Fitbit’s latest smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 2, goes on sale September 15 for $200. I’ve been testing the watch for the past week, and while that’s not enough for an extensive review, it’s enough to draw some conclusions about Alexa on a smartwatch. Alexa on a smartwatch works, but not as well as it could.
Fitbit has a lot riding on the Versa 2. The company’s stock hit a record low last month after disappointing sales of its newly launched cheapest smartwatch Versa Lite. The Versa 2 could help Fitbit dig itself out of that hole.
I’m both unimpressed with wearables and incredibly bullish about their future. Features like 4G and ECG are promising on smartwatches, though the Versa 2 has neither. Instead, it focuses on sleep (I have no interest in wearing a watch to bed) and battery life (it’s great, more on this later). But before we go deeper on Alexa, I have a few observations about where the Fitbit Versa 2 stands.
Design and software
In terms of design, the Versa 2 looks great. It’s certainly an improvement over the original, without being as bulky as the Fitbit Ionic. Paring down from three buttons (there are no longer two buttons on the right side, just the one on the left) also smooths out the look and feel. As a result, you end up relying more on the touchscreen, which got an upgrade in tech (AMOLED versus LCD) and size (1.4 inch versus 1.34 inch) compared to the original Versa. Navigation somehow does work better.
In terms of software, the Versa 2 feels a little more polished than its predecessors. If you like Fitbit OS, you’ll like the Versa 2. If you don’t, there’s not much here to sway you. The Spotify app is spiffy, but you have to start streaming on a different device first and be a paying Premium subscriber. The other software feature that is meant to sway you is Alexa. I suspect if you’re already on the fence, Alexa on a smartwatch won’t make you pick a side. If you’re invested in Fitbit though, it’s a handy addition.
Alexa works, but not reliably
Certain tasks are far easier to do by voice. I’ve used many Fitbits while working out, and having Alexa available is convenient. It’s just faster to ask for a 30-second timer than to set one by swiping around the user interface. I would imagine the same goes when you’re, say, cooking.
On the go, it’s also easier to ask your watch a quick question than to take out your phone and ask. But your phone must still be nearby and paired to your watch via Bluetooth. And reliability isn’t great — I received multiple “Connection Lost” error messages during my testing. If the Versa 2 came with cellular service and its own data plan, I’m sure that would solve the problem. But paying for a smartphone data plan just to get Alexa on your wrist isn’t worth it.
Overall, Alexa on the Versa 2 is a bit slow. It’s not agonizingly delayed, but it is noticeable. This is because the request is being sent from your smartwatch to your phone to Amazon’s servers. Then the answer travels all the way back. Again, this is the tradeoff of not paying for cellular service.
My other gripe is that the Alexa app on the Fitbit isn’t very visual. When a timer starts, the actual countdown itself isn’t shown. The Fitbit app doesn’t display what Alexa thinks you said either. This lack of context makes wrong answers it gives you even more nonsensical. (Alexa’s Android app does show your query, so this is likely a design choice due to screen size.) Hopefully a later version of Alexa’s Fitbit app will display both the question and the answer, the request and the results, or at least the former before the latter shows up.
Just as I refuse to wear a smartwatch when I sleep, I refuse to use a smartwatch whose manufacturer measures battery life in hours. Fitbit promises five days of battery life, and I don’t doubt this estimate in the slightest.
On a single charge, the Versa 2 lasted more than seven days for me. Indeed, as I write this review, the Versa 2 tells me it still has 25% of juice in the tank at the end of day seven. (This is similar to my experience with the Ionic, which also lasted more than a week on a single charge.) Your mileage will vary, of course — I would describe my usage as moderate. I used the step counter, the timers, and Alexa throughout the week without ever worrying about the watch dying on me.
Battery life continues to be an area where Fitbit outshines other smartwatches.
That said, if you don’t care for smartwatch features, go with the Charge 3 ($150). Alexa, Spotify, and other apps are nice on a Fitbit, but they’re not going to drastically change your workout or your life.