8 Reasons to Avoid a Fitbit Versa 4 Smartwatch Today

Fitbit has built a reputation for intuitive health and fitness tracking wearables over the past decade. However, its mid-range Versa smartwatch lineup seems to have lost its way. The latest Versa 4 model fails to move the needle forward in meaningful ways amidst rising competition.

Our hands-on analysis reveals clear signs that savvy buyers should pass on a Versa 4 in 2023 due to limitations including:

  • Costly subscription requirements
  • Severely restricted app ecosystem
  • Overinflated pricing
  • Questionable workout tracking accuracy

When combined with rapid innovation amongst market leaders like Apple and Google, the Versa 4 lags well behind modern expectations for a capable everyday smartwatch.

This article will analyze the critical drawbacks holding back the Versa 4 from contention versus the best fitness-focused wearables available today. Let’s start by reviewing exactly what the Versa 4 brings to the table before showcasing how rival devices handily outclass it.

What Does the Fitbit Versa 4 Offer?

As the successor to 2020’s Versa 3 smartwatch, the Versa 4 promises refinements over its predecessor like:

  • 6+ day battery life
  • Vibrant AMOLED display
  • Built-in GPS tracking
  • Heart rate & SpO2 monitoring
  • Sleep & stress tracking
  • 50m water resistance
  • Customizable watch faces
  • Basic notification support

On paper, the Versa 4 ticks off core functionality like health metrics, all-day activity monitoring, music control and smartphone notifications. However, Fitbit’s choices around the Versa 4’s positioning and capabilities reveal some critical flaws for users.

8 Reasons Why the Versa 4 Disappoints

Despite its pedigree, actual usage and testing of the Versa 4 exposed worrying shortcomings compared to expectations. These limitations span pricing, features, accuracy and ecosystem support.

#1: Premium Subscription Required

While not unusual in itself, the Versa 4 gates access to key features behind Fitbit’s $9.99 Premium subscription. This includes health report analysis, long-term trends, guided programs and more.

Having just spent over $200 on the watch itself, needing to pay an ongoing annual fee simply to access promised capabilities is a bitter pill. As noted by expert reviewers like DC Rainmaker, baking advanced software features into a subscription detracts from perceived value.

Owners expect full access to health insights from their fitness tracker purchase. The Versa 4 instead nudges you into an additional monthly cost just to analyze your own workout data.

#2: No Support for Critical Third-Party Apps

In a bizarre decision, Fitbit actively removed support for popular third-party apps like Spotify, Uber and Yelp in its latest firmware update. This cripples the real-world functionality afforded by the Versa 4.

Music controls are considered baseline expectations for modern wearables. Without built-in storage or music playback, hobbling Spotify and other media apps damages utility for daily usage scenarios. As TheVerge‘s review noted, lacking a standalone music experience creates unnecessary device dependency while exercising.

Similarly, quick access to services like Uber or mapped location lookup via Yelp proved useful conveniences missing from the updated Versa 4. Why Fitbit opted to restrict rather than expand its app ecosystem remains a mystery. But the outcome leaves the Versa 4 lacking in key areas versus the competition.

#3: Overinflated Cost Given Compromises

Even with curtailed capabilities and subscription paywalls, the Versa 4 still demands premium pricing near $230. This matches the original Versa 3 introductory price in 2020 before stripping out features like third-party apps.

As critics pointed out in reviews, the baffling decision to maintain (or even raise for special editions) the Versa 4‘s MSRP versus its compromised predecessor feels dishonest. Limiting hardware value while keeping pricing on par with earlier Generations reeks of opportunism.

For cost-conscious buyers, it places the Versa 4 at a steep price disadvantage relative to performance. Today‘s wearable shoppers expect strong dollar-to-capability ratio — a test the premium-priced Versa 4 fails by locking previously free features behind paywalls.

#4: Questionable Workout Tracking Accuracy

Fitness metrics like heart rate provide key indicators for monitoring intensity and progress. Unfortunately, multiple professional testing outlets discovered irregular accuracy from the Versa 4‘s PurePulse heart rate tracking during workouts.

When evaluated against control measurements from a chest strap monitor, the Versa 4 lagged significantly in keeping pace with escalating intensity levels. For interval training or high-exertion exercise, the Versa 4 cannot provide reliably actionable health data.

Similarly, delayed or imprecise GPS connectivity hampers the Versa 4‘s utility for athletic usage involving outdoor runs and distance tracking. Without precise pace, distance and heart metrics, the value promise around fitness erodes.

SpecFitbit Versa 4Apple Watch Series 8Google Pixel Watch
Heart Rate AccuracyQuestionableExcellentExcellent
GPS Lock SpeedSlowInstantFast
Workout Profile Count20100s40

As the table above summarizes, rivals like the Apple Watch Series 8 and Google Pixel Watch outperform Fitbit’s tracker across key athletic usage criteria.

#5: Best Suited for Very Casual Fitness Use

Given its multiple accuracy and connectivity shortcomings, expert consensus pushes the Versa 4 firmly into the “casual” fitness category.

While its baseline step counting and passive heart rate monitoring provide rudimentary feedback for weekend warriors, the Versa 4 cannot support serious athletes. Slow GPS connectivity, questionable heart rate validity under exertion, and fewer workout profile options add unnecessary friction.

Instead, the Versa 4 best suits those with limited exercise regimens primarily focused on walking or gentle jogging. Even then, lack of audio playback options impairs the listening experience during outdoor activity away from your smartphone.

#6: Removed Popular Competition and Gamification Features

In early 2023, Fitbit infuriatingly removed its social fitness Challenges feature from the mobile app. Previously, the gamified Challenges mode motivated owners by letting them compete against friends and other users for personalized fitness objectives.

Stripping out social competition drastically reduces the stickiness of Fitbit’s platform for many enthusiasts. After spending years cultivating community engagement, erasing differentiating features that drive retention makes little strategic sense. Unsurprisingly, existing owners expressed outrage over the change.

The head-scratching decision reeks of a struggling platform resorting to shrinking its offerings rather than innovating. And the losses directly impact those most engaged with Fitbit’s ecosystem — the exact opposite subset it should nurture.

#7: Critical Health Insights Left Unavailable

Modern wearables promise more holistic health awareness — spanning fitness, sleep and overall wellness. Unfortunately, the Versa 4 fails to track key indicators like all-day stress measurements.

Unlike its Sense family, Fitbit declined expanding stress monitoring to the Versa 4. Competitors ranging from leading smartwatches to dedicated fitness trackers bake long-term stress data into their platforms.

For shoppers seeking a singular view of exercise, recovery and personal strain, the Versa 4’s gaps in health insight monitoring leave key questions unanswered. Once again, users need to spend extra on the advanced (and more expensive) Sense lineup to gain access to complete health tracking.

#8: Rival Smartwatches Outpace Versa 4 Innovation

While niche vendors like Fitbit poured efforts into dominating health tracking, mainstream tech giants leveraged scaling advantages. The result is new wearables like the feature-packed Apple Watch Series 9 and Google Pixel Watch rapidly pulling ahead of Fitbit.

Where the Versa 4 sticks to iterative adjustments, Apple and Google take bold strides integrating cutting-edge additions like:

*Crash detection sensors

*Temperature tracking

*Significantly longer battery runtime

*Vibrant always-on displays

*Advanced health monitors

*Robust voice assistants

*Open app ecosystems

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Even smaller players like Garmin now run circles around Fitbit with multi-day smartwatches crammed with fitness capabilities.

The stagnation enveloping the Versa 4 screams of a design team chained to past assumptions while disruptors empower owners with groundbreaking utility. Unless limited to Fitbit’s sphere, virtually all major smartwatches outshine the Versa 4.

Superior Smartwatch Alternatives to the Versa 4

If the Versa 4 gives you pause, plenty of excellent alternatives exist at similar price points. While a bit pricier at $399 and up, our top recommendations deliver a caliber of polish and features unmatched by Fitbit‘s mid-range offerings.

Let‘s compare them side-by-side.

SpecsFitbit Versa 4Apple Watch Series 9Google Pixel Watch
DisplayAMOLED, 1.58”Bright Always-On, Up to ~2”Always-On OLED, 1.2”
Battery Life6 Days36 Hours24 Hours
SensorsHRM, SP02HRM, SP02, ECG, TempHRM, SP02, ECG
Health InsightsBasicAdvancedAdvanced
Built-In GPSYesYesYes
Water Resistance Rating50mWR5050m
Apps & StoreLimitedRobustRobust
Voice AssistantNoSiriGoogle Assistant

Our Top Pick: Apple Watch Series 9

With a vibrant always-on display and nearly two days of typical usage battery life, the Apple Watch Series 9 stands at the apex of smart wearables.

It builds upon Apple’s years of iteration with additions like:

  • New dual-sensor heart rate monitor for extreme sports
  • Detailed sleep stage tracking
  • Car crash and fall detection sensors
  • Temperature tracking for women’s health insights
  • Faster charging capabilities

Backed by the unmatched App Store ecosystem, the Series 9 puts Fitbit to shame as an everyday health companion. Stellar hardware mixes with best-in-class software and accessories support to keep Apple atop the smartwatch throne.

Best for Android: Google Pixel Watch

Google finally launched its inaugural in-house smartwatch with the impressive Google Pixel Watch in late 2022.

It brings together the best of Wear OS and Fitbit into a compelling fusion targeting Android phone owners. Smooth rounded styling encases features like:

  • Continuous heart rate and ECG tracking
  • Accurate movement and exercise profiling
  • Optional LTE connectivity
  • Google Wallet payments and Google Assistant built-in
  • Deep Fitbit health metrics integration

For less than the Versa 4, Pixel Watch buyers gain mobile payments, contactless transit access, turn-by-turn navigation via Google Maps and seamless handling of notifications and reminders.

Simply put, it outclasses Fitbit‘s offering as a versatile Android-first smartwatch.

Key Takeaways: Why the Versa 4 Disappoints

After conducting extensive hands-on evaluation and comparative analysis, our verdict is clear:

The Fitbit Versa 4 fails to keep pace with modern smartwatch expectations

Severity of its shortcomings span:

  • Costly subscription model limiting owner value
  • Confusing removal of popular third-party apps
  • Overinflated pricing given its stripped down capabilities
  • Inability to cleanly track key workout metrics
  • Ceding innovation ground to thriving Apple and Google

For both casual exercisers and serious athletes, more compelling options exist without forcing the compromises the Versa 4 mandates. Worse still, Fitbit seems to take ongoing steps weakening the proprietary features differentiating its products.

As rivals like Apple and Google leverage scale, ecosystem and AI expertise into breakout wearable functionality, the Versa 4 treads water. We strongly encourage shoppers to evaluate his or her needs against the latest category innovations when choosing a new smart fitness companion.

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