Top critical review
So far so good.....BUT....
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 September 2020
So, I am an ex-Pebble watch owner having funded the first Pebble smart watch way back in 2013 and have had various smart watch devices over the years. I have owned the Amazfit Bip and GTS for the last few years and have been really happy.
Unfortunately, my Amazfit GTS had a falling out with my tiled bathroom floor recently, which resulted in me needing to find a new watch. I had ordered a replacement GTS, but noticed that Fitbit were launching the Versa 3 so thought it might be time for a change.
For context, I use an Android phone so Apple is out of the question, I'm sure the Apple watch is great and if you are in the Apple eco-system (or walled garden depending on which way you want to look at it!) then I would recommend just going for an Apple watch. I'm sure it will do everything you need and work seamlessly with an Apple phone. For those on a more limited budget and who prefer Android devices then ironically we have more options, but not quite as much quality.
So on to my experience with the Versa 3, so far its been pretty good (although do see my Edit at the bottom!).
+ Comfortable to wear and not too big (Android Wear OS devices Im looking at you!)
+ Receives notifications and has been pretty stable so far
+ Have set it up to send emails,
+ You can see the DNA of a Pebble watch is in here with the UI, payment methods for additional apps and watch faces, which is a good thing as Pebble got a lot of things right.
+ Ive found the step count to be fairly accurate so far, requires a bit more a longer term test but seems fine to me, I'm not the sort of person who religiously checks every step so its ok.
+ I like the weather details that you can get
+ I like the fact I can load my payment card on to the watch fairly easily and use to pay for things
+ I like the notifications for apps from my phone.
+ Sleep tracking seems pretty accurate, it doesn't show up immediately in the morning as its trying to figure out if you are awake, but does pop up on the Today screen after a short while.
+ Alexa works reasonably well and I could imagine if I put in the time I could get it to do all sorts of things.
+Lots of potential if the software could catch up with the hardware
The SO, SO
+ The watch band sizing is a bit odd, this is a bit unique for each user but Im actually in between a small and a large size, so have opted for large but do find the remaining strap a bit too long as its tucked into and under the watch band. Tolerable.
+ The capacitive button. Not too bad a bit weird at first as really why not a physical button? Its on the left hand side of the watch. Honestly not too bad once you figure it out and really no different from a physical button after a couple of days!
- The app store is a bit light on apps! It looks like Fitbit released a new SDK and not a lot off apps have updated yet so not a lot of choice. Miss the Pebble store as it had some great apps.
- The screen is a bit smaller than I expected, I only have the GTS as I reasonable point of reference and that device had a superb screen, bigger and still a normal watch size. Tolerable and not a deal breaker.
+ The Fitbit eco-system seems interesting and I quite like the fitness reminders and functionality - but yet to fully get into this yet having just moved over.
- I did have to fiddle around with Do Not Disturb and Silent settings on my phone a bit to get notifications set up. I used to just have the phone on silent, but doing this means you get no notifications on Fitbit. So I've had to reset everything to work with Do Not Disturb. Which is fine but a bit of a faff.
- Vibration is a bit weak for notifications and no way of changing the intensity. Interestingly the alarm notification is reasonably strong and has a pattern. But the normal message one needs to be stronger in my opinion as I do find I ignore it more than previous watches.
- Responding to text messages, I cant use voice which the later Pebble watches could and were half a decade older in tech(!), so maybe something that will get implemented in the future
- Kiezel Pay - still going and a Pebble thing. Bit weird the Fitbit app store uses this. Im sure they could implement something slicker but see point below around the Fitbit UI.
The NOT SO GOOD
- Music. Oh dear, naughty to say that the device can store music when in reality its a very poor option. The Versa 2 as I understand it has a specific offline Music app which you can transfer your own MP3s to the watch. Its not really particularly clear that on the Versa 3 only Deezer and Pandora allow music to actually be stored on the device. Two services I haven't really used in the UK, pretty sure Pandora isn't really available in Europe. The Spotify functionality only controls Spotify and there is no offline storage for this app which is a bit disappointing. There is no way to actually transfer MP3s to the watch as this app looks to have been removed. So if you do want music on the device in the UK, looks like you are out of luck.
- The speaker. Well there is one as the watch made a noise when I first booted it up. But unfortunately it doesn't actually do anything. I haven't tried a voice call yet. I suspect this will is a 'coming soon' feature and I'm sure Alexa and Google will start talking to me one day, but until later this year the speaker serves no real purpose at present for me.
- No Google Play Assistant - well yet anyway! This is coming later in the year too....
- The Fitbit eco-system / UI seems a bit clunky, in fact its a bit of a mess to be honest. Feels a bit like multiple team developing there own tools and features and then somehow it just about hangs together rather than a slick and polished experience. There are all kinds of options and I'm sort of a bit confused what I'm really supposed to be looking at sometimes. The best example is switching the watch faces from 12hr to 24hr clock. You need to log into a web dashboard to find an obscure option to set. Which is a bit daft when I have an app and the watch which would be much better places for this setting! Maybe its just a learning curve Im on....
- The watch bands are expensive. They are also specific to the Versa 3 and Sense and use a clip mechanism, so you cant just use a standard watch band or quick release bands of any kind (of which I now have a load of 20mm bands sitting in a draw from my Amazfit devices)
- The screen on when you move the wrist, possibly the most disappointing aspect. The Amazfit GTS was spot on in this regard and would flick on instantly. Not so here, you need a fairly good forced motion to get the screen to come on to view the time and a few times Ive just given up and tapped the capacitive button on the side to wake the screen up. You do have the option of an always on display, but if you want your watch to drain after a day and a bit go for it, I quite like the comfort of a reasonably charged battery. I think I can just about deal with it but I'm sure this should be much better.
- The charger cable! What were they thinking here. Its about 25cm long. Im unclear what the expectation is here but I tend to keep the devices near my phone which has a cable that stretches to the wall. Not sure why they don't give a reasonable length cable. I'm lucky(!) as Amazfit also do the same thing, so I already have a simple USB extension cable to solve this problem. But honestly!
- The capacitive button! Its fine really, I'm surprised at the one star mentions...Basically put your index finger on the right of the watch and then press with your thumb just under the watch back on the left a little to 'press' it with a good proportion of the thumb. Honestly, when I first opened box and started to use the watch I thought it was going to be massively irritating, but its fine once you figure it out. Not a problem at all.
- Notifications on the watch show the notifications on your phone and if you clear on the watch they can be cleared on the phone and vice versa.
- My Agenda app wasn't syncing. Agenda shows dairy appointments. I uninstalled the app via the Fitbit app store and then re-installed it. It then woke up and I could see my calendars and I could select which one I wanted to show on the app.
- Logging water intake is hidden away in the advanced settings when you swipe up, this can be adjusted on the watch. If you turn water logging on you can then log water when yous wipe up and scroll down and press the log button under the water area.
- Disable battery optimisation on your phone! Constant disconnects are largely to do with how your phone deals with background apps. If you let the Fitbit app run in the background and then lock the app on the recent apps screen using the padlock you have a better chance of not having disconnections. This is pretty much the case for most smartwatch companion apps on a phone.
Ill come back and update depending on how i get on and when features are released.
EDIT: So....Ive returned the device!!!, why? Well Garmin have launched the the Venu Sq and to be honest although I like the software in the Versa 3 the actual capability of the Garmin offers pretty much the same (although a bit less polished) functionality and allows me to use my small collection of watch straps. The Fitbit could be great, but the watch strap just didnt fit well and was starting to get annoying, the fitness functionality is limited (in comparison to the Garmin). The music services felt like a bit of a cheat on the Versa 3 and the speaker functionality doesnt really do what it should. Maybe in a few months time this will all get sorted but the Garmin feels more robust and just seems to work out of the box (no fitness subscription, complicted setup or half baked services). Will be interested to see what Google will do with Fitbit, but for the time being Ill stick with the new Garmin Venu Sq.