I’m not much of a wearables guy. I’ve been rocking various Fitbits since late 2014, but I’ve never really got into the hype of owning one of the best smartwatches. While I can appreciate having a watch with smart features, the idea of having a substitute phone on my wrist has never appealed.
So I was a surprise when I found myself curiously intrigued by the Google Pixel Watch, which was released earlier this week. But while I was tempted by Google’s first Pixel-brand watch for a while, I didn’t end up buying one. Instead I bought a Fitbit Versa 4, one of the two new fitness watches the Google-owned company released at the end of September.
The Google Pixel Watch may be giving a great first impression, but no matter how good the watch is, it’s not the right wearable for me. Which is why I went for the seemingly-lesser Versa 4.
Smartwatches never appealed to me...
I’ve used smartwatches before, but never really fell onto the smartwatch bandwagon. The closest I’ve ever come to adopting a proper smartwatch is rocking a Fitbit Blaze. Anyone who used one will tell you that it was definitely not a fully-fledged smartwatch, and was instead a perfectly unassuming Fitbit tracker that happened to be shaped like a watch.
I eventually moved to the original Fitbit Versa, but sent it back pretty quickly after some worryingly inaccurate-seeming heart-rate readings. 100+ beats per minute after getting out of a chair? I’ve never been that unfit. I eventually moved onto a Fitbit Charge 3, followed by a Charge 4, and have been using that ever since.
I can appreciate the watch-like design, and having a clock on my wrist, but I’ve never felt any compulsion to have much more than that. I’ve tested a few smartwatches within the capacity of my job, but none of them ever made me seriously want to consider buying a smartwatch. Even the original Fitbit Versa’s limited app support got very little use in the brief time I actually had the thing.
...so why was I tempted by the Pixel Watch?
Then Google announced the Pixel Watch back at Google I/O 2022, and I had the strange feeling that I wanted one — though I couldn’t tell you why. It was completely irrational, like the feeling of wanting a new $800 Lego set. I don’t need it, and it won’t serve any serious purpose, but its existence still makes me want to get out my credit card.
My best guess is that it came down to the fact I was starting to tire of my Fitbit Charge 4, and was enticed by the prospect of a smartwatch with Fitbit support — even if it doesn't offer everything a dedicated Fitbit does. The Charge 4 is fine, but it got to the point where I was barely wearing it for a bunch of reasons.
I prefer to wear a watch on the underside of my wrist, and the Charge’s relatively bulky design meant it was always getting in the way as I worked. So I’d take it off and then forget to put it back on again later. The only times I’d realize were when I was going to workout, or long after I’d left the house.
The Fitbit Versa 4 won we over
The reality is that the Pixel Watch announcement came at a point where I was itching to change things up, and potentially buy something I’d wear more often. But I was all too aware that I’d never really warmed to a wearable with fancy features in the past. I’m far too attached to my phone, which can do all that for me, and have never found carrying it about all the time to be any kind of inconvenience.
Even the simple act of getting notifications on my wrist becomes too annoying to handle. Every time I give it a try, I end up turning it off within a few days — because the seemingly non-stop buzzing on my wrist starts driving me crazy.
When it comes to wearables I need three things: The ability to tell time, an alarm, and fitness tracking capabilities — ideally with a heart-rate monitor. Everything else is superfluous.
Then, after the rumors started suggesting the Pixel Watch’s battery would only last a day, I made up my mind that the Pixel Watch was not going to be for me. Shortly after Fitbit announced the Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 — both of which were a little more to my taste.
Price certainly played its role in my decision as well, even before Google gave us some official figures. The Pixel Watch starts at $349, which is a hefty chunk of cash to spend and verging on Apple Watch 8-level money. I’ve always held the opinion that if your pricing is on par with Apple (or close to it), you’re charging too much.
The Fitbit Sense 2 isn’t much cheaper if I’m being honest, with a $300 price tag. That means I was gravitating towards the $230 Fitbit Versa 4 before I started comparing the features on each device or working out whether I really wanted a proper smartwatch.
While still smarter watches, the Sense 2 and Versa 4 struck me as Fitbit first, smartwatch second. There’s no cellular support, no accessible storage and no app store to speak of. The primary focus is on health and fitness, with all the other features essentially playing second fiddle.
The new Fitbits have all the features I want, and very little fluff that I don’t intend to use. It’s a simple device for simple usage, and in a form factor that’s sleek enough that it’s not going to knock against things all day long.
Sure, it would be nice to have the option of using third-party apps on my watch, even if the odds of me enjoying them aren’t particularly strong. We all like having choice, after all, and decisions like that are why it looks like Google might be sacrificing Fitbit for the Pixel Watch.
The Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 are fairly evenly matched in the grand scheme of things. The Sense 2 has more features going for it, but comparing the two side-by side made it clear the Sense 2’s advantages weren’t that important to me — so the cheaper option won. I can live without a skin temperature sensor and ECG monitor right now, and stress management is always something I can seek out elsewhere. Should it ever become necessary, of course.
But so far I am pretty happy about my decision. Not only am I wearing the Versa 4 a lot more than I ever did with the Charge, I’m only really taking it off before showering or recharging. I just wish it had come with a sports band (with a watch-style clasp) in the box rather than the Fitbit Infinity band. Frankly, I find it to be a horrible, awkward and uncomfortable design.
And if anyone wants to know, I have already tried getting used to wrist notifications. It took me less than a week to switch them off again.