Fitbit Versa Lite Edition full review

Fitbit’s onward health awareness mission continues with March 2019’s raft of new products. Alongside the Inspire, Inspire HR and kids-focused Ace 2, the Fitbit Versa Lite Edition seems the most interesting new wearable of the lot.

Retailing for less than the already popular standard Versa, at first glance it is practically the same design. Look a little closer and you can see the corners Fitbit has cut to reach the new price point and release its most affordable smartwatch yet.

We went hands-on with the Fitbit Versa Lite Edition at its launch to see if it holds up against the more expensive version. Could it be one of the best smartwatches?

The Versa Lite Edition measures StepsDistanceCalories burned, and Active Minutes, as well as automatic Sleep and Activity TrackingReminders to Move help you get moving at least once an hour (in the daytime) for 250 steps as a minimum. 

It uses Fitbit’s wrist-based PurePulse heart-rate monitor, which can be used to improve the efficiency of your exercise, workouts and sleep, as well as monitoring heart health.

Price and availability

Available to buy from mid-March but with shipping dates unconfirmed (as of March 11, it states shipping "within 1 week"), the Versa Lite Edition will cost £149.99 / US$159.95. This puts it at £50 / $40 less than the standard Versa and £70 / $70 less than the Versa Special Edition – yes, there are three different priced Versa models now.

You'll be able to buy direct from Fitbit.

The Versa Lite Edition is compatible with all modern iPhones from the iPhone 5 but click here to check if your Android phone is supported.

Fitbit Versa vs Versa Lite Edition

You’d be hard pressed to find many design differences between the Versa Lite Edition and the regular Versa models, but there is one – the Lite only has one side button on the left edge, losing the additional two buttons on the right edge.

Fitbit has done this to simplify the design and encourage the use of the 1.34in 300-x-300 LCD touchscreen. We also reckon it’s because the Lite doesn’t count swim laps like the normal Versa can - on which the buttons were necessary for underwater operation when the touchscreen won’t work. Without the swim-tracking function, the Versa Lite simply doesn’t need the buttons.

Despite this, it is water and swim-proof up to 50 metres - it just won't track you when you take a dip. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then splash out (geddit?) on the full Versa.

The Lite Edition also loses the ability to count floors climbed (it lacks an altimeter), play music and display on-screen workouts. Some of these features are ones we loved about the original Versa, so you should consider if these things are important to you.

Counting the number of floors or elevation you have climbed is a tactic to motivate yourself to take the seven flights of stairs to the office and cast a dismissive look at those queuing for the lift, but it's probably one fitness metric you can live without - walking up the stairs still adds to your step count, after all.

The loss of on-screen workouts will definitely put off some fitness fans. The full Versa comes pre-loaded with a bunch of video workouts, including 10-minute abs and a 20-minute Treasure Chest (including jumping jacks, pushups, shadow boxing, shoulder tap pushups, one-legged spidermans, high knees, jumping jacks, superman planks, and bicycle kicks). These can be expanded with a £7.99/month subscription To Fitbit Coach.

So if on-wrist workouts are important, shell out the extra cash for the full Versa. If not, you can make a saving.

One feature you almost certainly can do without is the Fitbit Pay contactless payments function that is yet to gain much traction with banks. You get this with the full and Special Edition Versa models but not the Lite Edition.

There’s no onboard Wi-Fi either, which is usually used for app and software updates. Instead, the Lite Edition syncs downloads via Bluetooth and the Fitbit app to drip-feed updates to the watch instead. Different method, same outcome.

Otherwise, the design is based around a unisex squircle watch face that comes in new colours. The lovely marina blue and mulberry (purple) versions have block colour watches and straps whereas the white and lavender have coloured straps with silver watches.

We are very taken with the marina blue, and the plethora of new optional extra straps fits with the company’s vision of the Lite as a bridge product – it’s a fitness tracker in a design of a smartwatch for those with a more casual initial interest in Fitbit.

This is a wider and more differentiated range of strap colours than you get with the full Versa and the Versa Special Edition. If you fancy the blue or purple design, then this might even sway you to the cheaper version, if you can live without the floor count, on-screen workouts, swim-tracking, music and contactless payments.

Fitbit Versa Lite Edition colours

Keeping up appearances

It will do a couple of smartwatch things like push notifications for calls and messages from your phone. The heart rate sensor counts heart rate (obviously) but also allows for sleep tracking, all possible with the four-day battery life.

The Lite also has automatic activity tracking, several exercise modes, GPS when tethered to a phone and the SpO2 sensor which, in future, should be able to monitor blood oxygen levels in a bit of tech futureproofing.

You also get female health tracking, guided breathing routines and access to tons (seriously, so many) clock faces.So, the Versa Lite is a cheaper tracker that (with a phone) can track your time and route of runs, monitor most of your gym and exercise routines (except in the pool) and looks the same and lasts as long as the more expensive Versas. It's very lightweight and barely noticeable when worn with a slim, slight profile. 

It doesn’t look like you lose too much by opting for the Lite Edition if you are a casual first or second-time fitness tracker buyer who is after something without all the bells and whistles.

Make it ‘appen

As Fitbit pointed out to us at the launch, the wearable is only half the product; the Versa Lite Edition is a partner to the Fitbit app. The Lite is a collector of and gateway to all your fitness data – all seen within the app.

We have used the app extensively with other Fitbit products and it’s easy to use and configure. Adding friends to compete in a steps league is surprisingly motivating (there’s always one try-hard in a group of friends, it could be you!) and you can view your sleep patterns and run routes.

Fitbit is updating the app later in the year but even in its current state it’s an inviting way into health tracking that is easy and often fun to use. It's much less intimidating than apps from Polar or Garmin.

Early verdict

The Versa Lite Edition could be a canny move from Fitbit. Knocking £50 / $40 off the price of the Versa while shedding some (mostly) non-essential features makes it a more accessible smartwatch for those interested – but not obsessed – with fitness tracking.

The new colours and accessories mean this is targeted at a more casual audience but that is OK. If you want to seriously track your runs and workouts with the most Fitbit features possible, you have the regular Versa or Ionic to go for instead.

For the price, the Versa Lite Edition should be a good looking, solid performing entry-level fitness smartwatch. We’ll have a full review soon.