Smartwatch Showdown: Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch (Series 4)

It is no secret that the smartwatch industry is thriving in 2019. This comparison guide was made to help consumers with the struggle between buying a Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch (Series 4). Boasting two of the most popular models on the market, our team will compare these smartwatches over various criteria to help determine the best choice for your needs and budget.

We've provided a quick summary of each smartwatch below for the TL;DR (aka too long, didn't read) crowd. If you scroll past the recap, we will go in-depth into the various criteria to offer valuable information on your search for the right smartwatch.

TL;DR: Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Recap

Fitbit Versa

Affordable & Health-Focused

The first smartwatch from Fitbit after their acquisition of Pebble, this health-focused device offers a simple execution with stellar battery life. Additionally, this model supports use with both major smartphone operating systems (Android and iOS).

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Premium & Feature-Packed

Apple's latest iteration of their popular smartwatch, the Series 4 model touts some advanced smart and health features. Limited to iPhone users, the Series 4 is the most expensive smartwatch that the company has produced and also the most advanced.

Similarities Between The Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

  • Less than half the cost of the Apple Watch (Series 4)
  • True 24hr heart-rate tracking
  • Both offer automatic fitness tracking via heart-rate changes
  • Both offer customizable watch faces
  • Both offer native support for music control
  • Both offer a your basic smartphone notifications (calls, texts or emails)

Differences Between The Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

  • Versa is more affordable ($135.00 vs $369.00)
  • Versa has a longer sales cycle (18 vs 10.25 months)
  • Versa offers better heart-rate tracking
  • Versa has better battery life (4+ days vs 24 hrs)
  • Versa supports both Android & iOS
  • Versa has native sleep tracking
  • Versa has dedicated female health monitoring
  • Apple Watch has a better build quality & display
  • Apple Watch has better customization options
  • Apple Watch has optional LTE support
  • Apple Watch has a larger selection of 3rd party apps

Price & Affordability

Fitbit Versa

When the Versa first launched back in March of 2018, the smartwatch had an MSRP of $199.95 for the base model of $249.95 for the limited ‘special edition' model. The special edition model is identical to the base option, yet it includes a sleek woven watch band and built-in NFC support for Fitbit Pay.

Since then, the price of the Versa has dropped at major retailers, especially during holiday promotions. Many retailers sold the base smartwatch for $149.99 during Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping holidays. Amazon is currently selling it for $135.00.

Considering the feature-set and performance of the Versa, we think the current selling price offers a lot of value. It can't live up to the feature set and quality standards of Apple's Series 4 smartwatch yet at less than half the price, we don't expect it to.

Apple Watch 40mm Product Page

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Apple's fourth-generation model and often the first smartwatch that many people end up buying. With the launch of the Series 4, the Apple Watch has increased in price for both of their size options.

The 40mm (ideal for females or smaller wrists) has an MSRP of $399 for the base model. The larger 44mm (best suited for men or larger wrists) starts at $429.

Both of their base smartwatches are made out of aluminum and offer basic watch bands. They also only provide native support for GPS connectivity.

If you want, they sell more expensive Apple Watches that have better build materials, a fancier band or LTE connectivity. The stainless steel versions starting at $799 and the Hermes Edition Apple Watches starting at a staggering $1,249 (and reaching as high as $1,499).

Winner: Fitbit Versa

The Fitbit Versa wins on price costing half as much as an Apple Watch Series 4 without skimping too much on features or build quality.

Made Your Decision?

Sales Cycle

Fitbit Versa

This is the first generation of the Versa smartwatch from Fitbit, so it isn't the easiest to touch on its life cycle. However, in the past Fitbit has released another smartwatch dubbed the Ionic which was the predecessor to the Versa. 

Based on the limited data, we can make an estimation that the average sales cycle of a Fitbit smartwatch is: 18 months or 1.5 years.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

First launched back in 2015, this is the fourth smartwatch release from Apple and the first redesign. Initially, the Apple Watch launched in the Spring, but now Apple has seemed to make it a tradition to announce a new smartwatch in the fall alongside their latest iPhones in September.

Adding up the data based on the previous releases, we can make an estimation that the average sales cycle of an Apple smartwatch is: 10.25 months.

Winner: Fitbit Versa

While Fitbit's Versa release history is very limited, they currently win in this area offering a new model every 18 months vs Apple's 10.25 month smartwatch cycle.

Made Your Decision?

Size & Design

Apple Watch vs Versa Size

Fitbit Versa

Being the first smartwatch that Fitbit released after acquiring of Pebble's assets, they chose a similar design to the Pebble 2 with a more refined and sleeker chassis. Measuring in, the Fitbit Versa comes in at 39.35mm by 39.35mm with 11.2mm in thickness.

The design offers a touchscreen display mixed with three tactile side buttons: one on the left and two on the right. Due to the combination of physical buttons and a touchscreen, you can navigate through the various interfaces with ease.

While the screen is rather large at 1.34″, the actual pixel dimensions are only 300 by 300 pixels. This results in some significant bezels around the screen which is a downfall. The dark background of the UI helps to not notice them as much.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

This is the first release since the original Apple Watch that has resulted in a change in size and design. Most of the change happened in the width and height of the screen compared to previous versions. There is a slight reduction in thickness coming in at 10.7mm thick (vs 11.4mm of the previous models).

The Watch itself isn't much larger on the wrist. Instead, they were able to stretch the usability of the display farther to the edges of the chassis. This shrunk the bezels and offers more screen real estate in a smaller form.

The 44mm option now has a resolution of 368 by 448 pixels (vs 390 by 312). The 40mm version has a screen resolution of 324 by 394 (vs 272 by 340).

Sold in both 44mm and 40mm size variants (used to be 40mm and 38mm), the difference between the two models only relates to size. The capabilities between the two smartwatches remain identical.

In most cases, the larger 44mm sizing is best for male users or consumers with a large enough wrist. The 40mm is more recommended for female or users with a smaller wrist.

Unlike the Versa, the Apple Watch only has two physical buttons on its the right side. Its user interaction relies more on the touchscreen versus the physical buttons.

Apple Watch Screen Size Comparison

Winner: Apple Watch

The Apple Watch's thinner casing mixed with a larger, more pixel-packed display and two potential size options gives it the edge in this area

Made Your Decision?

Build Quality

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Versa Close Up

Given the price of the Fitbit Versa, you'd think the build quality would be sub-par or mediocre. After owning the previous Pebble 2 which had a cheap feel, we weren't expecting much.

Surprisingly, the Fitbit Versa has much better craftsmanship than expected at a sub-$200 price-point. The chassis of the Versa is made of anodized aluminum offering a durable yet lightweight feel.

The front screen is Corning Gorilla Glass 3, making it more robust and durable than standard glass. On the rear, the there are brass charging contacts surrounded by plastic.

On each side of the Versa, the integrated buttons are also made from the anodized aluminum. They have a nice, tactile feel without the mushy experience that you'll often see at these lower price-points.

The Versa is water-resistant (up to 50M) and can be worn in wet environments such as a shower, rain or pool without any issues.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Apple Watch Series 4 Close Up

Priced much higher than the Versa, you'd expect the Apple Watch to blow it out of the water when it comes to build quality. The base aluminum body has a very similar feel, especially when you compare the two models with the standard sport band, side by side.

The Apple Watch's side button and digital crown have a solid tactile feel to them as you scroll or use the buttons. The base Apple Watch Series 4 uses Ion-X glass, which is designed to help prevent scratches.

At its base model, the Apple Watch base model has a slight advantage in the build quality department over the Versa. However, as soon as you step up to the stainless steel Apple Watch, this build quality advantage widens tremendously. This is due to the increased durability of the chassis and the addition of a Sapphire screen.

It is not a fair comparison to put a sub-$200 Fitbit Versa against a $699 Stainless Steel Apple Watch Series 4. In this case, the Stainless Apple Watch will take the cake in build quality every time. At their base models, the two are closer than you'd expect.

Like the Versa, the Apple Watch Series 4 is water-resistant up to 50M and can be used in shallow, wet conditions without any issues.

Winner: Apple Watch

Apple's Watch Series 4 offers a slight edge at the base model level and a massive one as soon as you step up to a higher-end Stainless Steel model. The Versa remains well-built for the low price, and we see no potential issues in build quality between either smartwatch.

Made Your Decision?

Android/iOS Compatibility

Fitbit Versa

Designed independently from both Apple and Google, Fitbit has created their Versa smartwatch to support both major mobile platforms. This means that it can connect and operate when paired with both an iPhone or an Android smartphone.

For the most part, the experience will be the same regardless of which smartphone that pair with it. Apple is more restrictive with their operating system's third party integrations so there may be a few minor limitations.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Since the Apple Watch is designed by Apple, they have limited the smartphone support to be exclusive to iPhones. If you own an Android smartphone, you will not be able to pair your device with the Apple Watch. 

Due to this, we would not recommend buying an Apple Watch (any generation) if you use an Android smartphone. The majority of the smartwatch's capabilities would be severely limited.

Winner: Fitbit Versa

An easy win for the Fitbit Versa which supports use on both Android and iOS. Apple Watch users remain locked to iPhones.

Made Your Decision?

Customization

Versa vs Apple Watch Customization

Fitbit Versa

The Versa allows you to change the watch faces via the Fitbit app. Most of them are free, but some require a license which goes for a few bucks. Keep in mind, some watch faces can negatively affect battery life (we will get into this at a later section).

When it comes to the watch band, the stock rubber one isn't the most comfortable or stylish option. You can buy an aftermarket band through Fitbit or on Amazon for relatively cheap. These bands come in a variety of looks and built materials, but the overall selection isn't vast.

We chose a basic canvas band off Amazon for $10 to replace our stock rubber band and is sleek despite the cheap price. It resembling the canvas band which is included with the Versa Special Edition.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

The Apple Watch iOS app has a lot of customizability within it. You can change watch faces, edit app layouts, customize text size, and edit notifications. Depending on the watch face that you choose, you might be able to customize different data points such as temperature, date, battery percentage, heart rate, etc.

There are third-party watch face apps within the WatchOS app store (both free and paid). Apple provides enough free official watch faces that I don't find the need to look anywhere else. We prefer the watch faces that offer animated sequences. You also can upload your photos to become the default background for the watch.

Apple offers a ton of watch bands with different build materials and colors through the Apple Store. There is also a vast assortment of aftermarket bands on Amazon that you can score for cheap.

The one seen in our photos is a hybrid sports band from Amazon in a camo finish that looks pretty sleek and is under $30. It isn't the highest quality band around but well worth the low investment to replace the dull sports band in the black rubber ‘sport' finish.

Winner: Apple Watch

While both offer digital and watch band customization, the Apple Watch wins due to the depth of customization and aftermarket accessories.

Made Your Decision?

LTE, GPS & NFC

Fitbit Versa Special Edition

Fitbit Versa

The Fitbit Versa at a base model offers no native support for LTE, GPS or NFC (aka near field communication). This is likely due to the lack of necessity for most consumers at this price-point.

However, they can pull a connected GPS signal via your smartphone for related applications or fitness tracking. While this works for some, the lack of a built in GPS isn't ideal to go for a run or bike ride with the Versa while leaving your smartphone at home.

There is no way to enable LTE support in any way on the Fitbit Versa. NFC is supported on the Fitbit Versa Special Edition which sells for more but includes Fitbit Pay, a hands-free payment processing service.

Apple Watch LTE Support

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Depending on the Apple Watch Series 4 model that you buy, you'll gain access to LTE, GPS, and NFC. By default, all Apple Watch Series 4 models come with their own GPS and NFC support.

This means that you can take leave your phone at home while still tracking your GPS location or make hands-free payments via Apple Pay.

If you opt for the higher-end LTE models, then you'll gain the ability to receive and make phone calls/texts while on the go without your smartphone.

However, this comes at a price beyond the higher device cost as you'll need to subscribe to an LTE subscription, which averages around $10 a month.

Winner: Apple Watch

With support for GPS and NFC (LTE optional) Apple's Watch Series 4 reigns supreme over the Fitbit Versa's lack of all three at its base.

Made Your Decision?

Battery Life

Fitbit Versa versus Apple Watch Charging

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit states the Versa has a 4+ day battery life which will depend on usage and other factors. From our hands-on experience, we have been getting around 5-6 days of use on a full charge.

The great battery life remains despite full heart rate tracking, sleep tracking and text message notifications on a day to day basis. We did notice from our testing that certain Watch Faces can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the battery life.

Our personal preference is a simple one called ‘Stats' made by Fitbit. It seems to use the power consumption well enough to extend the battery life longer than advertised.

However, we have experimented with several watch faces made from other developers. We found that a few of them that looked attractive with sleek, colorful designs yet ended up draining 50% battery in a day.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Since launch, the Apple Watch has struggled to maintain any competitive battery life benchmarks. Nothing changes with the Series 4 as it falls short in comparison to the Fitbit Versa. Apple markets their Series 4 model to offer up to 18 hours of battery life.

If you are planning on using the Apple Watch for making or receiving phone calls, then the battery life will drop significantly. You'll only get 2 hours of talk time when connected to your iPhone or 1 hour when connected to an LTE connection.

In our experience, we have seen about 24 hours of battery life through day to day use. This includes taking and leaving the Apple Watch off our wrists overnight (though not charging). During this time we did not use the talk feature when receiving or making any phone calls.

With all the notifications, integrations and advanced features of the Apple Watch, battery life can vary. As an Apple Watch user, you should expect to charge it overnight if you want to experience all day functionality.

Winner: Fitbit Versa

The Fitbit Versa's battery life shines with 4+ days of battery life versus less than 24 hours with the Apple Watch

Made Your Decision?

Notifications

Fitbit Versa

The Versa from Fitbit allows you to receive basic notifications through SMS, iMessage or phone calls. When it comes to third-party notifications (such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc), you can enable them in the Fitbit app to receive basic notifications for supported services.

Once in a while, Fitbit will send their own notifications to you based on things like your activity levels, step count and heart rate. These help to stay motivated and active throughout the day (can be disabled).

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Apple Watch Ring Notification

The Apple Watch Series 4 can receive notifications from most third-party applications on your smartphone including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. You can also change the notifications to show on only on your watch, but not your phone or vice-versa.

The Apple Watch will by default send you occasional notifications about your fitness/activity levels for the day. It will also tell you if you've been sitting for too long and remind you to stand for a little while (it recommends once an hour during the day).

Winner: Tie

Both devices are capable of providing call, text and third-party notifications for major apps and services. Additionally, both offer occasional notifications throughout the day to help with fitness goals.

Made Your Decision?

3rd Party Apps

Fitbit Versa

Given the lack features when compared to the Apple Watch, there is not a lot of support for third-party applications with the Fitbit Versa.

Much of this is due to the lower number of Versa owners compared to four years of Apple Watch sales. Given the time and commitment it takes to create and maintain a mobile watch app, most developers will choose to build apps for only the most popular wearable platforms.

Within the Fitbit mobile app, there is a small section for third-party applications including:

  • Pandora
  • Spotify
  • Uber
  • Yelp
  • Nest
  • Philips Hue

It is worth noting that because an app for third-party services is present, doesn't mean that it's officially made by that provider. Most of the applications on the Fitbit App Store are made from miscellaneous developers.

For example, the Spotify app isn't actually developed by Spotify. Instead, an independent developer named Elliot developed an app as a way to control Spotify through his Versa.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

The Apple Watch has been in existence since 2015, and there have been an estimated 33M units sold to date. This means there is a massive user-base. This harnesses a lot of potential for developers to create native WatchOS applications.

If you are utilizing any major online service or need your Apple Watch to be able to do something, there is likely already an app for it.

One of our favorite uses of the Apple Watch's third-party applications is for sports use. An example of this would be ‘Golfshot' which allows you to see accurate yardage information on your local golf courses as well as keep score.

Winner: Apple Watch

With a massive base of users, the Apple Watch harnesses a vastly bigger selection of apps when compared to the Versa.

Made Your Decision?

Music Control & Playback

Fitbit Versa

The Versa has 2.5GB of built-in storage meant for music which equates to about 300 songs. Music can be added by connecting the watch to your Mac or Windows computer and utilizing the Fitbit Connect app.

For those who don't want to manually transfer songs, you can use Pandora or Deezer to listen to your music yet both need a paid subscription.

If you don't mind lugging your phone around for your workout then you can control your smartphone's music when connected via Bluetooth. This will give you a quick options panel to switch songs or pause/play with the song's title and artist.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

The Apple Watch (Series 3 or later) allows you to access your Apple Music library if you are an active subscriber. Siri-support is also included here allowing you to play your favorite songs via voice commands.

If you don't subscribe to Apple Music (we prefer Spotify), you can still add Apple Podcasts to your Apple Watch which also works with Siri. If you'd like to sync music or podcasts to your Apple Watch for solo listening, this is also possible via the integrated 2GB of storage.

Like the Versa, third-party music applications such as Spotify can be controlled via your Apple Watch natively. Spotify recently released their own WatchOS app, but without it you'll still have access to basic controls to pause, play, or skip

Winner: Tie

Both models offer support for basic music controls and access to native music streaming apps (supported services vary).

Made Your Decision?

Health Tracking

Apple Watch versus Fitbit Versa HR Sensors

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit at its core is a fitness tracker as the company's roots were built upon this concept. The Versa is one of their early efforts into the smartwatch market while maintaining their stellar activity tracking.

The Fitbit Versa offers 24-hour heart-rate tracking utilizing the company's PurePulse Technology. This allows you to track your heart rate continuously throughout the day. You'll have the ability to view your resting heart rate, cardio/fat burn periods throughout the day and have accurate sleep tracking.

Another cool feature is their cardio fitness score. This number takes all the big data behind your heart rate information and gives you a proper rating based on where your health is for your age/gender. This score can change over time as your fitness level increases, so it's a useful metric to track your progress.

When it comes to working out, you can enable the exercise mode. This will give you a workout-centric watch face that allows you to see all the vital information at a glance depending on the activity (there are 15+ exercise modes) such as calories burned, time elapsed, pace, mileage, bpm, etc.

If you don't manually enable it, the Fitbit may automatically track your exercise based on your heart rate changes. From our experience, auto workout recognition isn't too reliable. With the continuous heart rate sensor, it isn't a big deal as your steps, heart rate and calories burned will remain tracked.

There are also guided exercises to give yourself easy workouts which display the movements and then give you a timed period to carry out the reps. These guided exercises seem like more of a marketing gimmick than a practical feature, but we doubt most of you would use them anyways.

Fitbit also advertises their women's health features on the Versa. These include period logging that allows you to compare your menstrual cycle against weight, sleep, and activity level.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Every iteration of the Apple Watch has had health tracking, but the Series 4 is the first generation to harness more advanced features. Previous generations of Apple Watches had to have workouts manually initiated at the start and end of your exercise.

With the Series 4, they have added auto recognition for any strenuous physical activity. You can still manually active it like in the past to achieve the best heads-up information on your particular type of workout. The auto-recognition is more reliable than the Versa, but not by much.

Beyond this, Apple added better heart rate tracking to their Series 4. This includes the ability to perform an FDA approved Electrocardiogram through the Apple Watch. Unlike most fitness trackers, the heart rate monitoring is only measuring consistent signals during a workout and only checks periodically during normal use.

Using third-party apps, you can add further health features like menstrual cycle tracking, food/water tracking or glucose tracking for those with diabetes.

Winner: Fitbit Versa

This is a closer category than we had anticipated as Apple's newest ECG feature is truly advanced and innovative. However, Fitbit wins with 24/7 heart rate tracking, a cardio fitness score, and built-in female health monitoring.

Made Your Decision?

Sleep Tracking

Fitbit Versa

Thanks to the Versa's stellar 4+ day battery life, you are able to wear the watch consecutively overnight without the need to charge. The Fitbit operating system will automatically track your heart rate and movements throughout the night to determine sleep patterns.

Depending on your heart rate, your nightly sleep will be categorized between awake, REM, light sleep and deep sleep. After the night is over, you are able to sync your smartphone with the Versa to achieve detailed graphs like the one embedded above.

You can compare your sleep patterns over time and examine your sleep habits to the recommended benchmarks for others in your age or gender brackets.

Sleep tracking is the primary reason why I purchased a Versa. It has helped me try to get a better idea of how to analyze my sleeping habits through easy to understand sleep data to analyze trends. I use this information to help see what I can do to help me sleep better and feel more rested.

Apple Watch (Series 4)

Given the poor battery life of the Apple Watch, there is no native sleep tracking functionality. Apple expects you to be charging your watch at night like you would an iPhone.

I am aware that there are some third-party sleep tracking apps for the Apple Watch, but the main issue comes in with battery life. It is possible to use these, but you'll need to charge the device every morning before work or school which isn't convenient or practical.

Winner: Fitbit Versa

The Versa's stellar battery life and integrated sleep tracking functionality make it the clear winner versus the Apple Watch's poor battery life and lack of native sleep tracking.

Made Your Decision?

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch – Summary

At this point, we have covered the major aspects of the Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch debate. 

Here are the standings after a deeper look in each ranking criteria:

Fitbit Versa

  • Price & Affordability
  • Sales Cycle
  • Android/iOS Compatibility
  • Battery Life
  • Health Tracking
  • Sleep Tracking

Apple Watch (Series 4)

  • Size & Design
  • Build Quality
  • Customization
  • LTE, GPS & NFC
  • Third-Party Apps

Tie

  • Notifications
  • Music Control & Playback

Overall Winner: Fitbit Versa

Overall, the Versa won one more category than the Apple Watch. It is a great smartwatch for the price especially if you looking to improve your fitness/sleep routines.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is an elegant, well-crafted and highly refined smartwatch. It benefits from the massive user-base when it comes to third-party apps and vastly better customization. The truth of the matter is there is usually no "one product fits all" type scenario in consumer electronics.

While I own an Apple Watch Series 4 and choose to wear the Versa over it on a daily basis, others may have a completely different preference. It is ultimately up to your personal needs, preferences and budget although both are stellar smartwatches.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch - Which Smartwatch Will You Buy?

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