It’s hard not to talk about Fitbit whenever fitness or health trackers are mentioned. The company pioneered the little gadgets we once wore on our belts — and now on our wrist — just to track how many steps we take every day.
Fitbit has faced increased competition over the years with the proliferation of smartwatches that do more than just count steps and track sleep. Notifications and apps quickly became just as important as active minutes and breathing exercises.
Fitbit released the original Versa, the company’s first true smartwatch, in April, 2018. Now, a year and a half later, the company is ready to announce the Versa 2 ($199; fitbit.com), along with a new subscription service that should help make sense of all the fitness data Fitbit has on all of us, and a new, less expensive, smart scale.
One of the loudest, most consistent complaints after the rise of fitness trackers is that the apps and services connected to the trackers don’t provide valuable insight or context with the data they collect. Using your data, along with millions of data points from fellow Fitbit users and research, Fitbit Premium will be tailored to fit your needs.
For example, Premium includes nine guided programs designed to help subscribers get more sleep, increase activity and live healthier through workout plans, recipes and relaxation tools.
Fitbit Premium, which will launch in September will cost $9.99 per month or $80, if you pay for a year.
Fitbit users already receive somewhat generic insight into their activity and sleeping habits, but Premium will add personal context, such as correlating a decrease in resting heart rate with the fact a user increases their average daily step count. Conversely, if Premium can identify any negative links in behavior and health, the service will highlight it as well.
I’m not entirely sold on the idea of having to pay $10 a month for insights into my data, but I may be convinced to sign up for Fitbit’s new premium health coaching service that is set to launch in 2020. Through the service, an adviser has access to your data and can send you messages to encourage you if you’re falling off track, or provide reassurance as you continue to work toward your health goals.
Pricing for personalized coaching wasn’t announced, but it will include access to all Fitbit Premium features in addition to a coach.
Additional changes coming to the Fitbit app include a sleep score and a smart wake feature that will wake you up within a 30-minute window when it’s detected you’re not in a deep or REM sleep stage (Jawbone wearables had a similar feature years ago), which should help you feel refreshed, instead of groggy, when you wake up.
The Sleep Score no longer relies on how long you slept, but now uses time spent in each sleep stage (light, deep, REM), and your sleeping heart rate to come up with a score.
Fitbit Versa 2
Perhaps the most exciting announcement of the day is the Versa 2. The second-generation Versa has an improved AMOLED display, similar to what newer iPhone and most Samsung Galaxy phones use, and will look a lot better.
Fitbit added an extra day of battery life to the Versa 2, with an expected five days of use per charge. There’s also a new always-on mode to display time and health stats without you having to rotate your wrist or tap on the screen to wake the watch, which will surely shorten that five-day estimate.
The company’s mobile payment platform, Fitbit Pay, is no longer limited to special edition Versa models — it’s included in all models.
The Versa 2 now has Alexa built-in. Raise your wrist, hold in the side button on the Versa 2, and start talking to Alexa, just as you do to your Echo at home. According to Fitbit, you can ask Alexa to find nearby businesses, nutritional information about your meal, set timers, alarms or control smart home devices. Surely, there’s much more you can do with Alexa built into a smartwatch. — We can’t wait to test it.
There’s also a new Spotify app and enough storage to keep 300 songs, Pandora stations or Deezer playlists on the watch.
Despite longer battery life, improved display and Alexa integration, the Versa 2 will keep its $199 price tag. There is a special edition version that comes with two watchbands and a 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium that will cost $229. The Versa 2 is available in black, copper rose and gray. You can preorder the Versa 2 right now, with retail availability starting Sept. 15.
Fitbit Aria Air
Once a user’s weight is tracked and synced, Fitbit then calculates BMI (Body Mass Index) and can chart your progress over time alongside the rest of your fitness stats.
The Aria Air will come in black or white, with preorders expected to go live in late September, with a shipping timeframe of mid-October.
If Fitbit delivers on the promise of Premium and leverages our fitness stats to motivate and encourage users to be healthier, it’ll be worth $10 a month. The Versa 2 looks like a promising upgrade over the original Versa, but we’ll have to strap one to our wrist before we can make a final call. And the Aria Air is a product that makes sense and feels like something Fitbit should have done years ago.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed prices at the time of publication.