Fitbit Versa 3 First Impressions

Posted on October 5, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Fitbit, Wearables with 15 Comments

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to upgrade from my two-year-old Fitbit Charge 3 to a Fitbit Versa 3. Here are some initial thoughts.

First, if you haven’t seen it already and enjoy a little schadenfreude, you can enjoy the write-up about my tortured decision-making process: I had previously preordered Fitbit Sense and Apple Watch Series 6 smartwatches, twice each, before canceling each order, twice each, and then settling on the Versa 3. Well, maybe settle isn’t the right word. I feel like this particular smartwatch is a better, ahem, fit for my needs.

We’ll see. But here’s the quick rundown for those not familiar with Fitbit’s smartwatch lineup. Today, the firm sells two different smartwatches, the Versa 3, which is obviously the latest version of the Versa family, and the Sense, which is new and has some additional sensors but is physically identical to Versa 3. This means that Fitbit and third parties can provide bands that work with both, but because they attach differently (and better) than before, bands that are compatible with Sense/Versa 3 are not compatible with Versa 1/2 and vice-versa.

What are those additional sensors that I’m missing out on by choosing the cheaper Versa 3? According to Fitbit, there are two: The Sense includes an EDA sensor and a skin temperature sensor. The EDA sensor is used to help measure stress, and to use it, you have to place the palm of your hand over the device’s display for several seconds. And the skin temperature sensor is used to detect changes that could be a sign of a fever, illness, or, for women, the start of a new menstrual phase. I understand the value of these sensors, but given how I’ve been using various Fitbits and other trackers for years, they’re not necessary for me: I just want to track activity and sleep. So I saved $100 by choosing Versa 3 over Sense.

Compared to the Versa 2, the Versa 3 includes a built-in speaker and microphone for phone calls and Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, neither of which I’ll never use, a much smaller and magnetic charger (which is a huge improvement) with quick charging support, a larger, rounded display, and a new button-less design that utilizes a capacitive area similar to that on my Charge 3 instead. But the biggest change, perhaps is its operating system: The Versa 3 and Sense utilize Fitbit OS 5.0, which will allegedly never be backported to Versa 2 or any other previous devices.

I’ll need to wait and see what that all means in day-to-day usage, but my initial impression of the Versa 3 is overwhelming positive. First, I can actually see the display, meaning not just the time on the default watch face, but also my steps, heart rate, and calories burned data. That was difficult to impossible on the dim Charge 3 display.

I’m also impressed and surprised that the bundled large band fits my wrist with no issues at all. In fact, there’s room to spare. This means I won’t have to scrounge around online looking for dubious third-party bands that are longer, as I’ve had to do in the past.

The onboarding process was simple but took a long time: Fitbit recommends charging the Versa 3 during this process, so I did so, and it detected the Versa 3 without any prompting and asked me if I was switching to it, which is smart.

But it needed me to hover over the Fitbit app on the phone as it stepped through an incredible number of steps in the setup wizard, during which it tried to upsell me on an extended warranty and needed a software update, because of course it did.

The Versa 3 includes some features I don’t care about, like Alexa integration (with Google Assistant coming soon), so I skipped that, but the wizard did at least do a decent job of describing all of the gestures (you can swiped in all four directions to do different things) and button press functionality (there are different single- and double-press actions) you can perform.

It also added an Active Zone Minutes feature to my Fitbit app that was absent with my tracker; this maps to the same 150 minutes of weekly activity minimum that the Amazon Halo band recommends, and is based on American Heart Association minimums that my wife tells me doctors have told her are woefully inadequate and aimed at sedentary Americans. (I walk each day and workout 6 days per week and hit 441 active minutes the week before last, for example.)

I’ve not customized anything yet, but I’ll do so before my next workout; the Versa 3 arrived after my trip to the gym this morning, so I didn’t get any active minutes credit for today. I’m interested in looking at the available watch faces and customizing it so that the activities I do most often—weights and elliptical trainer—are up front and center.

But I’m already happy with how it looks and, as important, how it feels: I was worried that the larger Versa 3 would be uncomfortable or awkward on my wrist, but it’s surprisingly light and it hasn’t really gotten in the way, even while typing this review. I love that I can see the display. Seriously, this was killing me with the Charge 3.

More soon. This is a device I’ll use every day, and I should know very quickly whether it will work for me. So far, I see no reason to believe it won’t.

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Fitbit Versa 3 First Impressions”

  1. chris_t_lee

    My wife and son have had Charge 2s for several years and early this year I decided to join them but got a Versa 2 because I liked the additional functionality and color display. When I walk with my wife the two devices show vastly different step counts. On a moderate walk of a few thousand steps this can be as much as 1,000 steps. I checked online and this seems to be a common problem with the Versa that Fitbit has shown no interest in fixing. So, I have more than a little interest in reading your comments about the accuracy of the Versa 3 when exercising. Maybe the new OS is better than the one I'm stuck with...

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to chris_t_lee:

      We do the same basic walk every day, so this should be easy to test.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to chris_t_lee: Fitbits and Apple watches depend a lot on arm swing when counting steps. Surprisingly that varies a lot from person to person and even arm to arm. My wife is transitioning from a Fitbit (Versa 2) to an Apple Watch (series 6) and has been wearing both to get a feel for the differences. She finds the one on her right arm tends to count higher, regardless of which one it is. Carrying something in the tracker hand, also throws off the count. Take a look at how the devices compare on distance.


  2. Hougaard

    " this was killing me with the Versa 3." -> typo ??

  3. silenthero117

    "Seriously, this was killing me with the Versa 3."


    Did you mean to say the Charge 3?


    Thank you for the article, I'm seriously looking at this as well (currently have a the Charge 2).

  4. Saarek

    Paul, I wonder if you aimed too high up the pricing scale with the Series 6 and FitBit Sense. Sounds like the Versa 3 or Apple Watch SE price and feature bracket suits you.


    I only ended up getting the Series 6 over the SE because I figured that I'd get at least one more years worth of software support on the Series 6 and once that is factored in the price isn't much more between the two models.


    My Series 1 lasted 4 years and the main reason I upgraded was for Cellular connection, that mixed in with the AirPods Pro is a compelling combination for me as I've just started the C25K programme.


    Good luck with your choice. :-)

  5. beneaththesurface

    Since you’re giving grammar lessons to Microsoft in your bing article, consider correcting this: “neither which I’ll never use.” I’m sorry for the snark - I couldn’t resist.


    I usually don’t have a strong negative reaction to product design; there room for everyone’s personal taste and preference. But I find that watch to be particularly ugly, perhaps the worst looking smart watch I have yet seen. For some reason it appears to me as the aesthetic equivalent of a Jitterbug phone. I’ve had a few Fitbits, a couple of Microsoft bands, and an Apple Watch. None was particularly attractive. But I hope I’m never forced to wear something like that Versa unless I’m in the hospital and it’s hooked up to its parent medical device.



  6. brettscoast

    Its a smart looking watch nice clear concise display

  7. simont

    Small typo - phone calls and Alex and Google Assistant compatibility - I assume you mean Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility

  8. mike2k

    Considered upgrading from Versa 2 to the 3. Buttonless for me is a huge deal. Can't count how many times my wrist wraps have hit a button pausing my workout, mid-workout. So annoying. Otherwise, Versa 2 works fine for me. Not sure I can justify the money. Maybe I can offset the cost by selling the Versa 2 for a few bucks

    • Paul Thurrott

      So, I'm used to the buttonless design from the Charge 3, but the position of this is a little tough to reach, it's on the underside of the curve. And I can't accurately double-tap it at all. But so far I haven't needed to do that per se.
  9. joeaxberg

    I have found such watches to be of marginal use. I have an Apple Watch Series 1. Unsure if I'm compelled to upgrade to anything.


    The biggest drawback is that I'm just not much of a watch-wearer and most of the time finding myself taking it off, setting it down, and then not remembering where I set it down.


    I haven't found them motivating - reminding me that it's time to breathe, time to walk, time to stand, time to this or that. "Oh you hit your goal yesterday, now just get your fat butt up today and you can do it again!" After which I usually want to chuck it at the wall.


    I do like the at-a-glance notification aspect and quick one-word responses to text messages. "Got it" "Busy"


    I also like the Apple Watch's ability to locate one's iPhone and make it beep. For those times when I set down my iPhone and can't remember where I set it down.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Not trying to make you switch or whatever, but the Versa 3 does get about 6x the battery life of Apple Watch and it even has a "Find My Phone" app that does the same thing.
  10. gartenspartan

    I figured you'd like the Fitbit versa family if you tried it. Plus it works well with any platform you want to use. To use it with another android or iphone, you just download the app and sign in and it will sync to your current phone. Much easier process than the Samsung Galaxy and apple watches, which make you reset the watch each time you want to connect it to a new device.

  11. clemens_naderer

    You can get a really nice Swiss Automatic watch for the price of an Apple watch 6. And you even don't need to charge it.

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