Fitbit Versa 2 review: Small steps add up to a giant leap forward

If you would have told me that my favorite smartwatch of 2019 would have a brilliant OLED display, great battery life, effortless fitness tracking, Spotify support, and an on-board assistant, I would have guessed it was the Series 5 Apple Watch. It’s not. It’s the Fitbit Versa 2.

fitbit versa 2 wear Michael Simon/IDG

The Fitbit Versa’s display is much improved in the sequel.

Fitbit hasn’t reinvented the wheel with the Versa 2. Rather, a series of small but meaningful changes make it feel like a completely new device that’s ready to compete with the Apple Watch at half the price. Where the original model had clear shortcomings that I was willing to overlook due to its price tag, the Versa 2 plays in the feature-rich deep end, and feels like a veritable bargain as a result.

The Fitbit Versa 2 isn’t perfect, nor does it match up spec-for-spec with the latest Apple Watch. But the improvements it brings put it on equal footing with the cream of the smartwatch crop, marrying Fitbit’s fitness acumen with the features we want in a cutting-edge wearable device.

OLED is the difference maker

At first glance, the design of the Fitbit Versa 2 is nearly identical to the Versa. It has a squircle shape with tapered edges and a thin profile, and it’s just the right size to look good on the majority of wrists. Like the Versa Lite, which was introduced earlier this year, it has a single button rather than three on the original Versa, which simplifies both the look and the navigation.

fitbit versa 2 compare Michael Simon/IDG

The OLED display on the Fitbit Versa 2 (right) is brighter and richer than the original model’s LCD.

At 1.34 inches, the display is the same size as before, but there are two notable changes that make a huge difference: It’s OLED and it’s centered. On the original Versa, text and images on the LCD display were a touch dull due to backlighting, but they’re bright and vibrant on the Versa 2’s OLED screen. Also, you have to try really hard to see where the display ends and the bezel begins, which gives it a classier overall feel.

The position of the screen is a much less obvious tweak, but it’s a refreshing one. Fitbit has eliminated its logo from the front of the watch, a decision that allows the screen to shift a millimeter or two lower so the bezel are uniform all around. It’s more than cosmetic. Without the logo, your eyes will be firmly fixed on the display, and the centering brings a balance that wasn’t there before.

fitbit versa 2 side Michael Simon/IDG

Fitbit has ditched the side buttons on the Fitbit Versa 2 (bottom).

Elsewhere, the Versa 2 mimics the Versa, with a black, silver, or rose gold body, and a variety of swappable bands. The pin mechanism isn’t quite as easy as the quick-release buttons on the Charge 3 or Apple Watch, but it’s simple enough to use them before and after a workout. I particularly liked the orange-and-charcoal woven reflective band, which is available for $40, but the simple sport bands are sharp too. Of note, Fitbit is selling three varieties of rose gold watches this year—with pink, purple, and green bands—which speaks to the gender-neutral look and size of the watch.

Alexa is listening

The Versa’s maturity isn’t just skin deep. All models now include NFC for Fitbit Pay transactions, and it runs a new version of Fitbit OS that features thoughtful flourishes throughout, including improved navigation and better app support. My favorite change is the collapsable quick settings pane at the top of the notifications window that offers a variety of shortcuts.