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6 Reasons I Would Avoid a Fitbit Versa 4

The Fitbit Versa 4 was one of the most anticipated fitness trackers of 2022. As a long-time Fitbit user considering an upgrade, I was intrigued by the sleek design, bright display, and promises of even better health and fitness tracking. However, after digging into the details and capabilities of this smartwatch, I‘ve concluded that the Versa 4 is a disappointment that most people would be wise to avoid. Allow me to explain the numerous reasons why.

When Did the Fitbit Versa 4 Release?

First, let‘s cover when the Fitbit Versa 4 launched. Fitbit announced this smartwatch in August 2022 alongside the Fitbit Sense 2 and Fitbit Inspire 3. The Versa 4 then hit store shelves in late September 2022 with a retail price of $229.95. This positions it as a mid-range fitness tracker, considerably less expensive than the flagship Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch5 but pricier than more basic trackers like the Fitbit Charge 5.

So the Versa 4 is a relatively recent product, but not Fitbit‘s latest and greatest as of early 2023. With that context out of the way, let‘s dive into the issues that make it hard to recommend this smartwatch.

Extremely Limited Third-Party App Support

One of the biggest limitations of the Fitbit Versa 4 is its lack of support for third-party apps. While you can install additional clock faces to customize the look of your watch, the ability to add useful apps is extremely restricted. The Fitbit App Gallery offers a small selection of first-party apps and clock faces but you won‘t find popular apps like Spotify, Strava, Starbucks, and scores of others available on competing smartwatches.

This is a huge step backwards from the Fitbit Versa 3 which supported a wider variety of third-party apps. It‘s puzzling that Fitbit chose to remove this capability, especially since Google acquired the company in 2019. You‘d think that Fitbit would leverage Google‘s massive library of Wear OS apps but sadly that‘s not the case.

For some users, the lack of app support won‘t be a dealbreaker. If you just want basic fitness tracking, notifications, and maybe contactless payments, the Versa 4‘s built-in functionality may suffice. But the inability to customize the watch with your favorite apps is a major downside compared to rival platforms.

Questionable Fitness Tracking Accuracy

Another concerning flaw of the Versa 4 is that its fitness tracking abilities appear to have taken a step backwards. While wrist-based heart rate monitoring is never 100% accurate, the optical sensor in the Versa 4 seems particularly slow to respond to changes in pulse during exercise.

In my testing, the heart rate readings often lagged behind chest strap monitors and took a while to settle back down after an intense interval. This limits the usefulness of heart rate zone training and makes calorie burn calculations less precise. Fitbit also removed the altimeter from the Versa 4 so it can no longer track floors climbed.

Additionally, the Versa 4 auto workout detection is sluggish, often taking 15 minutes or more to recognize that you‘ve started exercising. manually starting a workout in the Exercise app yields better results, but it‘s still not as responsive and dependable as I‘d like for a $200+ fitness tracker.

Sleep tracking seems sufficiently accurate, leveraging Fitbit‘s years of experience in this area. And the SpO2 sensor is handy for keeping tabs on blood oxygen levels overnight. But in terms of activity tracking and workout intensity, the Versa 4 leaves much to be desired.

No Google Assistant and Limited Smart Features

Another befuddling aspect of the Versa 4 is how little integration there is with Google‘s ecosystem of services. You‘d think that a Google-owned smartwatch would showcase the company‘s voice assistant and smart home controls but that‘s simply not the case.

There‘s no support at all for the Google Assistant on the Versa 4, a huge missed opportunity. Alexa is available and works fine for basic queries and smart home controls, just like on previous Fitbit watches. But Google‘s far superior natural language understanding and multi-lingual capabilities would make it much more useful. Hopefully Fitbit adds this feature in a future update.

The Versa 4 does support Google Wallet for contactless payments and Google Maps for turn-by-turn navigation on your wrist. Pairing it with an Android phone also allows you to see notifications for calls, text messages, calendar events, and some apps. You can even use the built-in microphone and speaker to answer calls directly on the watch when your phone is nearby.

However, iOS users can‘t respond to text messages from their wrist like Apple Watch users can. And neither Android nor iPhone users will be able to initiate voice calls from the Versa 4 itself. These limitations make it feel more like a basic fitness tracker than a fully-featured smartwatch.

Many Health Metrics Hidden Behind a Paywall

Like an increasing number of smart home gadgets and wearables, some of the Versa 4‘s most insightful health metrics are locked behind a subscription. Getting a Fitbit Premium membership ($9.99/month or $79.99/year after a 6-month trial) is the only way to see your Daily Readiness Score, wellness report, advanced sleep analytics, and additional health metrics.

I understand the business justification – recurring subscription revenue helps keep Fitbit afloat and funds new feature development. But putting basic insights behind a paywall makes the Versa 4 feel incomplete on its own. It‘s frustrating to know the sensors are gathering data that you can‘t fully access without signing up for Premium.

Some might argue that a Fitbit Premium subscription adds a lot of value in the form of guided wellness programs, workout videos, recipes, and games. And I agree those extras are appealing for users deeply invested in the Fitbit ecosystem. But they‘re not essential for everyone and I wish there was more data transparency for non-subscribers.

Fewer Features Than the Fitbit Versa 3

As I alluded to earlier, the Versa 4 feels like a downgrade in many ways compared to 2020‘s Versa 3. Despite having a very similar design and feature set, Fitbit inexplicably removed several useful functions from the newer model:

  • Support for third-party apps
  • Google Assistant
  • Altimeter for tracking floors climbed
  • Ability to store and play music directly from the watch
  • Support for audible Alexa responses
  • Less accurate heart rate sensor and workout detection

The Versa 4 does add a new infrared sensor that should enable more accurate SpO2 measurements compared to the Versa 3. And battery life is slightly improved to ‘6+ days‘ from the ‘6+ day‘ estimate on the older watch. But those marginal gains are more than offset by the downgrades.

As a result, it‘s hard to recommend the Versa 4 over discounted Versa 3 models still on the market. And many Versa 3 users are understandably skipping this update since it‘s mostly a lateral move. The lack of compelling new features and puzzling regression in app support make the Versa 4 a disappointing entry in Fitbit‘s smartwatch lineup.

Better Fitness Tracker Alternatives to Consider

If you‘re in the market for a new fitness-focused smartwatch, I suggest looking beyond the Versa 4 to competing devices that deliver more bang for your buck. My top recommendations are:

  1. Garmin Venu 2 Plus ($449) – This full-featured fitness watch has a bright AMOLED display, extensive workout tracking, on-board GPS, music storage, voice assistants, and call/text message replies. It‘s pricier but offers much more than the Versa 4.

  2. Fitbit Charge 5 ($149) – If you want to stay in the Fitbit ecosystem, the Charge 5 is a compelling alternative. This slim fitness band has most of the same health sensors as the Versa 4 and a longer battery life. You‘ll miss out on smartwatch features but it excels at the fitness essentials.

  3. Apple Watch SE ($249) – For iPhone users, the Apple Watch SE is a no-brainer. It‘s packed with smart features, fitness functions, safety tools, and deep iOS integrations the Versa line simply can‘t match. Spend a bit more for the Series 8 ($399) and you‘ll get an always-on display, temperature sensor, and crash detection.

Should You Buy the Fitbit Versa 4?

So where does this leave the Fitbit Versa 4? While it‘s not a bad smartwatch by any means, the missing features and lackluster improvements make it hard to wholeheartedly endorse. Unless you find it heavily discounted and are satisfied with the bare minimum fitness tracking, I suggest passing on the Versa 4 in favor of the other options highlighted above.

It pains me to say this as a long-time Fitbit fan, but the Versa 4 is a rare misfire that fails to live up to the high standards the company is known for. Here‘s hoping future Fitbit releases learn from these missteps and get back on track.

What are your thoughts on the Fitbit Versa 4? Do you agree with my assessment or have you had a more positive experience with this smartwatch? Let me know in the comments below!