When it comes to wearables, people are often divided between two categories: smartwatches and fitness trackers.
And while it’s true that fitness trackers are certainly becoming more like smartwatches with their ability to receive smartphone notifications, they’re still fairly basic in design. Smartwatches, on the other hand, have a host of advantages: They’re equipped with bigger touchscreen displays, support a wider ecosystem of apps, and, crucially, have a larger body to fit a few more sensors than a tracker can.
Smartwatches aren’t centered strictly around health and fitness use cases, either. They can be a handy companion for your day-to-day tasks, allowing you to view and interact with emails, calendar reminders, calls, texts, and more.
Those of you in the market for a smartwatch that strikes a nice balance between lifestyle and fitness are most likely stuck choosing between the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Fitbit Versa 2. While both are certainly excellent options, they each come with pros and cons that might impact your decision.
Starting at $399, the Apple Watch Series 5 isn’t cheap, but you’re getting a lot of features for that price. In addition to a high-end look and feel, it packs built-in GPS, an ECG monitor, and features a very large ecosystem of compatible apps. There’s also the option to purchase the cellular model, if you want to leave your phone behind.
On the lower end, the Fitbit Versa 2 will set you back $199, which is half the price of the Series 5. Like the Apple Watch, it has a sleek and comfortable design, a robust list of supported apps, and tracks your workouts and stats throughout the day. It also comes with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built-in and measures your sleep stages at night.
But both smartwatches differ when it comes to battery life, GPS capabilities, companion apps, and smartphone compatibility. You know, since the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone while the Versa 2 works with both iOS and Android.
So, let’s go ahead and break down what makes each one tick so you figure out which smartwatch better suits your lifestyle.
Which one has the better style?
From afar, both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Fitbit Versa 2 look awfully similar. So much so, that when I first saw the Versa on the wrists of Fitbit executives at a demo, I thought they were all wearing Apple Watches.
Both watches have a slim, square shape with rounded edges and large displays complete with a button on the right side for navigation. Of course, up close, there are a few key differences.
For starters, the Series 5 watch comes in two sizes: 40mm or 44mm. For someone with smaller wrists like me, the 40mm option is certainly the way to go.
As for the case material, you can choose between aluminum (in gold, space gray, or silver), titanium, stainless steel (gold, silver, or space black), or white ceramic. Both models also come equipped with your choice of either a rubber Sport Band or fabric Sport Loop Band — both of which are available in a ton of different color combinations.
But Apple also has a very, very extensive catalogue of additional bands, including leather and stainless steel mesh. There are even dedicated Nike edition bands and, if you’re looking for something on the designer side, a line of Hermès bands, too.
Meanwhile, the Fitbit Versa 2 is made solely out of aluminum, includes a silicone watch band (in a variety of colors), and offers three case options: copper rose, gray, and carbon.
Fitbit also offers two Special Edition versions: a copper rose case with a navy and pink woven band or a Mist Grey aluminum case with a grey and black woven band. At $229.95, they’re a bit more expensive than the classic options.
In the past, Fitbit’s Special Editions were titled as such because they came with Fitbit Pay — a feature that allows you to make contactless payments (at stores and locations where Fitbit Pay is accepted) using the device. But now, the company has made the feature standard across all of its devices, so really you’re just paying extra for the color combinations.
Like its Apple Watch Series 5 rival, the Versa 2 comes with the option to swap out straps, but you’ll have to pay extra for the privilege. Fitbit doesn’t offer as many options as Apple, but you can choose from breathable sport bands, Horween leather bands, woven reflective bands, and more — all of which range from $30 to $50.
Though both watches are similar in shape, their displays are different in terms of size and material. The Versa 2 features a 1.34-inch AMOLED touchscreen display while the Series 5 has a 1.57-inch low-temperature polysilicon and oxide touchscreen display (LTPO), which consumes less power to extend battery life. Both displays are also always-on. So, rather than having to flick your wrist to wake the screen, you can simply glance down at the available information. It’s an excellent feature, in general, because it makes checking the time throughout the day a lot easier. But it’s super helpful while exercising because it allows you to quickly check on your stats without having to interrupt your workout to tap on the display each time.
The Versa 2 and Series 5 each have a single button on the side of the case for navigation, along with a microphone. However, the Series 5 also comes with the addition of a speaker which can be used for audio and phone calls.
While both smartwatches certainly have a sleek and attractive look to them, the Series 5 looks a lot more high-end (which makes sense seeing as how it’s double the price). But it’s also a lot more customizable with plenty of different cases and watch bands to choose from.
I, personally, prefer the cleaner aesthetic of the Versa 2, with its flat navigation button that almost blends into the case. It’s a lot more seamless than the digital crown on the Apple Watch, which sort of juts out and can feel a little distracting.
But the wide range of customizability options on the Series 5 keeps the device feeling fresh, even after wearing it everyday.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
Which smartwatch has the most features?
Both the Series 5 and Versa 2 have the ability to track your workouts, heart rate, as well as other metrics (e.g., calories, steps, floors climbed, etc.) throughout the day, while also receiving all of your smartphone notifications. But the one feature that Fitbit has yet to pack into any of its smartwatches is LTE connectivity (which comes with built-in GPS). With the cellular version of the Series 5, you can leave your phone at home while retaining the ability to make or receive calls, answer text messages, and use all of your favorite apps.
It’s important to note that LTE is going to cost you extra, considering that you have to add it to your monthly data plan in order to receive service. But if you don’t need LTE, then you can go for the GPS-only Apple Watch model instead. You won’t be able to receive notifications without your phone nearby, but you can still use it to track distance during your runs, bikes, and walks.
The Versa 2 only has connected GPS, which means you have to bring your phone with you during your workouts if you want to track distance. And since it’s tracking the miles logged by your phone, it might not be as accurate as built-in GPS.
The Series 5 also has an International Emergency Calling feature. While it’s highly unlikely any of us are going to be traveling all that much any time soon, the feature allows you to make calls to emergency services no matter what country you’re in. There’s also a fall detection feature, which automatically places an emergency call if it senses that you’ve fallen and haven’t moved for 60 seconds.
Additionally, the Series 5 features an electrode-based, heart-rate monitoring sensor that’s FDA-approved. All you need to do is place your finger on the digital crown for 30 seconds and wait as it gives you an ECG reading. With the ability to turn the readings into PDF files, you can share this information with your doctor as well.
The Versa 2, on the other hand, isn’t as advanced, but it does have a blood oxygen sensor. This is used to measure your oxygen levels throughout the night and helps to pinpoint any signs of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. The Apple Watch, by contrast, doesn’t have a blood oxygen sensor, but its ECG monitor can still help to detect abnormal heart rhythms while asleep.
Speaking of sleep, the Versa 2 also tracks all of your different sleep stages throughout the night (i.e., REM, light, and deep sleep), and provides you with a “sleep score” depending on how long you were in each stage, the duration of sleep, and whether or not you woke up at all in the middle of the night. That way, it can offer suggestions on how to improve on your sleep habits.
The Series 5 will also soon be able to track sleep once Apple’s watchOS 7 comes out in September. It’ll track the same metrics throughout the night as the Versa 2, but it might not be as accurate, considering it’s a new feature for all Apple Watches.
Another feature to take into consideration is the voice assistant. The Series 5 is obviously powered by Apple’s Siri while the Versa 2 features Amazon Alexa. You can use both to do things like check on the weather and set reminders, but there’s one minor difference: The Versa 2 doesn’t have a speaker, so it only displays the results on the watch. Meanwhile, you can actually hear Siri’s results on the Series 5. It might not be a dealbreaker for most, depending on your preferences, but it’s something to be aware of when making your purchase.
Overall, it’s clear the Series 5 packs way more features than the Versa 2. From an ECG monitor to LTE connectivity and built-in GPS, it’s essentially the ideal smartwatch as far as capabilities go. And, with sleep tracking on the way in the very near future, there’s not much this smartwatch can’t do.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
Which one has better battery life?
It’s no secret that both the Series 5 and Versa 2 are polar opposites when it comes to battery life. The Apple Watch lasts up to 18 hours on a single charge while the Versa 2 is rated to last up four-plus days. Both of these estimates clearly depend on usage, but that’s still a very big difference between the two.
In my experience with the Apple Watch, I was able to squeeze out a full 18 hours after a couple of hours at the gym, some phone calls, and using it to stream music. That was also with the display set to always-on. Of course, it’s important to take into consideration that the Apple Watch might be using a lot more battery if you opt for the LTE model — particularly if you’re not tethering to your phone and using it more as a standalone watch.
While I haven’t used the Versa 2, Fitbit is known for its ability to pack days-long battery life into both its smartwatches and fitness trackers. So, even though I can’t give you an opinion based off my personal experience, it’ll certainly last longer than 18 hours no matter your usage.
I do, however, have experience using the Fitbit Versa, which has a smaller battery that lasts up to five days. Even after using it to workout, track my metrics throughout the day, and my sleep throughout the night, I was always able to get about four days out of it.
The Series 5 does have some useful features and advanced capabilities, but it’s no match for the Versa 2 when it comes to battery life. I mean, we already have plenty of other gadgets to worry about charging each night, so it’s nice to not have to worry about your smartwatch for a few days.
Winner: Fitbit Versa 2
Which one is easier to use?
Before we dive into this section, we should address compatibility. As I previously mentioned, the Apple Watch is only compatible with the iPhone. So, if you’re a diehard Android user, then you’re automatically going to rule this option out and go for the Versa 2.
Seeing as how Apple also keeps its ecosystem closed, those with an Android phone can also send custom text messages from the Versa 2. iOS users, however, are limited to viewing texts on the smartwatch, and have to respond using their phone.
The Apple Watch Series 5 user interface mimics the iPhone, so it doesn’t take all that much getting used to if that’s already your primary phone. All of your apps live on the home screen where you can switch between list and grid view (which displays all of your apps in tiny bubbles). I’ve never been a fan of either layout, particularly because it always feels like there’s a lot going on.
Meanwhile, the Versa 2 is far more organized with all of its apps separated into easy to find tiles on the display. Simply swipe to the right or left, and everything is neatly laid out for you to see. But the Versa 2 is also a lot less overwhelming because it’s not compatible with as many third-party apps on the Apple Watch. Therefore, you have far fewer things to actually look for on it.
In terms of exactly what apps are available on the Fitbit, there’s the dedicated exercise app, and Spotify, which comes pre-installed. Using the Fitbit companion app, you can download additional apps like Pandora, Uber, Strava, and The New York Times. But that’s where the list ends as far as “popular” apps go.
As for the Apple Watch Series 5, you’ll be hard pressed to find third-party apps it’s not compatible with. Basically, as long as it’s available on your iPhone, it’s highly likely there is an Apple Watch app as well.
Another thing to take into account is the actual companion app for each device. With the Series 5, you have to use two separate apps. There’s the Activity app to see all of your past workouts, awards, and fitness trends, and the Health app, which tracks additional information like heart rate, menstruation cycle, nutrition, body measurements, and more.
While both apps are simple to follow, it’s kind of annoying to have to switch back and forth between them depending on the information you’re trying to see. The Fitbit companion app, by comparison, hosts all of the above information. All you need to do is launch it and your stats are easily visible at a glance.
So, for this round, we’re giving it to the Versa 2 particularly for its ease of use. Sure, the Series 5 is compatible with tons of different apps, but its user interface is overwhelming and a bit tough to follow sometimes.
Winner: Fitbit Versa 2
Which one is worth the price?
The $199 Versa 2 is half the price of the $399 Series 5, making it awfully enticing for those on a budget. But, if you’ve gotten this far, it’s easy to see the Apple Watch offers a lot for its higher price.
But, for some, all of those Apple Watch features may be a little too much. I, personally, don’t need an ECG reader or fall detection, so the Versa 2 would technically be more than enough for me. It’s easy to navigate, tracks fitness and sleep, and receives smartphone notifications. Plus, it has excellent battery life that lasts for days.
If you do need all the aforementioned features the Series 5 offers, then you can at least feel better knowing you’re not paying hundreds of dollars for nothing. And, if you opt for the cellular model, then the ability to use it as a standalone device also comes in handy on days you don’t want to be weighed down by your phone. Plus, with the watchOS 7 update coming in a few months, the ability to track sleep will make the cost seem all the more worthwhile.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5
And the winner is…
There’s obviously a reason why the Apple Watch is one of the most popular smartwatches out there. On the outside, it’s a high-end, aesthetically pleasing accessory that’s customizable and blends in with really any outfit. Under the hood, it packs tons of advanced features like an ECG monitor, built-in GPS, and supports plenty of third-party apps. While its battery life isn’t the best, you’ll still be able to squeeze out a full day’s worth.
Although, with a relatively high starting price of $399, you may be hesitant to buy in. In which case, you won’t be disappointed with the Versa 2, if you opt for that. In fact, if you’re looking for something that’s more focused on strictly fitness, then I’d recommend the Versa 2 over the Series 5.
But, as a whole, the Series 5 clearly dominates in almost every category we tracked. While improvements can be made in terms of usability (on both the device and companion app), it’s easy to get the hang of if you’ve already been using an iPhone.
Given that it’s been less than a year since the Apple Watch Series 5’s release, it’ll also be included in many watchOS updates for years to come. So, you won’t have to worry about having to upgrade for a very long time.
Winner: Apple Watch Series 5