There’s not as much separating these fitness trackers as you might think.
When it comes to fitness trackers, there are plenty of Fitbit options to choose from. For pure fitness trackers, there’s the Alta HR and Charge 3, or for smartwatches, the Ionic and Versa. Here’s how two of the most popular Fitbits, the Charge 3 and the Versa, compare on everything from fitness features to getting notifications from your phone.
FITBIT CHARGE 3 VS. VERSA
|Fitbit Charge 3||Fitbit Versa|
|Display||Monochrome touchscreen||Color touchscreen|
|Water resistance||Up to 50m||Up to 50m|
|Battery life||Up to 1 week||Four days|
|Women’s health tracking||Yes||Yes|
Charge 3 is sleek, but Versa is more like an actual watch
The Charge 3 looks similar to many of Fitbit’s previous trackers. It’s a thin band with a physical button on the side.
Both have touchscreens, although the Charge 3 has a monochrome display compared to the Versa’s color LCD. You can swipe across from the sides of the display to access fitness tracking features or settings. To go back, press the side of the Charge 3. The Versa has three physical buttons that let you go back, start or stop activities, and make selections.
You can change the watch faces on both in the Fitbit app. But the Charge 3 has fewer watch faces to choose from than the Versa, which has plenty of third-party options.
I found it hard to see the display on the Charge 3 in direct sunlight, regardless of the brightness setting selected (you can choose between auto or normal brightness). For me, the Versa was easier to see outdoors and you get an extra brightness setting to choose from.
To change up the look of your Fitbit, each offers interchangeable straps. The Charge 3 has quick release buttons at the back, while the Versa uses a small metal bar that you have to toggle to change the strap. It’s a lot easier to swap the straps out on the Charge 3 than it is the Versa, especially if you’re looking for a quick change.
Each display is coated in Gorilla Glass 3 to protect against scratches and bumps.
Winner: Tie, depending on which size you prefer
Fitness tracking features are similar on both
Both Fitbits have an optical heart rate sensor, sleep tracking, female health tracking and water resistance to 50 meters. Neither has GPS built-in. Instead, they use connected GPS. So if you want to track your route, pace and elevation during an outdoor workout, you’ll need to take your phone with you.
They both have automatic workout detection, and you can set goal-based exercises to get a notification once you pass a set distance, time or calorie goal.
The Charge 3 lets you put six different workout shortcuts on the exercise screen, while the Versa gives you space for seven shortcuts. You can choose from 19 workout types from the Fitbit app (run, hike, walk, swim, bike, spinning, pilates, interval workout, golf, elliptical, weights, workout, treadmill, stairclimber, yoga, tennis, kickboxing, circuit training, martial arts, bootcamp). Both give you reminders to move, prompting you to complete a number of steps an hour to “win”.
I found the fabric and plastic Fitbit straps fairly comfortable to work out with during a run or sweaty Pilates session.
Thanks to its larger screen, the Versa gives you more metrics from your workout once you complete your exercise routine. It’s also the only one that lets you go back and view your past few workouts from the watch face, rather than diving into the Fitbit app itself.
The Versa has lots of third-party apps available (which we’ll cover in the next section) which makes it easier if you prefer to track your workout in a different app.
During workouts, I found the Charge 3 often gave a higher reading on my heart rate than the Versa. During an outdoor run, it said my maximum heart rate was over 200 beats per minute. From using previous heart rate trackers and smartwatches (and comparing with the Versa), running at the same intensity on the same route never gave me a max heart rate over 190.
The Versa comes with the Coach app. A bit like a personal trainer on your wrist, it runs you through a sequence of moves with quick visual cues on the screen. It’s a nice extra if you want to squeeze in a quick workout. For similar workouts on the Charge 3, you’ll need to use the Fitbit Coach app on your phone.
Both have smartwatch features, but the Versa does more
It’s easy to get notifications mirrored from your phone on each Fitbit, and they both work with iOS and Android. That being said, you’ll only be able to respond to notifications if it’s tied to Android. You can customize quick responses to messages from the Fitbit app.
Fitbit Pay is a mobile wallet that lets you tap to pay with NFC at compatible terminals. It’s only available if you buy the special edition of both (which does come at a premium).
The Versa is the only one that can store music. It has space for around 300 songs, but the process to get those tunes onto the watch is cumbersome. You need to download a desktop app then make sure the Versa and your computer are on the same Wi-Fi network to start the transfer.
If you prefer a streaming service, the only two options available are Pandora and Deezer, as long as you have a subscription. There is a third-party Spotify app available, but it is only to control playback from your phone.
There are also many more third-party apps available on the Versa than there were when it first launched.The Charge 3 doesn’t have third-party apps at the time of writing.
As the Versa was released in April 2018, a new edition of the watch potentially called Fitbit Versa 2 may be around the corner. We don’t have any insider information, but we’d love to see on-board GPS and Fitbit Pay integrated into the new version.
Battery life is stellar on the Charge 3
There’s no contest here. You’ll get around six to seven full days on the Charge 3 before you need to juice it up, while the Versa gives you around four full days. Each has a proprietary clip-in charger. If you’re coming from the Charge 2, the cable for the Charge 3 is different.
Winner: Charge 3
What about price?
At the time of writing, the Charge 3 costs $150 for the regular edition and $20 more gets you the special edition with Fitbit Pay and extra bands. The Versa is $200 and the special edition, also with Fitbit Pay, costs $30 more. Since the Versa was released almost a year ago, it has been discounted several times to a price that’s pretty comparable to the Charge 3 (thein the past is $90).
So comparing the Charge 3 and the Versa on price isn’t always straightforward, as you can get them for around the same price at certain times of the year.
Which is the best Fitbit for me?
If you want Fitbit’s top of the line fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor and without too many bells and whistles, get the Charge 3. The battery will last you a long time and you’ll get notifications mirrored from your phone.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch with a big screen, more robust fitness tracking on the watch itself, and the added bonus of a personal trainer on your wrist, get the Versa.