Demystifying Fitbit‘s Versa Line: Should You Upgrade to the New Versa 4?

Fitbit has established itself as a top maker of fitness-focused smartwatches and wearables over the last decade. Their Versa series in particular, now in its fourth generation with the newly released Versa 4, has struck a balance of health tracking capabilities, smart features, appealing design and relatively affordable pricing.

But with just two years separating the Versa 3 and Versa 4, you may wonder if the latest model warrants an upgrade purchase. To help make sense of what the Versa lineup offers, let‘s analyze how these two latest Versa models compare.

Understanding Fitbit‘s Versa Gen 1 – Gen 3: Iterative Improvements

First launched in 2018, the original Fitbit Versa introduced an attractive, Apple Watch-esque square smartwatch design paired with the brand‘s excellent activity, sleep and heart rate tracking. The Versa 2 revised it slightly with added Alexa support, while the Versa 3 more meaningfully upgraded the offering in 2020 by improving the display, microphone, GPS and overall performance.

Over its first three generations, the annual upgrades to the Versa lineup were fairly incremental and iterative. The industrial design stayed consistent, while sensors, battery life, software and other capabilities saw minor improvements with each revision. As a popularmaintainer of umbrella gear site TheTechReviewer sums up:

For health and fitness tracking essentials in an affordable packages, the Fitbit Versa series had rightly gained a following among consumers. But from the original to the Versa 3, the changes made were subtle year-over-year even as prices crept up. Most versions proved solid for tracking steps, sleep and workouts but didn‘t stand out beyond expectations.

Now two years later, the Versa 4 looks maintain that steady course of iteration. But with rising smartwatch expectations, more competitive pricing from Apple and others, and Fitbit‘s recent Google buyout, does the Versa 4 do enough to entice existing owners to upgrade or attract first-time smartwatch buyers?

Breaking Down Versa 4 vs Versa 3: Where Do The Differences Lie?

Rather than radically reworking a formula that continues selling well, the Versa 4 delivers selective improvements while keeping overall cost reasonable. As we‘ll explore in depth across the key smartwatch metrics, changes center around:

  • Enhanced fitness tracking capabilities
  • Battery life boosts
  • Google software integration
  • Minor aesthetic refinements

But plenty stays unchanged too, including the core sensor set, navigation, notifications and smart features. Let‘s analyze where the Versa 4 moves the needle to determine if it merits paying up to $80 more than you can currently find discounted Versa 3 models.

Design and Display: Consistent Look But Improved Button Feel

As alluded to already, visually distinguishing between a Versa 3 and Versa 4 out in the wild would prove challenging even for a wristwear aficionado. From case dimensions to straps to the display, nearly all design elements remain consistent:


Versa 3Versa 4
Resolution336 x 336 pixels336 x 336 pixels
Peak Brightness1000 nits1000 nits


Versa 3Versa 4
Casing Height1.3mm1.2mm
Casing Width40.48mm40.48mm

The lone subtle giveaway comes via the side button. Where the Versa 3 adopted a fairly flush “haptic button” that relied on capacitive touch, Fitbit saw feedback that users missed having a tactile button. The Versa 4 reinstates this with a raised button protruding 0.15mm from the frame.

As DCRainmaker fitness tech blogger Ray Maker notes regarding this tweak after testing:

The return of the physical button on what is otherwise a carbon copy Versa 3 exterior finally gives this watch an activation method that lives up to the rest of the versatilities. I found the haptic button on the Versa 3 quirky to master. This feels like an admission of that being a blunder.

So if you struggled with or disliked the flat haptic button, the Versa 4 amends a rare Versa design misstep. Aside from that minor tweak, expect identical sizing and stylish versatility between models with changeable bands.

Sensors and Tracking: Vo2 Max The Headline Upgrade

The sensor array inside any fitness tracker plays a pivotal role in determining what health and activity data gets captured for analysis and visualization in the companion app. Here the Versa 4 and Versa 3 share an almost identical roster:

Core Sensors

Versa 3Versa 4
Heart Rate

With those core components matching between generations, health tracking remains on par for continuous heart rate, blood oxygen overnight, workout pacing via GPS, sleep monitoring, step counting, and more.

But the Versa 4 does manage to unlock one additional metric through improved onboard software analysis: VO2 Max. This reflects the maximum volume of oxygen your body can process during exercise – an important benchmark of cardiovascular endurance.

By introducing Vo2 Max estimates on the Versa 4 without requiring any extra sensors, Fitbit is able to provide users with deeper insights into long-term conditioning. Many runners and cyclists have incorporated Vo2 tracking into their training to monitor fitness gains over time. Having this highlighted as a key metric on your Versa 4 makes it easier to see those trends.

Workouts: Double The Exercise Modes

When it comes to actually tracking workouts – whether running, biking, swimming, yoga or strength training – the Versa series relies on its integrated sensors in conjunction with software intelligence to power different modes. Each model can recognize and analyze certain exercises based on movement patterns and heart rate response.

And the Versa 4 comes out well ahead here by near doubling the number of distinct workout modes from 20 on the 3 up to 40 on the 4. What‘s new for exercisers? Options like tennis, bowling, pilates, kickboxing and more now automatically trigger the ideal tracking readouts.

DC Rainmaker‘s hands-on evaluation again confirms the value for active users:

The additional workout modes make the Versa much more viable as an all-in-one fitness tracker for those participating in more varied sports. You‘ll now see relevant real-time stats on the wrist for activities like tennis or boxing without needing to default to a generic "Workout" mode. This ultimately leads to better post-session analysis too.

Between the wider range of exercise types recognized and the supplemental VO2 Max estimates, the Versa 4 looks meaningfully stronger as a multi-sport watch.

Battery and Charging: Optimized for Real 6+ Days

Battery life can make or break the versatility of a smart device, and Fitbit aims for around 6 days of runtime on a charge for the Versa series. But in real-world testing, the older Versa 3 often capped out at just over 5 days before needing a top up.

The Versa 4 delivers much improved efficiency to hit and exceed that 6 day target under typical usage:

Lab Battery Benchmarks

Versa 3Versa 4
Rated Life6+ days6+ days
Tested Life5.5 days6.3 days

The testing confirms Fitbit‘s software and hardware optimization pays dividends for the Versa 4. Reviewers highlight how they consistently hit 6 full days or close to it with normal daily wear before battery warnings kicked in.

Adding to the usage convenience is a new rapid charging mode that gives the Versa 4 another key leg up. After just a 12 minute charge up, you can gain a full extra day of operating life. That makes it easy to quickly top up the watch as you get ready for a workout or long day out if you notice your battery running low.

Software: Google Integration Inches Forward

With Google finalizing its acquisition of Fitbit in early 2021, greater integration with Google services was expected for future devices. The Versa 4 begins walking down this path, albeit slowly.

At launch, the experience does remain very similar to the Versa 3 – you sync data to the Fitbit phone app, customizable Tiles offer health snapshot glances, and the interface flow stays familiar.

Initial Google additions are minor but promising. For example, Fast Pair support makes linking to an Android phone even quicker out of the box. And the Versa 4 will soon allow payments via Google Wallet in addition to Fitbit Pay.

But over time, we should see more meaningful Google software perks that the Versa 3 likely won‘t receive via updates, possibly including:

  • Download additional apps from the Play Store
  • Support for Google Assistant voice commands
  • View Google Maps navigation directly on your wrist
  • Stream music from YouTube Music

While light on upgrades for now, the Versa 4 has greater potential should Google leverage their resources more deeply. But it remains to be seen how ambitious they get merging Fitbit OS with Wear OS down the road.

Concluding Thoughts: Who Wins Out Between Versa 4 and Versa 3

For existing Versa 3 owners, the choice ultimately comes down to this:

Do the Versa 4‘s marginal fitness additions, battery optimizations, subtly refined design and forward-looking Google ties add up to a compelling enough upgrade over your still-capable smartwatch?

As we‘ve explored thoroughly, core health tracking stays reliable on both generations. So casual users focused only on step counting, sleep tracking and smartphone notifications don‘t necessitate the newest model. But given the overall affordability for a feature-packed wrist companion, first-time smartwatch buyers should gravitate to the 4.

For more active users, I believe the Versa 4 does push the value equation just enough to warrant the upgrade. Double the workout mode support, richer training insights like VO2 Max, noticeably longer real-world battery life and the prospect of more Google connectivity perks make it a performance upgrade over its predecessor. Unless you still use the Versa 3‘s music storage daily, the Versa 4 warrants the 2-year upgrade as Fitbit‘s best pure fitness smartwatch yet.

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