It’s January, which means you’re serious about those New Year’s resolutions, which means you’ve committed to going to the gym seriously this time.

That means you’re thinking of splurging on a smartwatch, which means that unless you read this review, you might just end up having all the gear with no idea.

Chances are, you’ve probably read some of the reviews out there for the Fitbit Versa smartwatch already, but this one looks at how runners and gym-goers might use the watch differently.

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Our two testers:

Keith is an avid runner and an expert on Hong Kong’s marathons and jogging routes.

Jacqueline is allergic to cardio and much prefers lifting weights in the gym where there’s air conditioning and soft, clean towels.

Running vs gym training:

Keith: As the watch doesn’t have GPS, it measures distance by counting the number of steps and stride length (the default is set at 97cm, or 38 inches, but it is adjustable). I took the watch for a steady run around a flat 1,400-metre (0.86-mile) loop, measured by phone GPS, and the watch shows 1,380 metres with about 1,430 steps, which is not bad. You can improve the accuracy by adjusting the stride length.

Versa was designed to be lighter on features than its predecessor, Ionic, and for me personally, that’s a relief
Jacqueline Tsang

The watch can work with a GPS-enabled device, such as a mobile phone with GPS function, for measuring the distance; this is inconvenient to use, though, because you need to carry your mobile phone during the run, and it will use up the battery of the watch faster.

I paired the watch with my iPhone for a 10km (6.2-mile) run. Once connected, the distance is shown on the watch face. After an hour’s run, the battery level drops about 10 per cent on the watch, which is not bad.

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Training data is displayed on the watch face after you press the stop button. These include total time, steps, distance, pace, time per lap and heart rates. The watch won’t save training data to be viewed later on the watch, but you can review the data and analysis (and the route map) on the Fitbit apps after it’s synced with the phone.

Display on the watch face is customisable during the run. For example, you can choose the main display (in larger characters) to show average pace, heart rate, calories, steps, clock, or total running time to meet your needs.

Jacqueline: The GPS thing isn’t a big deal for me, as I try to avoid unnecessary running whenever possible. I relied most heavily on the Weights, Interval Timer and Coach functions.

The watch comes with free, pre-designed workouts ... the seven-minute one is ideal for those who can only squeeze in a quick, high-intensity workout
Jacqueline Tsang

Pros first: the Coach function is one of my favourite features of the Versa. The watch comes with free pre-designed workouts ranging from seven to 15 minutes and the animations make the directions easy to follow for even first-time exercisers.

The seven-minute one is ideal for those who can only squeeze in a quick, high-intensity workout, and includes 30 seconds each of 12 exercises with short breaks in between.

The workout includes heartbeat-raising exercises such as jumping jacks and high knees, strength-building moves such as squat holds, planks, lunges and push-ups, and core-strengthening moves such as crunches and planks.

For those who have a regimented workout in mind, but want to keep to strict intervals, the Interval Timer can be customised for moving and resting periods.

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Now, the con: For someone who loves weight training, the Weights workout mode was a disappointment. There were no options for weight logging or rep tracking and estimates calories burned based purely on heart rate. As such, I couldn’t see how this mode differs from the generically named Workout mode, or even some of the weirdly specific workout modes such as martial arts, kick-boxing, yoga and golfing.

Aesthetics and control:


J: It’s much lighter and sleeker than the Garmin smartwatch I was using before and the “squircle” case does grow on you (I’m rather fond of my rose gold model).

I have a very narrow wrist, so the small wristband option is definitely appreciated. The colour displays are high resolution and the videos in the Coach workout function are fun and helpful (and amusing – the jumping jacks demo looks like a little trapped man trying to get my attention).

K: I like that you have a choice of a few free watch faces (plus other paid-for watch faces). My favourite is the Stats watch face, which displays the clock in bright and large digits, plus other fitness statistics. The control of some watch functions can be done by either swiping on the watch face or pressing any of its three buttons, which is particular useful when the watch face gets wet (when swiping won’t work).

Miscellaneous:

J: Versa was designed to be lighter on features than its predecessor, Ionic, and for me personally, that’s a relief. My smartphone has already taken over my life and I don’t need to see email and message notifications on my watch as well. Versa pares it down to health-related apps only.

The Female Health tracker is a welcome addition for women wanting to easily see information on their cycle (and potentially adjust workout intensity accordingly).

The display is straightforward, with quite an accurate period prediction and information on your ovulation phase.

I wasn’t a fan of not being able to save training data to be viewed later on the watch (for example, after you start another run, the data of the previous one will be gone)
Keith Chan

I’d be excited to see how they can take the technology further. The software isn’t particularly user-friendly at the moment, requiring the user to manually input start and end dates rather than automatically logging them when period flow intensity is recorded. Also, unless you click in to each day’s records, the calendar doesn’t show your symptoms or moods during previous periods, which can affect workout planning – if you’re the type that plans the coming week’s workouts on a Sunday. Otherwise, it’s good to see Fitbit paying attention to women’s health needs on its smartwatch.

K: The long battery life is a plus. The manufacturer says it can last four days with one single charge. The battery level drops only about 20 per cent after wearing for a full day.

I wasn’t a fan of not being able to save training data to be viewed later on the watch (for example, after you start another run, the data of the previous one will be gone, although you can still view it on your mobile app).

The sleep function is easy to use without any specific settings, although you can also set your target sleeping times (when you go to bed and wake up).

The data will be synced to the Fitbit app soon after you wake up. There is a chart showing the total time of your sleep, with a breakdown of each stage of your sleep: awake, REM (rapid eye movement), light, and deep sleep.

You can also check out your 30-day averages and set a benchmark with people of your same age and gender.

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