The trimmed version of the Fitbit Versa still comes packed with features to give fitness enthusiasts data-driven inspiration

By Jaymes Shrimski | Photos by JP Talapian | Art Direction by Tricia Guevara

Tessa Wardley, in her book Mindful Thoughts for Runners, informs us of an estimate “that we consume about three times the amount of information that we did in the 1960s.” Readily applied to the ease with which media finds its way onto our screens, this information also holds true to the amount of personalized fitness data we can obtain. With wearable fitness trackers blossoming into ubiquity and morphing into more attractive pieces, mining the data of our fitness activities is made more simple—and in the case of the Fitbit Versa Lite, shockingly colorful and customizable, too.

Looks: A Simpler, More Colorful Versa

The Versa Lite is a leaner version of the Versa. We understand leaner here to mean more affordable and with a few features missing. Upon initial inspection, the device with its 1.34-inch, 300×300 resolution, touchscreen color display, almost resembles the Versa. Indeed, the two wearables have the same resolution and touchscreen capabilities. Where, however, the two devices diverge may be found on the sides of the aerospace-grade aluminum case with the Versa sporting three buttons while the Lite houses just one.

The simplicity of the device could very well be a plus. This gives the Versa Lite the same ease of navigation we might find in the bare-bones simple Inspire HR. Other than the absence of two extra buttons on the right side of the device, the Lite manages to stand out against the Versa with the color palette it sports. While the Versa comes in a mean black or tickled pink peach, the Versa Lite comes in a shocking Barney the Dinosaur-esque mulberry, marina blue, or silver (with either white or lilac straps). In any case, the device has a slew of accessories and replacement straps to choose from which easily snap in and out of place.

With wearable fitness trackers blossoming into ubiquity and morphing into more attractive pieces, mining the data of our fitness activities is made more simple—and in the case of the Fitbit Versa Lite, shockingly colorful and customizable, too

Setting this wearable apart further from the Inspire HR is the fact that it looks like a watch. Resembling an Apple Watch more than an accessory worn beside a watch, we can comfortably wear the device throughout the day. More than collecting data to make sense of, the fairly large display merits a wide selection of choices to match user preferences. Accessible via an app, we can choose from hundreds of watch faces, ranging from data-heavy digital faces to simple analog sorts.

The Cool Stuff: Comfy, Easily Navigable, and Indeed Lite

The back of the watch has a slight convexity to it but not enough to make it uncomfortable. In fact, given the larger surface area of the Lite compared with either of the Inspire variants, the device sits more comfortably atop the wrist—the pressure of the straps more evenly distributed. This allows the device to track fitness and sedentary activities all day without discomfort.

PurePulse Tracking

The Lite device has the same technology powering the Fitbit Versa, Iconic, and Charge 3’s heart rate tracking. This allows us to see real-time heart rate zones, better track calorie burn, view resting heart rate, see sleep stages, and gain an estimate of our VO2 max, an approximate of the maximum amount of oxygen our body can use during exercise. While an immediate heart rate reading may be accessed on the device with a few swipes, the sleep stages and the VO2 max requires us to check the app, which houses more in-depth data.

Working Out with the Versa Lite

The device houses over 15 exercise modes like run, bike, yoga, and weights. We however may opt to simply begin running—the device will sense that automatically and then record time spent working out as well as the calories burned. Plus, with a construction that makes the device water resistant up to 50 meters, we can confidently use it for swimming. The caveat here is, unlike the Versa, the Versa Lite doesn’t track the number of laps done nor can we see how many floors we’ve climbed.

Sleep Tracking

It’s clear by this point that the full experience of the device requires us to sport it as if it were a tattoo. The device, when worn to sleep, gives us access to “sleep insights” to give an idea of the amount of time spent “Awake” (which apparently is a normal phenomenon), in “REM or Rapid Eye Movement” (also apparently normal), in light sleep, and in deep sleep. We can then view our results against a 30-day average and a benchmark. The device may be larger than the Inspire HR but it’s surprisingly light and comfortable around the wrist, the thick silicone bands making sure of that. Although we need wear it a little higher on the arm than most watches, falling asleep with the device on presents no problems.

Battery Life and Haptic Feedback

Considering the device is navigated via touchscreen and notifies us via haptic feedback, the gentle buzzing of which is far more pleasant than the roughing up the Inspire HR unleashes on users, the Versa Lite manages to stay alive for about four days. Of course, with excessive use and various backlight options available, we have a hand in deciding just how much battery life the device will have, but nonetheless, it’s impressive on this note.

With a construction that makes the device water resistant up to 50 meters, we can confidently use it for swimming. The caveat here is, unlike the Versa, the Versa Lite doesn’t track the number of laps done nor can we see how many floors we’ve climbed

Added to that, the timer, alarm, and relax applications, which use the device’s haptic feedback, are more easily utilized than in the Inspire HR. Aside from providing gentler haptic feedback, which makes the relax application indeed more relaxing, there is an option to adjust the alarm on the wearable itself.

The Alright Stuff: Swiping Around and Missing Music

It’s fun to see our heart rate increase as we pound the pavement. The difficulty is in accessing that feature. We have to click the side button, swipe down, swipe right, and then swipe down again just to see this reading. Though there are likely downloadable watch faces to view this statistic immediately, it does bring about the point of the touchscreen—it’s not as smooth as that of an Apple product. Admittedly, that’s something Apple has managed to do well since its inception. But it doesn’t horribly hamper anyone from accessing the various applications in the device, and this may all be taken as swell given the price of the unit. The device does not boast on-screen workouts and the music storage available with the Versa. Which is alright as the concept of a coach on the arm isn’t for everyone. More than that, as the device has no built-in GPS, we’re more likely to have our mobile phones within an arms reach anyway to change songs easily.

It’s Not for Everyone Though: Charging and Out-board GPS

The device’s charger is a more appropriate length weighted against that of the Inspire HR. We’re more unlikely to worry about charging the device on our bedside table. What is a bit irksome however is clicking the device in and out of its charging shell. Much like the rigid plastic covers that snap on and off laptops, this charging dock holds the watch in place by sliding solid plastic across the device’s bezel. Anyone worried about scratches and nicks will get nervous with each charging session.

The out-board GPS will always be a little frustrating for the outdoorsy types and serious runners. Many runners would enjoy throwing their phone through their couches or under their beds while they’re out on their runs. The difficulty here arises when they also want an idea of the routes they took and the distance they covered. As with the Inspire HR, users interested in reading that data need to carry a phone with them. For the price increase from the Inspire to the Versa Lite, some users may have expected that. In fact, losing the music-changing feature and adding an onboard GPS might have been better.

Final Thoughts

The Fitbit Versa Lite is a handy bit of fitness equipment. It gives us access to data to inspire—be that to get off the couch and on the open road or into bed and sleep early. This access granted by the technology that Fitbit prides itself on is housed in a delightfully rigid, premium shell that comes in bold colors to add a pop of fun to wardrobes. I donned the mulberry variant the same way a typically dressed-up individual would don a Swatch. It’s a fun little statement that breathes some life into the time of day when you check it.

This Fitbit is a terrific entry-level fitness tracker for those after a watch and not just another fitness accessory. Users set on purchasing this are likely to decide between it and the Inspire HR—both of which provide enough data for inspiration and goal setting rather than competitive training. The main deciding feature here  for me would be whether I would use it as a watch or not, and should others be geared towards the former, the Fitbit Versa Lite has enough bands and clock faces to keep boredom at bay with ease.

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