit Versa Lite review to find out.

Fitbit Versa Lite review notes: For many sections of this review, I'm going to point you towards our original Fitbit Versa review. The Versa's design, fitness features, and even the Fitbit app have gone largely unchanged. This review will instead focus on the differences between the Fitbit Versa and Versa Lite.

I've been using the Fitbit Versa Lite as my main fitness tracker for roughly one week, running firmware version 38.33.1.30. The Versa Lite has been connected to my Samsung Galaxy S10e for the duration of this review.

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Design

If you're at all familiar with the Fitbit Versa, you'll be right at home with the Versa Lite. It sports the same squircle aluminum case as the original, as well as the same 1.34-inch LCD display.

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The biggest design difference between the two smartwatch is the shift to a one-button design on the Fitbit Versa Lite. Now, there's only one button on the left side that acts as a back/sleep button. For all other navigation throughout Fitbit OS, you'll need to rely on swiping and tapping.

The original Versa has two physical buttons on the right side that you can program to open your favorite watch apps. Speaking from experience, I rarely use the shortcut buttons on the Versa anyway, so I'm not sad to see them go. With no buttons on the right side, the Versa Lite also looks cleaner.

The Versa Lite still uses Fitbit's proprietary straps, so all Versa-compatible straps are compatible with the Versa Lite. The straps that ship with the Versa Lite are slightly improved over last year's, though they're still pretty difficult to attach to the watch case. I've found myself still mashing the straps into place in order to get them attached.

Fitbit devices have always been long-lasting, and the Versa Lite is no different. Fitbit claims it can last over four days on a single charge, and I'd say that's accurate. Even with the heart rate sensor turned on, wearing it to sleep every night, and tracking multiple workouts, the Versa Lite was able to last me roughly four days on a charge. You'll no doubt be able to make it last longer if you're just using it in smartwatch mode.

Also read: Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 4

Overall, I'm a fan of the Fitbit Versa Lite's design. I don't think the Fitbit Versa Lite will ever be as elegant-looking as the Apple Watch or Skagen Falster 2 — even with Fitbit's leather and metal straps — but I quite like the look of it overall. It's functional, simple, and clean; what more could you want in a fitness-focused smartwatch?

Smartwatch features

As you might've expected, the Fitbit Versa Lite is essentially the same smartwatch as the standard Versa, minus a few features.

The Versa Lite doesn't come with an NFC chip, so you won't be able to use contactless payments via Fitbit Pay. That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, as Fitbit Pay support is only available on more expensive devices like the Fitbit Versa Special Edition and Fitbit Ionic.

Likely the biggest downside of the Versa Lite in terms of smartwatch features is lack music storage. You can't load up any of your favorite songs to the Versa Lite and listen on the go — for that privilege, you'll have to bring your phone with you on your run or spring for one of the pricier Versa models. You can, however, control the music that's playing on your phone from your Versa Lite. Frankly, I'm not surprised the Versa Lite lacks on-board music storage. It's a feature we really only see on more premium devices.

One of the only other changes with the Versa Lite is its lack of Wi-Fi support. You'll have to rely on a Bluetooth connection to your phone for all data transfer, including software updates. The Versa Lite actually downloads software updates little by little when your watch syncs with your phone. Once the entire update is downloaded, you'll get a notification to install the new software version. It's an interesting workaround, but one has to wonder — is Wi-Fi support really that expensive that Fitbit needed to remove it?

Elsewhere, the Versa Lite is essentially the same smartwatch as the regular Versa. Android users will be able to receive and reply to smartphone notifications from their wrists, via Fitbit's Quick Reply feature. You can either reply with pre-populated messages, or reply to messages via Google's Smart Reply suggestions. More information on how that works can be found here.

iOS users can receive smartphone notifications on their Versa Lite, but they can't reply to messages.

Related: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?

Out of the box, the Versa Lite runs Fitbit OS 3.0. The company's smartwatch OS has improved quite a bit since it first launched on the Ionic. It's smoother than ever before, though there is still a bit of lag when launching the Today overview or opening some apps. I wouldn't call Fitbit OS laggy, but I wouldn't say it's as smooth as watchOS or Wear OS.

Some users won't be too fond of Fitbit OS' app ecosystem, though. It's improving every month with more and more app developers coming on board, but the app ecosystem is lacking compared to the Apple Watch and anything running Wear OS. There's no voice assistant on board, no way to navigate anywhere with a maps application, and there's not even a way to load more than one watch face on the device at a time.

Overall, it's a simple operating system that doesn't take long to learn. You can swipe down to see your notifications, swipe up to see the Today overview screen (which shows your daily activity stats, sleep, water/food intake, etc.), and swipe left to see your apps. One of the only annoyances I've run into is that you have to go all the way to the bottom of the settings menu to turn the watch off. It's only mildly inconvenient though, and I'd much prefer this over a cluttered OS.

Fitness and health tracking

Again, the Versa Lite is a slightly scaled-down version of the Versa smartwatch. It'll track your steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, active minutes, sleep, and distance traveled (through Connected GPS). It won't track your floors climbed, as there's no altimeter on board. It also doesn't offer lap tracking during swims.

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The other omission here is the lack of on-screen workouts with Fitbit Coach. Fitbit Coach was nice to use on the original Versa, but it wasn't a necessity.

As previously mentioned, the Versa Lite doesn't come with a built-in GPS. Instead, you'll need to pair it with your phone using Fitbit's Connected GPS feature if you want accurate distance and pace metrics during your outdoor workouts.

The Versa Lite's optical heart rate sensor is the same one found in the Versa. It'll track your resting and active heart rate throughout the day, and it's actually quite good at reporting on both. It's not a replacement for more accurate heart rate chest straps, but it's certainly good enough for most casual users. After all, Fitbit isn't going after hardcore athletes with the Versa Lite. One feature we're glad to see make its return is Fitbit's Cardio Fitness Level. Using your resting heart rate, VO2 Max, and user profile, the Fitbit app will tell you how fit you are compared to other people of the same age and gender. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it is a nice metric that might help you put your overall fitness level into perspective.

I've said this time and time again — Fitbit makes the best sleep trackers, and the Versa Lite is no different. Fitbit's Sleep Stages feature does a great job at displaying how much time you're awake and in REM, light, and deep sleep stages throughout the night. You can also see your sleep progress over a 30-day time period, and see how your sleep habits compared to other people of the same sex and age.

Finally, the Versa Lite also features female health tracking, giving women an easy way to record their menstrual cycles and an overview of how that might affect their health. You can read all about female health tracking right here.

  Fitbit Versa, Versa Lite, and Versa Special Edition
Display 1.34-inch touchscreen LCD
300 x 300 resolution
~316ppi
1:1 aspect ratio
1,000-nit maximum brightness
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Battery Smartwatch mode: 4+ days
145mAh
Lithium-polymer battery
Memory 4GB (2.5GB available for music storage) (excluded on Lite)
Saves seven days of motion data, saves daily totals for the past 30 days
Materials Case and buckle: aluminum
Strap: flexible, durable material similar to that used in many sports watches
Sensors and components 3-axis accelerometer
3-axis gyroscope (excluded on Lite)
Optical heart rate monitor
Altimeter (excluded on Lite)
Ambient light sensor
Vibration motor
Wi-Fi antenna (802.11 b/g/n) (excluded on Lite)
Connected GPS
NFC (special edition only in the U.S.)
Water resistance 5ATM
Notifications Call, text, calendar, email, music control, and much more
Compatibility Android, iOS, & Windows
Dimensions Case dimensions: 39.36 x 37.65 x 11.2mm

Small: 140-180mm
Large: 180-220mm
Colors Classic: black band with black aluminum case, peach band with rose gold aluminum case, gray band with silver aluminum case

Special edition: charcoal woven band with graphite aluminum case, lavender woven band with rose gold aluminum case

Lite: white/silver aluminum, lilac/silver aluminum, marina blue/marina blue aluminum, mulberry/mulberry aluminum

Fitbit Versa Lite review: Should you buy it?

Fitbit Versa Lite

There's not a question in my mind as to whether or not you should buy the Fitbit Versa Lite. I think Fitbit made all the right sacrifices to get the watch down to just $160. You're getting 99 percent of what the original Versa offers, just at a much lower price.

Obviously you should pass if you need on-board music or NFC payments. For those who want to stay away from a Fitbit smartwatch, Mobvoi's TicWatch E2 and S2 will be your best cheap smartwatch alternatives.

On the plus side, the original Versa is always dropping in price on Amazon, sometimes getting down to just $150 or so. That also means it's only a matter of time until the Versa Lite also drops in price — just wait for a major holiday sale to roll around.

You'll be hard-pressed to find an inexpensive smartwatch that is this good at so many things.

The Fitbit Versa Lite isn't the cheapest smartwatch, nor is it the most feature-packed — I still think there's value in buying a smartwatch with the Google Assistant baked in — but you'll be hard-pressed to find an inexpensive smartwatch that is this good at so many things.


Want your own Versa Lite? It goes on sale Friday, March 15 on Amazon and Fitbit.com for just $159.95. Tell us what you think about our Fitbit Versa Lite review in the comments! Again, if you're looking for even more details, check out our Fitbit Versa review.

Next: Best Fitbit alternatives: Garmin, Samsung, and more

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Android Authority | Fitbit Versa Lite review: A fantastic entry-level smartwatch Android Authority | Fitbit Versa Lite review: A fantastic entry-level smartwatch Reviewed by Olaniran Shuaib on March 12, 2019 Rating: 5

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