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8 Reasons to Avoid a Fitbit Versa 4 Today

Are you considering buying a Fitbit Versa 4 smartwatch? You may want to think twice. While Fitbit‘s latest Versa model has some appealing features on paper, in reality it falls short in several key areas compared to rival smartwatches. As a technology expert who has tested dozens of wearables, I cannot recommend the Versa 4 for most people. Allow me to explain the biggest reasons why you should probably avoid the Fitbit Versa 4 and choose a more capable alternative instead.

No ECG, Unlike Apple Watch and High-End Fitbits

My biggest gripe with the Fitbit Versa 4 is the glaring omission of an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor. This is arguably the most glaring flaw since ECG was specifically asked about. Top competitors like the Apple Watch Series 8 and even Fitbit‘s own Sense line have offered ECG apps for years now.

Why does ECG matter? This feature allows the watch to generate an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram. It‘s a helpful tool for detecting signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a serious heart condition that causes an irregular heart rhythm. While not a replacement for seeing a doctor, smartwatch ECG apps have already helped numerous people catch potential AFib early and get the treatment they need.

Fitbit bizarrely chose to reserve ECG capability only for its most expensive Sense watches, leaving it out of the mid-range Versa line. But many other brands now offer ECG even on their cheaper models. The lack of such an important health feature makes it hard to justify buying a Versa 4, especially if you have a family history of heart issues. You‘re better off with the ECG-equipped Fitbit Sense, Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, or Withings ScanWatch instead.

Best Features Paywalled Behind a Subscription

Another annoying aspect of the Versa 4 is that you need a $10/month or $80/year Fitbit Premium subscription to access its most useful tools, including the Daily Readiness Score, wellness reports, advanced sleep analytics, and video workouts.

Look, I get that Fitbit wants recurring subscription revenue. But gating off so many features feels like double dipping, considering the Versa 4 already costs $230 – more than an Apple Watch SE or Galaxy Watch 5. Those watches don‘t charge extra subscriptions for basic features.

Hiding insights behind a paywall defeats the purpose of buying a smartwatch to improve your fitness in the first place. Imagine if a personal trainer charged you a signup fee and then extra to access their best advice – absurd! Budget an extra $80-100 per year on top of the hardware price if you want a Versa 4.

Fitbit Nuked All Third-Party Apps

Perhaps the most mind-boggling downgrade in the Versa 4 is that Fitbit completely removed support for third-party apps. You read that right – no more Spotify, Strava, Starbucks, or any other non-Fitbit apps on your wrist. It‘s Fitbit‘s walled garden or nothing.

This is a huge step backwards compared to the Versa 3 and other Fitbit OS watches, which offered a small but useful selection of third-party apps. Now, you can‘t even download a new watch face or game, let alone more powerful tools for productivity, music, smart home control, and more.

Removing the app gallery makes the Versa 4 much less functional and extensible than before. Fitbit‘s first-party apps are fine for basic fitness tracking but lackluster for everything else. You‘ll have to carry your phone for any non-Fitbit tasks, defeating the point of a smartwatch‘s convenience. Nearly all other modern smartwatches still allow third-party apps, putting Fitbit far behind the curve here.

Inconsistent Fitness Tracking

Okay, so the Versa 4 dropped a lot of smart features – but at least it‘s still good at fitness tracking, right? Not so much, unfortunately. While fine for casual activity monitoring, the Versa 4‘s workout tools are hit-or-miss.

In my tests, I found the Versa 4‘s heart rate sensor often took several minutes to detect changes in exertion, especially during interval training. This lag makes it tough to stay in your desired heart rate zone. The sensor also frequently lost my pulse when I was sweating or moving vigorously. Cheaper fitness trackers like the Xiaomi Mi Band 7 did a better job of continuously monitoring my heart rate.

The Versa 4‘s built-in GPS was also slower to lock on compared to my phone and higher-end Fitbits. I had to wait around 30-60 seconds for it to find a signal before I could start my outdoor runs and bike rides – not ideal when you want to just go. GPS accuracy was okay but tended to short me about 5% on distance traveled compared to my phone and control routes I know the exact distance of.

Casual Fitness Only, Forget Serious Training

Those inconsistencies make it hard to recommend the Versa 4 for any serious athletes or fitness enthusiasts. It‘s passable for basic step counting, calorie estimating, and resting heart rate, but I wouldn‘t rely on it as a dedicated workout companion.

Fitbit knows this, which is probably why they got rid of the Challenges feature that let you virtually compete with friends. The Versa 4 can‘t really keep up if you push yourself hard. Marathoners, triathletes, weightlifters, and other performance-minded folks will want to pick up a Garmin, Polar, Coros, or other hardcore fitness smartwatch instead.

This leaves the Versa 4 in an awkward spot – too expensive and advanced for casual users who just want simple activity tracking, but not capable enough for fitness diehards. If you fall into either group, you‘re better off with a cheaper tracker like the Fitbit Inspire 3 or a purpose-built sports watch with better sensors and training tools.

What About Stress Tracking?

Another noteworthy omission is the lack of stress tracking on the Versa 4. Fitbit‘s own Sense watches can measure electrodermal activity (EDA) to quantify your stress levels, but this feature didn‘t trickle down to the Versa line.

Many other smartwatch makers now offer stress monitoring via heart rate variability (HRV) or EDA, including the Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch, Garmin Venu, and Fitbit Sense. It‘s a helpful metric for gauging your mental wellbeing and seeing how your body responds to different stressors.

The Versa 4‘s inability to track stress feels like an oversight, especially since Fitbit touts mental health as one of its main selling points. You‘ll have to pony up for the pricier Sense 2 or choose a different brand if you want stress data from your wrist. Just one more reason why the Versa 4 seems overpriced for what it offers.

Tough Competition from Apple, Samsung, Google

The final nail in the Versa 4‘s coffin is the incredibly stiff competition from rival brands. The Apple Watch absolutely dominates, with over 36% global smartwatch market share in 2022. Samsung, Google, Garmin, and others also field very compelling Fitbit alternatives.

Nearly all of these brands offer more well-rounded, polished, and frankly better smartwatches for the same price or less than the Versa 4. The latest Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 both vastly outperform the Versa 4 in terms of apps, smart features, health sensors, and fitness tracking. So does the newer Google Pixel Watch, which has Fitbit activity tracking built in.

Third-party options like the Garmin Venu 2 and Polar Ignite 3 handily beat the Versa 4 on the fitness front, while still offering decent smart features. Even budget models from Amazfit, Mobvoi, and Xiaomi deliver more bang for the buck at half the price. Simply put, it‘s hard to recommend the Versa 4 when you can get so much more watch for your money by choosing literally any other major brand.

Versa 4 Alternatives

So with all those drawbacks in mind, what should you buy instead of the Fitbit Versa 4? Here are my top two picks for the best smartwatches you can get right now:

Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 8

For iPhone users, the Apple Watch Series 8 is a no-brainer. It does virtually everything better than the Versa 4: more advanced health sensors including ECG and blood oxygen, FDA-cleared AFib detection, unrivaled app support, seamless iPhone integration, best-in-class fitness tracking, cellular connectivity, and a much faster chip. Pricing starts at $399, a reasonable premium over the Versa 4 considering all the extra features you get.

Best for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

If you use an Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is my top pick. It offers even more sensors than the Apple Watch: ECG, heart rate, blood oxygen, bioimpedance analysis for body fat, and a skin temperature sensor. The Galaxy Watch also has Wear OS built-in for access to the Google Play Store‘s wide selection of apps. Fitness buffs will appreciate the automatic workout tracking and recovery insights. It‘s also cheaper than the Versa 4, starting at just $279.

The Verdict: Avoid the Versa 4, Get a Better Watch

Ultimately, the Fitbit Versa 4 just isn‘t a very good smartwatch in 2023. It‘s overpriced, underequipped, and quickly losing ground to rival wearables with far more features and capabilities. The lack of ECG, paywall blocking useful tools, removed app support, inconsistent tracking, and missing stress monitoring all add up to a watch that is hard to recommend over the competition.

While the Versa 4 will work for basic fitness tracking needs, you can find cheaper options that do the same thing (like Fitbit‘s own Inspire 3). And if you want the best health and smart features, you‘re much better off spending a bit more on an Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch, Pixel Watch, or purpose-built fitness tracker from Garmin/Polar. Those watches all outperform the Versa 4 handily and offer significantly better value for money.

The bottom line? Unless you really love the Versa 4‘s design or are 1000% committed to the Fitbit ecosystem, you should probably pass on this model. Fitbit has lost a lot of its mojo lately and ceded major ground to its rivals. Until the company course corrects with a more competitive lineup, I suggest looking elsewhere for your smartwatch needs. Trust me, your wrist will thank you!